Wednesday, November 9, 2016

One Door Closes

On Friday, November 11, 2016 a new era of Drexel Basketball officially kicks off.  I look forward to watching it, writing about it, and enjoying it.  I won't be doing that on this blog.  With this post, Dragons Speak is closing its doors.

This program hasn't been an easy thing to write about these past three years, and it makes one truly appreciate those who have subjected themselves to reading about it.  When this blog became more than I ever expected with the coverage near daily, there was no way one person could keep up.  I was bailed out by a number of Dragons who believed in the mission and donated their time to this page.  With that, this page stopped being a blog about one persons thoughts and became a team effort for a daily, higher level of coverage.

When that surge of enthusiasm was rising Scott Kier floated an idea that was worthy of this new group of colleagues.  A real home on the web for covering Drexel Basketball.  Today that home launches and we hope to make it a worthy face for analysis and opinion alongside this new beginning of Drexel Basketball.

Dragon fans if you are still reading about this team then this is the site that is dedicated to you.  Written by a staff that knows if you have stood with this University once, you are welcome to stand with us forever.

Please join us at the new project:  Always a Dragon.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Postgame - Drexel vs Keiser

Written by Scott Kier

Final Score: Keiser 76, Drexel 71
Drexel Player of the Game: Sammy Mojica
Key to the Game: Attitude
Next Game: November 11 at Monmouth

It has been 237 days since the Drexel Dragons set foot on the hardwood in front of a building full of basketball fans and boy, has a lot changed.  Before taking a closer look at the happenings on Wednesday October 27, it should be noted that there have been some cosmetic and practical improvements made to the John Daskalakis Athletic Center during the off season.

Off the Court Changes

The entrance on Lancaster Way now has a glass front which adds more of a feeling that you are entering a sports venue and not a gym.  On the western side of the building behind the benches Drexel has added bathrooms, so no more trips around the court and down stairs for those fans who choose to sit on that side of the building.  Lastly, season ticket holders were invited to a pregame event in the new media room.  According to Coach Zach Spiker, the program is going to do their best to have coaches available during pregame events for the fans.

Just prior to the start of Thursday night’s game, along with women’s coach Denise Dillon, Coach Spiker addressed the crowd, laying out expectations for the night.  “Nobody is more excited to be here than we are,” Spiker said, speaking on behalf of his coaching staff.  He went on to say that they expected the players to make some mistakes, but they hoped that they would not make the same mistake twice.  The goals for the night, and for the season, Spiker said, were to rebound well, control possession and win the battle at the foul line.  He likened these necessary efforts to the San Antonio Spurs 129-120 victory over the Golden State Warriors Tuesday night.  The coach said with a smile, “As long as we can play like the Spurs, we should be good.”

Along with the exciting changes to the DAC, Spiker announced another big change: the team would be adding third jerseys.  Anyone who followed the team some twenty years ago most assuredly remembers Malik Rose patrolling visiting courts wearing his gold away jersey, well, these jerseys are coming back.  Coach Spiker said that they will be worn for rivalry games and against the other Philadelphia schools on the schedule this season.

Let’s Talk about the Game

While the Dragons ultimately lost to Rollie Massimino’s Keiser University Eagles by a score of 76-71, the game was full of bright spots, the brightest of which was the play of returning Junior Sammy Mojica who started and had a very quiet 18 points on 6-11 shooting.  Mojica, who had initially announced that he was transferring from Drexel, changed his mind and decided to return to the program and the fan base should be excited that he did.  Mojica is the only returning guard to a previously guard heavy program, other than Major Canaday, who spent all of last season injured (and indications are dim for this season as well).

Because of their general inexperience, the Drexel backcourt featured two freshman starters.  Kurk Lee started at the point and put up a respectable 15 points on a not-so-respectable 4-14 shooting.  He had a great first half where he committed just one turnover but late in the game with the team behind he started to try to do too much which seemed to be a theme.  Everybody wanted to be “the guy” but what they need to realize is they are going to have more success as “the team.”

The third guard to start the game was Icelandic freshman Kari Jonsson who went 3-9 and 1-6 from three.  The lanky 6’3 guard also missed a three at the end of the game that would have sealed things up for Drexel when they trailed 73-71 in the closing seconds.

The frontcourt, on the other hand, has returned.  As expected, Rodney Williams was on he floor in the opening minutes.  He put in a very Rodney-like double-double scoring 16, and adding 12 rebounds.  The team’s fifth starter Mohamed Bah played just 13 minutes, but his presence was felt off the court too.  As Dan Crain described him, Bah was “the best cheerleader we’ve ever put in uniform.”  He was enthusiastic and energized on the bench, and that positivity is what is going to help this team through the season.

