Franklin College men’s basketball coach Kerry Prather was approached by a parent of one of his players shortly after the final buzzer sounded after a recent loss.
Prather listened to words he was probably already thinking:
“You know, the guys play so hard, but this is the unluckiest team I’ve ever seen in my life.”
It’s a completely un-Franklin-like 1-18 record the Grizzlies took to Spurlock Center court against Rose-Hulman on Wednesday night. So far, it’s been a season best described as a perfect storm of unfortunate occurrences.
Whether it’s injuries (only one player, senior guard Trae Washington, had taken part in all 19 games prior to Wednesday), bad luck or faded confidence in the waning minutes of games, the program Prather has so impressively presided over since 1983 hasn’t been able to do an about-face.
Not from lack of effort, mind you.
As a result, the typically upbeat Prather sounds like a man who’s seen everything, and the majority of it bad.
“We’re hanging in there, but this is not about what I’m going through. It’s what the guys on this team are going through,” said Prather, who came to Franklin College as an assistant coach in 1982 and became head coach the following season.
“I want success for them. This hasn’t been because these guys haven’t worked to get there. There’s nothing more I can ask them to do.”
Franklin opened the season at home against Wheaton on Nov. 14, with Prather sitting on 481 career victories. Almost three months later he’s stuck on 482, courtesy of an 82-74 win at Earlham on Dec. 12.
Eight of the Grizzlies’ losses this season are by six points or less. Two setbacks came in overtime, with a third needing two overtimes.
Not easy numbers to digest for a man who in the past has led Franklin teams to five regular-season conference titles, four league tournament championships and six postseason appearances.
Yet Prather’s squad, which at various points of the season has been without 6-foot-4 junior forward Brett McCory, 6-3 junior guard Aaron Mann and 5-10 junior guard Robbie Prather due to injury, added 6-3 senior forward Matt Niehoff (concussion) to the list at Tuesday’s practice.
Hand Prather a rabbit’s foot, and chances are it would run off. It’s been that kind of season.
“A big chunk of that represents the experience we were counting on, and it also represents depth,” coach Prather said.
With five regular-season games remaining, Prather would like nothing more than to see his squad finish strong in order to gain some much-needed momentum heading into the off-season.
Starting with the basics, a one-game winning streak, would qualify as a step in the right direction.
“It’s been incredibly frustrating for everybody because those are gaps that usually get closed, and we haven’t been able to close it. I’ve never seen anything like it. I can’t put into words what it’s been like not to take that next step,” Prather said.
“The goal now is to prove what we have here. We want to finish this strong.”