Losing big at home to a bitter rival was only part of it, Hofstra coach Tom Pecora said. A very small part of it at that. He added that his team had lost its edge on its home court. Worst of all, he said of his players, "They've lost their way."
"That's my fault," he said after a 90-72 drubbing from George Mason.
Pecora didn't like what he saw last night - despite highlights such as Charles Jenkins' 26 points, Miklos Szabo's 14 points and 12 rebounds and a very energetic game by freshmen Chaz Williams and Yves Jules - any more than he liked anything else lately from a team that is 9-11 overall, 2-6 in the Colonial Athletic Association and 1-3 at home in conference play.
He was displeased with the effort that let George Mason (12-7, 7-1) run the floor so breezily and fire up three-pointers so easily. The Pride was down by eight at halftime and looked to be in trouble. That became big trouble in the second half. Whenever Hofstra made a run, Cam Long (27 points) or one of his teammates answered.
"We're not a talented enough group yet for the guys to just go out and play," said the coach, who sequestered his team after the game and didn't let them speak with the media. He began his news conference with his failure to motivate, saying, "This one's on me, boys."
The same will not be said about the burdens at upcoming practices. Pecora said he will start every workout with the Hofstra drill, which involves a player taking a charge, then sprinting the length of the court. The coach acknowledged that Hofstra has been beleaguered by injuries and claims he took it easy on the seven healthy players.
"I shouldn't have," he said, adding that future sessions will be different. "If we have to dress five or six one night, so be it. I'm not going to sleep, giving up 90 points."
Granted that George Mason is possibly the best team in the conference. Its run to the Final Four in 2006 actually helped Hofstra, which beat George Mason at home toward the end of that regular season. Pecora received an offer to jump to Seton Hall in the Big East, but elected to stay at Hofstra. He has learned that self-pity doesn't cut it, for the coach or players. Cornelius Vines was benched for most of the night because, Pecora said, he had lost confidence in himself.
"They've got scholarships here, $50,000 a year, to play basketball. It's a wonderful life," the coach said, adding that they should have been able to bounce back from a few close losses. "What are they going to do when they get in the real world?"
His players' world is about to get more real, and more tough.