Miles Overton made his much anticipated debut on the floor for Drexel.  Again, quoting Dan, “Everyone has a bad night” well, that night was this game for Overton who went 3-21 overall from the field and 1-10 from three. He’s going to have to become more consistent, and make shots when needed: in the clutch.  His only two missed free throws, for example, were with the team trailing 73-71 with less than a minute to go. Overton was also dealt a technical foul which appeared to be for taunting another player after scoring a basket.  That was an infraction that he was warned about by an official just minutes before.  Overton’s technical was the second served to Drexel, and the first one needs to be talked about for all of the right reasons.

About four minutes into the game one of the Dragons, drew a charge in the lane.  It was the kind of play that a basketball fan loves to see a player make, and apparently the bench loved it too.  About a dozen players flooded the court, cheering their teammate on all rushing to pile on top of him and help him up.  The refs “T’d” up the Dragons bench and the coach stood there with a smile on his face.

Since we have addressed the positives, let’s talk about the negatives.  The first, and this should be no surprise to anyone, was the shooting.  The team shot 32.8% from the field and attempted 67 shots.  It should be mentioned, however, that they topped 67 attempts just three times last season and equaled that number twice.  The also attempted 29 three pointers making just 8.  Those 29 attempts were more than they shot in any game last season.  Their 8 makes was topped just once last season.

The offense is going to take a little while to figure out.  The new additions to the team are certainly going to add a new dimension.  For example, on one play, Austin Williams received the ball on the wing.  Jonsson started to come towards him as if to receive the ball on the handoff, but then made an abrupt back door cut, something rarely seen in years prior.  Austin looked a tad lost, but with some adjustment the team will be able to add this sort of play to their offensive arsenal.

So how did Spiker’s Dragons fair on their established goals for the night?  Rebounding can be called a win as the team out-boarded their opponents 50-43.  Possession was a slim victory for our opponents.  Keiser made more of their time with the ball as evidenced by their shooting percentage victory with 40% compared to Drexel’s 33%.  Turnovers were almost equal at 14 and 13 respectively, and Keiser also won in the steals column 8-6.  Where the Dragons really lost the game though was on the free throw line.  The Dragons went 19-29 (65.5), as compared to Keiser’s 20-28 (71%).  A few more made free throws would have sealed up the game for the home team.

This game was played with less than two weeks until the season begins, and there is definitely a different, more positive air around the program.  As one season ticket holder commented after the game, “We just lost, and I’m not even mad.”  Things just feel different.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and this Drexel program won’t be rebuilt in a season, but more about that later this week.  Until then, let’s just prepare ourselves for what is bound to be an interesting season, win or lose.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Welcome to 2016-17 Drexel Hoops: Dig In

With one hell of a World Series in the rearview mirror baseball has cleared the stage and a vital season of Drexel Dragons basketball lies in front of us.  With every build it is the foundation, the base that must be rock solid.  For Coach Zach Spiker and his colleagues, this year will be that foundation.  There are many more questions than answers, and how those questions are answered, what this programs base will be, seems as important as the wins and losses.

"Defense Wins Championships" is a mantra that all Dragon fans know as false.  Teams win championships, and part of that is how they defend.  In his career, Zach Spiker's Army teams have been in the top 200 of the country defensively just once.  All of the usual caveat's apply, it was a service academy, recruiting et al.  There's another side to that coin, those Army teams were playing weak Patriot League schedules and making those opposing offenses look good.  The only year they were in the top 200 was his first year, which was also the only year he slowed down the tempo.  That should be a predominant concern about the foundation to be built.  This teams defensive effort was lacking under Bruiser last year, which makes one really question what is in front of them for this season.

On the offensive side of the court, we know they will run.  Their exhibition game on October 27th would have been one of their top five most uptempo games last season.  Fans may break their necks trying to keep up with the action when the team faces off against Elon or Wilmington.  And with big men who haven't shown aggressiveness in the past, and a rookie point guard, there's only so many plays that can be drawn up.  An emphasis on hitting the offensive glass makes sense.  If they can take care of the ball and hit the offensive glass, they can only be so bad, and those things are in their control.  These are pillars for every successful team that isn't coached by John Calipari.  After that, for this season, it may well be the Mojica and Overton show, and a trip to a little place called jump shot city.  With jump shots comes inconsistency.  With a new offense to learn comes inconsistency.  With freshman point guards comes inconsistency.  With...  the reader gets the point.  And that is why Spiker will preach what he can control: rebounding and turnovers.

