It’s always basketball season. At least it seems that way when you visit the Head Coach of Cortland’s Men’s Basketball team, Tom Spanbauer.
I recently visited Coach Spanbauer to do an interview with him discussing this past season for his basketball team and upon arriving at his office you can tell he lives and breaths the sport of basketball.
Pictures of his former players and various basketball related items were all over his walls. As I was waiting to speak with him, he was on the phone speaking with someone discussing, yep you guessed it, basketball.
In this interview with Coach Spanbauer, we discussed the impact his graduating seniors had on the team, both on and off the court, how he expects the rising juniors and seniors to step up for next season, and much more.
The team had a really strong start to the season this year and was 16-6 going into the final stretch of the season when you lost Zach Lydon for the rest of the year, due to a broken finger. What was the importance of having him on the floor and why did the team struggle without him?
Well, what happened is, as the season unfolded, Zach ended up becoming more of an integral part of what we were doing, both offensively and defensively.
Zach suffered from pneumonia in the first month of the season, so he was getting limited minutes. But as his minutes expanded in January and into February we became more of a half court zone team defensively, because with Zach in the lineup we were able to push everyone over one position and have a bigger lineup on the court for more minutes.
When Zach went down we had to go back to some lineups where we were forced to play more man-to-man, we were a little bit smaller, and we were giving up some baskets to opponents that we hadn’t given up in three-to-four weeks.
It was hard because everything happened within a week and we had four games in a week. When you have four games in a week you don’t have a lot of practice time to go back and reconstruct things. Losing Zach was a devastating blow to the team, and it was unfortunate, but just because of the way we were playing at the time with Zach in the lineup.
Defensively was where losing him had the most impact on us.
You are losing four players to graduation this year, your two highest scorers in Justin Cooper and Nicky Bonura, your big man down low in Lydon, and a high motor player off the bench in William Lee Moore. Could you talk about the impact they have had on the team in their time at Cortland and have they impacted you at all as a coach?
We just have had a great group of seniors on a lot of fronts. They brought great leadership to our team daily, in practices, they brought leadership both on-and-off the court, in games, and when we traveled. They were very experienced players, they led by example and verbally.
From a basketball standpoint, Nicky and Justin were our two leading scorers and they are going to be hard to replace. Not only did we lose one leading scorer, but we lost two, and our third leading scorer was really Zach when he was healthy.
So, losing your three leading scorers from a team that was very competitive in our league will be difficult.
Are there any players in particular on the current roster that you plan on using in a higher capacity offensively next season to offset the loss of Bonura and Cooper?
Without question, we believe we have some people that are at the point in their development of their individual skill sets where they can move into the “scoring roles” for our team next year. Systematically, once we get a look at how we are going to play, from a technical standpoint, we’ll change it a little bit so we can better suit ourselves to play to the strengths of the players that we’ll have next year.
We definitely have some players currently in our program that are on the precipice of stepping into marque roles as opposed to complementary roles.
Of the rising seniors currently on the roster is there any one player that you think will step up as the leader of the team next year?
We’ve got a few players that will be in our junior and senior classes that we are hoping were good observers of what upperclassmen need to do, in order to be a positive leader on the team. We’re confident that they will come back and fulfill those roles as leaders because they were exposed to the positive leadership that our graduating seniors have demonstrated.
As I was looking at the team’s stats for this season I noticed the team struggled at home going 4-6 but thrived on the road with an 11-4 record, do you have any idea why this occurred?
Some of that is because of the non-league teams that we played. We played more games in the non-league schedule on the road this season and that had an impact. We were able to handle some of our non-league opponents as they weren’t necessarily playing at the level that some of our league opponents were later in the season.
Our league is super challenging and we have a lot of depth in our league. So, we hope that we can take care of our home games in our league.
How many incoming players are you expecting for next season and what do you think the fans expect to see from them?
That is a tough question to answer because of the number of players that will come into the program and try out for our team, the number is generally between 40 and 50 players.
Having done this a long time, I don’t ever place any stock in any new player coming into college basketball, especially from the high school ranks.
We’re a program that prides itself on players coming in and earning what they get, so we can anticipate that we have some players that will come in and have the potential to be good players, but until they do that I would never prognosticate that they would be able to help us. There are just too many variables that you don’t have control over and there are just too many things that affect freshmen coming into college athletics that are unpredictable.
But we always attract quality student-athletes and quality players. We hope that the trend will continue to occur and that we will have the opportunity to work with those players and hopefully they will develop into the players we think that they can be, that will help us be a real competitive program in the future.
Your season has come to an end so what is life like for you now?
Life is trying to handle all of the student-athletes that are looking at Cortland as an opportunity to study academically and potentially to be a part of our program. A lot of high school basketball players haven’t done their visits because they are really busy during their season, so we are dealing with a lot of campus visits.
And then there’s attending some of the high school sectional play, watching some of the players that have applied and have been accepted as we try to determine if they would be good fits for our program and for our college
Any bold predictions for the 2019-2020 season?
No bold predictions. Standard stock line is that we are going to come in and try to control the things that we can control as a team and be a team that plays very smart, plays together at all times, and has players that can adjust to our system as quickly as possible.
We do anticipate a lot of new players, as well as players that have been in the program whose roles are going to change. So, they ultimately become a new player in their respective roles. We’re hoping that the transition period can happen as quickly as possible, in order for us to get to the level of play and competitiveness that we have had the past five, six, seven years.
While speaking with Coach Spanbauer it was easy to see how much he enjoys coaching. His answers were not calculated, rather they came right out and were honest in ever sense of the word.
Although he did not speak specifically about any players that will be stepping up next season he did speak with confidence regarding the rising juniors and seniors as it was easy to tell he will have confidence in next year’s roster.
Cortland’s basketball season may have ended but as for Spanbauer, he’s just getting started.