In the not-too-distant past, Mott Community College was 5-0 and poised to prove the doubters, who didn’t think they could live up to the program’s reputation, wrong. Steve Schmidt’s team did not have a single returning player — one sophomore transfer and 10 freshmen. The team played its last game with seven players including two late-addition walk-ons.
He had talent, albeit unknown and unproven.
Three months later, with a roster decimated by self-inflicted injuries, the season came to an untimely end Tuesday night in Bay City: a 59-56 loss to Delta College in the opening round of the District 10 Tournament. His roster is now known and unproven.
My records don’t go back far enough to find out when the last time Mott wasn’t playing basketball on the tournament weekend. Suffice it to say, this never happens.
This was the team’s third loss to the Pioneers this season.
The Bears finished the season with a 16-12 record. This season snaps an incredible streak of 19 consecutive seasons of 25 or more wins. (Schmidt had 21 consecutive seasons of 20 or more wins.)
“This is just kind of fitting, how we ended the season,” Schmidt told MRSN’s Bill Schnorenberg after the game. “I had a kid quit prior to the game, our best player (Daryl Bigham). We have rules and standards: simple stuff. I hope these guys will learn that wherever you go in life, there are rules. You have to follow the rules.”
Another starter, Rod Milton, couldn’t follow the rules and sat in the stands.
Fitting, indeed: the four most-talented players on Schmidt’s roster starting the season, didn’t make it to season’s end. A couple didn’t make it to the quarter pole.
“This has probably been my most frustrating as a coach,” he said. “I’m proud to wear Mott on my shirt. I’m proud of what this program stands for … we just weren’t championship caliber. We’re going to have to work harder, but Mott will be back. We set the standard at the JUCO level, and I really believe that. We’re down, but not out.”
Schmidt said he takes full responsibility for his decision not to bring back any players from the 2013-14 team that finished 25-6 after a loss in the District 10 semifinals to Oakland almost a year ago to the day. I called that “probably the worst season in a decade.” I wasn’t exaggerating, based on the program’s unprecedented run of success. There’s little doubt that this is the worst season in Schmidt’s career. There’s even less doubt that Schmidt will circle the wagons, get back on the trail and re-focus on what made his program great in the first place
I will publish a complete post-mortem on the season in the coming weeks Until then, trust that this team (and this program) will look a lot different next season. The revival starts tomorrow morning.