Coach Spiker also controls much more than just his team on the court.  A Drexel fan linked to a video here, and towards the end of the interview Bruiser Flint notes, repeatedly, that some Athletic Directors are basketball guys and some are not.  And the ones that are not use Search Firms.  It's not hard to connect those dots and make an assumption to Bru's thoughts on Eric Zillmer.  That may not be a shot at Flint's former AD, but more a statement of fact.  Somewhere at the top of every Division I coaches job wishlist is autonomy: being given the job of running his team without interferance from above, or from boosters, or anyone else.  Dr. Zillmer provides that.  What that also means is that this program, from the bottom up, is in Zach Spiker's hands.  It will take his image, which seems to point towards a rah rah, up tempo, exciting atmosphere.  But when building this foundation it's the substance, not the style that will matter.

Welcome to another season of Drexel Dragons basketball.  It's unlikely to be the best of seasons.  It's unlikely to be the worst of seasons.  It's quite likely to be one of the most interesting, thought provoking and exciting seasons.  It's not a reload, it's a full rebuild.  And together, team, department, and supporters, this build can be anything we make of it, nothing is off the table.

See you at the DAC.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


Scott Kier is back with a rundown on the new faces of the Drexel Men's Basketball staff:

With the hiring of Zach Spiker, the Drexel Dragons set off in a new direction.  The first task, of course, was filling out the rest of the coaching staff.  Spiker comes from a different kind of program.  Army does not recruit like more traditional Division 1 programs which can be a double edged sword.  While it shows Spiker’s ability to in theory do more with less on the court, it could also handicap him when it comes to recruiting in the heavily competitive Mid-Atlantic region.

For most of his time with Drexel, now former head coach Bruiser Flint surrounded himself with guys who were overshadowed by their boss’s perceived ability.  A large portion of the front court work fell on the shoulders of Associate Head Coach Mike Connors and while former walk-on Bobby Jordan did an admirable job with recruitment, the bench was largely made up of guys whose resumes either revolved around Bru or had coaching credits that had at least touched the now former head coach during their career.

One of the signs of a strong leader is the self-awareness to know one’s weaknesses and surrounding oneself with support staff that can offer something to address those weaknesses.  This past week, Coach Spiker rounded out his coaching staff with the hirings of Associate Head Coach Rob O’Driscoll, and assistants Paul Fortier and Chris Clark.  Each brings something unique to the table.

Rob O’Driscoll – The first Drexel staff member named by Coach Spiker was JMU mainstay Rob O’Driscoll who served in the same capacity for The Dukes.  During his eight seasons on the JMU bench, the team made one NCAA appearance and posted four 20 win seasons.  His real value, however, comes with his ability to recruit.

During his four years at Marist he served as the team’s recruitment coordinator and handled a large chunk of the scouting responsibilities.  Digging a little deeper, O’Driscoll also has long standing Philadelphia ties having started his career with Villanova way back in 1994 as the team’s administrative assistant while working on his master’s degree in business administration.

The most interesting thing about O’Driscoll is unlike the rest of the coaching staff, he has no college basketball experience on the court.  O’Driscoll instead was selected to the Big East All-Academic team in 1992-93.  In Tennis.

Paul Fortier – Fortier comes to Drexel from Cal Polytech where he served for three years as an Associate Head Coach.  Fortier, who himself was a power forward, was regarded as a key component in the success of the Stangs’ front court in the 2014-2015 season turning out a pair of juniors, one of whom led the team in scoring and the other who put up 1.3 blocks per game.  He is the kind of guy that the likes of Rodney Williams could thrive under.

While Fortier lacks the Philadelphia and CAA ties that his colleagues possess, he has been a part of a few successful programs.  He was a big part of some strong Cornell teams in the early 2000’s (which is where he met Coach Spiker), and during his eight seasons on the University of Washington bench, he helped coach four teams into the NCAA Tournament and was part of two that made appearances in the Sweet 16.

Chris Clark – Clark is an interesting addition to this coaching staff.  Clark is a 2008 graduate and former captain of the Temple University Owls who served most recently as the team’s Video Coordinator, a position that he took at the beginning of the 2015 season.  Clark also has coaching experience at first with a four year stint at St. Francis University followed by two years at Campbell University in North Carolina.  He real benefit to the Drexel program, however, is in some of his off the court contributions.

A lot of people championed Bruiser Flint because of the positive light that he represented Drexel University and the basketball program in.  Carter, like Flint, has a long standing history of volunteerism in and around the Philadelphia area.  He is a guy who can guide Coach Spiker through the philanthropic channels of West Philadelphia and while this staff might not accomplish some of the things that Bruiser was able to, Clark could certainly be a key component in maintaining a connection with the community.

