Kinsey, D’Antoni sound off on state of Marshall hoops

— By David Walsh

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall’s Taevion Kinsey didn’t have much to say when he started his postgame address to the media.

He had just seen the Thundering Herd go from a 55-all tie to a 62-55 with 5:11 left and the comeback hopes all but end as Florida International prevailed, 72-71, Thursday night in Conference USA action at Cam Henderson Center.

After the burst by the Panthers, the Herd would get no closer than four points the rest of the way until a late three-pointer before the final buzzer sounded. So FIU had its first road win of the season, its first win in the Henderson Center and first regular-season sweep of Marshall. The Herd dropped to 8-16, 1-10 in C-USA going into Sunday’s matinee at UTEP. Overall, the Herd is 7-7 at home and 1-9 on the road.

No wonder Kinsey was down. When he finished his media chat, which eventually ran about five minutes with him doing most of the talking, what he said had more thunder than any dunk the 6-foot-5 junior from Columbus has delivered while wearing the Green and White.

“I don’t understand it,” Kinsey said, referring to the numerous late-game collapses of late. “As coach Dan (D’Antoni) said, we’ve got to do some soul searching. No heart whatsoever. No fight, no spirit. No heart. We owe these fans everything. They’re coming out here — 3,000, 4,000. Some schools don’t even get fans and they’re winning games. We don’t deserve that now. I don’t know what we deserve. I’m sorry. I’m usually a positive person. Right now there’s nothing I can say that we’re doing that is positive. I don’t know what needs to be done. Definitely some soul searching.”

Kinsey, who had missed two of the last three games, said players have held pregame and postgame chats, but to no avail. Yes, there was the upset of UAB on January 29 at home with Kinsey not dressed.

“I’m the type of person I can’t give a talk everyday,” Kinsey said. “I’m not anybody’s parent. You have to want it for yourself. When you wake up and you look in the mirror, do you ask yourself how are you going to attack the day? When we get to games, it’s like everything goes away. It’s hard to be positive through it.

“It’s like you want to win in life or you don’t want to win. Those people will get weeded out. We’re getting weeded out right now. From those who want to win and those who don’t want to win. It’s showing every time we step on the court. It’s time to buckle down. Something has to change.

“Time to play. This hurts. I’ve never been through a season like this. I know it’s hurting coach Dan, hurting everybody. Is everybody going to allow the hurt to hurt enough to do something about it? I’ve got to fight injured or not injured. We’ve got to show fight.”

D’Antoni then chimed in. With the Herd down four points late, the players didn’t trap, but stayed back and FIU got to run 15 seconds off the clock before a foul was called.

“Typical at the very end,” D’Antoni said. “I’ve been here — this is the eighth year. Seven years I would’ve never had to say, ‘pick them up, double team them up. Let’s get on them and try to get the ball.’ It’s a four-point game and about a minute to go. I’m the only one yelling, jumping up and down. A 74-year-old idiot over there, jumping up and down, crazy, trying to get them to go to double and move and deny. They weren’t going to do it. That should never happen. I’ve been doing this for 50 years. I’ve never been in a quagmire of unknowing.”

Marshall Thundering Herd head coach Dan D’Antoni reacts. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

D’Antoni said there’s only so much he and his staff can do. He remembers when former guard Jarrod West, who spent four years at Marshall then became an offseason transfer to Louisville for this season, made life miserable for opposing guards with his pressure.

“It isn’t even about stats,” D’Antoni said. “We’re going to find a way at the wrong time to do something we shouldn’t be doing. I ain’t quitting. This is on you guys. As a coaching staff, we do all we can to help you. It comes down to you’ve got to have some heart. I didn’t see people slapping the floor on defense, getting up into people. When it was close, Jarrod was up defensively. In that game he’d have been up on the ball trying to make or force a turnover, a pass a mistake. We lay back like it’s no big deal.”

D’Antoni again ran down the Herd roster and noted its youth. Regardless of the class on the roster, desire trumps everything.

“It’s not about years. It’s about the competitiveness and the desire to make things happen good for your team,” D’Antoni said. “Have the confidence and courage in bad times, and good, to have the type of resolve that you as a player you’re going to get it done.

“The way you react to things, the toughness inside you. Right now we’ve got to find that. I’m not sure how you do it. When you do things, give it your best shot. We have to have the toughness to be disciplined when we have to be disciplined, be tough when we have to be tough and have the confidence to make plays. We do it in practice and it looks pretty good. When we get out there, we put the freeze on. Play all the way to the buzzer ends and hopefully we’re going to win that last game.”

The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic made recruiting the past two seasons a challenge. No travel to see prospects. The first actual look at players comes when they get here. D’Antoni hopes COVID-19 and all the protocols start to wind down and travel to scout players returns so the Herd staff can look not only look for dribbling and shooting skills, but the intangibles as well.

“Might just be alternate personalities. They don’t have that type of personality. As a coaching staff we might have to send out personality tests out when we go out and recruit. We’re not able to get a feel for who they are as a person. Hopefully Covid is going away and things open back up and I can get out and touch, see and feel these people.

“Because you’re not any good without a big-time heart at this level. The first thing is a big-time heart, then you look at their shooting, dribbling, whatever. Right now we’ve got a lot of passive nice guys. And they’re pretty skilled. We’ve got to make the ones we got in here better. We’re going to find the people

“I might seem disgruntled, sound like I’ve given up, the anger is not in me.

“Wrong. It’s only firing up my flames, not dousing them. I’m angry to the point to be better and what I’m doing is firing them up. I’m going to be better at what I’m doing and demand more from these kids.”

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