Early Thursday, Bryant coach Tim O’Shea sent me a quick iPhone video showing the view from his hotel room in New Jersey.
The view was of a power line and a highway. The sky was dreary and gray. O’Shea was saying the gloom and doom of the day was not a good omen. But he added that his players, and the staff, hadn’t quit despite losing the first 26 games of the season and having the unwanted distinction as the only Division I team without a win.
So when the Bulldogs finally won a game -- 53-51 at Wagner Thursday night on Raphael Jordan's free throws with one second left -- O’Shea was relieved and overjoyed for the players that he feared would wear the burden of a zero in the win column like a scarlet letter for the rest of their lives.
“It had been the elephant in the room,’’ O’Shea said. “It had become such a pressure. The players here were recruited for a Division II school, but we moved up to Division I. We played 16 out of 20 on the road. There was so much pressure and attention on the losing streak.’’
O’Shea didn’t even realize the Bulldogs hadn’t won a game in over a year, the last victory coming against NJIT on Feb. 17, 2009.
“I’m hoping that this becomes the worst year of coaching I’ll ever have,’’ O’Shea said. “But like my first win at North Carolina when I was at Ohio in my first year, or winning at Maryland, or beating Buffalo to get an NCAA tournament berth at Ohio, I will always remember this game. This group had to overcome more than any I have ever coached.’’
A year ago, the Bulldogs were the first team to lose to the New Jersey Institute of Technology (before beating the Highlanders later in the year). It ended NJIT's multiple-year losing streak that drew interest from the Today Show. Bryant was about to feel the same embarrassing moment in the spotlight.
But no more.
“I’m 100 percent confident that I have the right talent sitting out [four players are redshirting] with six new players coming in,’’ O’Shea said. “But I respect the attitude our players have played with. There was no next year for the four seniors. What I didn’t want to happen for those players to go out with a zero and also for the players next season to have the burden of being winless passed on to them.’’
O’Shea’s hotel views at his next stop – at Mount Saint Mary’s – might not change this weekend, but at least he won’t be down. The sky could be gray, but at least O'Shea and his Bulldogs can finally see some sunshine.