When Zach Spiker was named as the new head coach in March, some were quick to point out his weaknesses.  His ability to recruit, specifically in Philadelphia, and his lack of ties to the area were two of the most frequently mentioned concerns.  While Bruiser Flint chose to rely on his own coaching ability as well as the input of long-time confidant Mike Connors, Spiker has chosen to go in a different direction.  With the hiring of O’Driscoll, Fortier, and Clark he has a guy with experience recruiting CAA caliber players, an assistant who has proven himself capable of effectively developing front court players, and a young up and comer with his finger on the pulse of Philadelphia.

Most importantly, Spiker has surrounded himself with a group that has collectively made eleven appearances in the NCAA Tournament, nearly twice as many as the previous staff.  Connors and Flint made five of those in house that Calipari built at the University of Massachusetts almost two decades ago.  The sixth belongs to John Linehan who danced during his junior year at Providence College in 2000-01.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Post #281

On Wednesday, November 13, 2013 the blog kicked off.  Three short, yet very very long seasons ago the topics of conversation were inbounding issues, lack of feeding the post, and how Bruiser & Co were holding Tavon Allen back and needed to play him more.

Two out of three ain't bad.

We've covered the team live from Baltimore to Madison Square Garden to Boulder, Colorado and points in between.  The team we were covering was never particularly good, and without significant troublemakers off the court it'd seem hard to have material for 281 posts, yet material has always been there.  When it did seem lean, friends and fellow Drexel supporters would always step up and would write on a message board, put up a facebook post, send an email or text at just the right moment to inspire the next post.  When real life kept me from the keyboard, guys like Scott Kier, Mark Walush, Ryan Koechig, Eric Resnick, Nate Hemerly or Pamitha Weerasignhe were there in what started as support roles and has developed into much more.  And very few words have gone up without at some point being bounced off of great friend and travel partner Bill Treichel.

The Drexel base is the reason this blog exists.  But it's the friends that we've made on our travels that are responsible for the majority of the smart stuff you may read here.  Sports journalism hasn't gotten easier over the last three years.  Newspaper circulations are down.  Media budgets are down as advertising dollars are spread thinly throughout the various mediums now available.  Suddenly writers aren't being given opportunities to travel to games, radio has been long gone from Drexel, and writers are being asked to do much more with less resources.  And when they don't meet the readers standards, they hear about it.  Oh, and they also get to compete against bloggers who try to tell the same stories, many times for free.  There are easier places to try and make a living.

Despite the challenge that the blogosphere presents, reporters across the CAA landscape have never,  failed to respond to one of my emails or messages.  When they have information, they share, and they've treated me like one of their own, even taking on a significantly uphill battle to try and make me smart.  To those of you who are on the speed dial please know that I'm not just thankful, I genuinely admire you as well.  I hope that I can assist other writers like you have for those of us that write for this site.

There are good relationships at the DAC as well.  At least a couple of staff members don't even have Dragons Speak voodoo dolls on their desks.  Those that do are welcome to keep denying fans a voice, but at some point I devoutly hope someone notes the empty seats that causes.  This program deserves to have all voices heard and respected, and the players deserve for those seats to be filled.  I still believe that that can happen.  We won't always agree, but we can always do this together.  While it's true the stands will be full once the program wins, there's no reason for them to be this empty when the program isn't winning.

This isn't just post #281.  It's also post #100 for this basketball season.  That's 100 posts in 143 days, along with multiple trips out of state and some great and supportive colleagues covering those late shifts at work for me.  This kind of time commitment simply wasn't possible to do alone.  Not even close.  Those that rose up and assisted in any of a variety of ways are the people who allowed all of Drexel fans voices to still be heard on these pages.  This year, as much as any other, that mattered.

What we receive in return for these hours, days and weeks of work are experiences and people that we will never forget.  Thanks to everyone who has joined us on the trip: writers, readers, coaches and players alike.  Thanks to my best friend for having a hot dinner waiting for me when I get home from work, and then disappear to spend the next few hours typing away in the cave.  I'm excited for the Zach Spiker era and what this next year will bring here at the Blog, at the Drexel program and for myself personally.  It's a great time to be covering Drexel, and it wouldn't be happening without all of you.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Next Steps

With the coaching search complete, and Zach Spiker having at least seen his office chair once it seems time to look forward to the nuts and bolts of what will certainly be a hectic offseason.  The good news for Coach Spiker is that relative to his last job, he has an ocean of time in front of him to prepare.  The bad news is he’s already behind the eight ball, noticeably more with the transfer announcement of Terrell Allen.
The first priority for this week and next is to assemble his staff.  The men’s basketball staff, as it sits, seems a bit thin:

While those plans are certainly in motion already, look for them to get wrapped up in the coming days, likely while Coach Spiker and Dr. Zillmer join the rest of the coaching community at the Final Four in Houston. 

