The Triumphs of Improvement

The Card's Myisha Hines- Allen attempted a layup while being guarded by Alyssa Rice. Hines-Allen played 27 minutes and tallied 5 rebounds, 26 points and 2 blocks in the Cardinals 69-67 overtime victory against the Wildcats. Photo by Bill Wine.

The Card’s Myisha Hines- Allen attempted a layup while being guarded by Alyssa Rice. Hines-Allen played 27 minutes and tallied 5 rebounds, 26 points and 2 blocks in the Cardinals 69-67 overtime victory against the Wildcats. Photo by Bill Wine.

It was just two games, but Jeff Walz decided that enough was enough. Walz’s super-talented UofL women’s basketball team had just dropped back-to-back games with No. 4 South Carolina and No. 5 Maryland. In both instances, Walz felt like the Cardinals had been in a position to make the plays necessary to secure victory but had instead let the game get away from them.

After his team allowed the Terrapins to score the final six points of a 78-72 defeat, Walz decided to share his postgame message with the world and not just his players:

“Right now, the generation of kids that are coming through, everybody gets a damn trophy, okay? You finish last, you come home with a trophy. You kidding me? What’s that teaching kids? It’s okay to lose! And unfortunately, it’s our society. It’s what we’re building for.

“And it’s not just in basketball, it’s in life. Everybody thinks they should get a job. Everybody thinks they should get a good job. No, that’s not the way it works. But unfortunately, that’s what we are preparing for. Because you finish fifth, you walk home with this nice trophy, parents are all excited? No.

“I mean, not to be too blunt, but you’re a loser. Like, we’re losers, we got beat. So you lost. There is no trophy for us.”

Walz’s comments quickly exploded nationally. The full video of his postgame press conference was viewed more than 1 million times in less than 24 hours on Facebook. Many agreed with the coach’s sentiment and shared similar experiences. Others believed his comments were directed at too broad a target. After all, weren’t the Maryland players who did make the plays down the stretch to secure a victory from the same generation as the women Walz coaches?

Regardless, the most important recipients of Walz’s rant appear to have received the message as intended.

Just days after their head coach became the latest internet sensation, the UofL women’s team scored their grittiest and most important victory of the season: a 69-67 overtime triumph over arch-rival Kentucky. The victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the Cards against the Cats and put to bed a recurring December criticism that Walz had understandably grown tired of.

“It just feels good to get a win,” Walz said after the game. “It has been a pretty intense week. South Carolina on a neutral floor, Maryland here at home and Kentucky here at home. It has been a very, very intense week. There are a few schools who have played a schedule three games in a row like that, but there aren’t many. It shows just a little fortitude. I thought we showed a little will to win tonight. I thought Kentucky played hard too. I don’t think anybody can question if both teams played hard.”

The most impressive thing about the way the Cardinals won was that they didn’t win pretty. On a day where UofL shot just 36 percent from the field and missed 11 of their 20 free-throw attempts, they made the plays in the game’s final minutes that recent Louisville teams have watched Kentucky make. They forced UK into 19 turnovers, they out-rebounded the Cats 21-8 on the offensive glass, and when the lights were the brightest, team stars Asia Durr and Myisha Hines-Allen stepped up and made the game’s most important plays.

While Walz was conducting a postgame radio interview, junior forward Mariya Moore took a break from celebrating to run over and grab the headset away from him. She told the listeners that she “just wanted everyone to know that she never played in the friendship bracket,” a reference to another one of Walz’s comments after the Maryland game.

As fans of teams or sports in general, we often lose sight of the fact that when coaches or players speak publicly, their message often isn’t meant entirely (or even partially) for our consumption alone. While seemingly half the country weighed in on Jeff Walz’s post-Maryland message last week, there were only 15 people that the coach was really talking to. They were listening. VT