Spiker had a relatively fresh staff at Army with the exception of Jimmy Allen, who just became Head Coach at Army.  That Army wants to retain Spiker’s staff should be seen as a good sign by Drexel and Army fans alike, but it also takes Allen’s name out of consideration for the Drexel bench.  Beyond Allen, we will see if Spiker can bring with him one of Justin Jennings, Brandon Linton or Drew Adams. 

The rest of the staff will have to come from elsewhere.  Once they do, it’ll be on to the very significant phase two:  player retention and recruiting for this year and next.  Before the recruiting begins the staff will need to know how many holes they have to fill.  Once they do, it’ll be off to the races as local and national recruiting showcases (hello Donofrio Classc) are already underway.  It’s these first two phases of this offseason that will likely shape the next 2-3 years of Drexel basketball, they are vitally important.  And with the transfers being announced left and right, and the spring recruiting efforts off and running time is of the essence. 

The importance of this time of year is why UNCW looked like a dumpster fire when they fired their coach midseason and didn’t have a new one signed immediately following the season.   And it’s why every Dragon fan looks on and chuckles as the University of Delaware takes their sweet time hiring a new AD and only then will hire a new coach, knowingly losing this time in the process and watching their men’s basketball program meltdown around them.

While his staff, retention and recruiting efforts go on in this critical time period, Coach Spiker will also have the “minor” responsibility of relocating his family, helping his wife settle in their three children to a new environment and all of the logistics around that.  This is all a way of saying that now that he has been introduced, fans may not see the coach for a bit.  That is a good thing.  April isn’t the time to be creating excitement in the fanbase, nor for dog and pony shows.  The recruiting dead period in late May or July?  Look for a gathering.  When ticket sales start up in September, absolutely.  But for today, lets just watch what he can do with a one month head start on Delaware.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Zach Spiker was introduced as the new Drexel Men's Basketball Head Coach today, in front of a crowd of (in order of estimated quantity):

1)  People paid by Drexel or on a Drexel Scholarship
2)  Assorted media
3)  Penn Athletics Staff
4a) Friends and Family
4b) Drexel Basketball Supporters

Generating support for the program is something that will be discussed throughout this offseason, beginning on these pages later this week.  Prior to that will be a triage campaign to maintain the level of support that the program currently has going into the off-season.  But if the reader is a donor, or a season ticket holder, or just a fan at large, and a Drexel Athletics staff member happens to cross your path over the next few weeks, here is a question to offer them:

What direction is the program going?

The Spiker hiring was an aggressive, and exciting move.  Besides what Coach Spiker brings to the table on the court, the Athletics Department is saving - this is a technical term - oodles of money over the next five years.  Most of that savings comes from paying Coach Spiker rather than Bruiser and his Associate Head Coach's sizable contract.  Will there be an announcement of where that extra allocation will go?

In Dr. Zillmer's letter to fans, no goals were stated for Coach Spiker with the exception of "He will do great things for Drexel." Stating specific goals in an email before the new coach even meets his team would have been overly aggressive, but a head nod towards a broad goalpost would have been useful.  And if this was such a significant day for the university, why wouldn't there be an effort made to ensure it was scheduled at a time that the University President could attend?

Perhaps more insight into the programs direction will be given once the Assistant Coaches are signed.   It's worth remembering that the off-season is barely upon us and that there is plenty of time before next season begins.  But at any time during the process it should be important to potential donors to know if and how the school is investing in its flagship athletics program.  Is this program high on the President's agenda? If one donates, are they going to see the school do their part to ensure a return on that investment?  Are there clear and public goals and standards that the money will go towards?   And after a new coach was hired, and after a public speach by the Athletic Director, how are these questions now more relevant, and not less?

Donating to a program without a clear agenda or goals, or a program that is just stagnant...  well, there's a belief that Drexel fans don't like lighting their money on fire.  The hiring of Coach Spiker is an exciting move, but it can't be the final move of this offseason, rather it needs to be the first step in clear leadership.  President Fry, Dr. Zillmer now need to execute a decisive "first hundred day" vision that shows leadership, direction, and an avenue for return on investment for potential donors.  What they can't do is leave the current question out there floating for months.

What direction is the program going?