Coach speak or just the truth?

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Greg Kampe is seen by many around the league as a character. His halftime interviews and candor anytime there’s a microphone or camera nearby make him very entertaining for Oakland fans as well as those around the Horizon League. Often when he speaks though, as with all coaches around sports, you have to try to and read through what they’re saying. Is it “coach speak” or do they actually mean it?

It seems being a coach is equal parts salesman, public relations, and actually coaching your sport and probably even more so at the college level. For all the times myself and others have called coaches out, especially Kampe, for not really saying anything, I think it’s time to give a coach some credit for seemingly speaking some truth.

At the beginning of the season, Kampe was asked what he thought his record could be. He didn’t hesitate and said many times that he thought his team could start the season 0-7. Well, he was right. He didn’t predict his team could take it an extra step and drop their first two games in conference play to get to 0-9 though.

However, he did say that he didn’t care about the 0-7 start from a record stand point. He needed his team to do a few things including learn to play together. Those games were seen as a chance to figure out what they actually had. Without Rashad Williams available for a chunk of those games, it was tough to find some cohesiveness, but it also gave some players some extra minutes and when he returned they seemed to know what they had and the direction to go.

Was it trying to temper expectations for his team or a coach who simply knew his team would lose a lot early? It may have been both, and it was accurate. It’s tough to fault a coach who says his team may lose some games, but has a plan to make it a positive in the long run.

From the moment Jalen Moore committed to Oakland, we were told how special he was going to be. We kept hearing he was the point guard the team was missing all of the previous year. He was the secret to Oakland getting back to being Oakland. That’s a lot of expectations for a kid who had not even stepped foot on campus yet. Sure, he was a JUCO 3rd team All-American, but how would that translate to the floor for OU?

Kampe told us he would be able to run the offense efficiently, get others involved, could make his own shot and shoot it from 3 and could drive to the hoop and finish. While he’s still working on the finishing at the hoop part against the bigger competition, everything else has been delivered.

Moore is as good as advertised. While he has had some games where he may have struggled a bit, usually in his free throw shooting despite being a historically good free throw shooter at other levels, he has been exactly what Oakland was missing. He is currently first in the nation in assists, 6th in steals and 8th in points. That’s a lot of work for a transfer who wasn’t playing Division 1 basketball last year.

His best work may have been this past weekend in the bounceback win against previously unbeaten Wright State where he had 24 points, 12 assists with only 2 turnovers and was a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line including big ones down the stretch to seal the victory. For a coach to anoint someone the way he did was a lot of coach speak. Except, it was all true. 

At many times this year, Kampe has told fans that if they sit back and watch they will get to see a team grow in front of their eyes. After an 0-7 start, Oakland had the chance to win their first conference game at UIC. The problem was, they didn’t know how to win when it was time to finish the game. It was a deflating loss on the first game of the weekend. The team seemed to not rebound back and got beat the following day without putting up much of a fight.

The growth came the next weekend though with the unexpected rivalry matchup with Detroit Mercy. They won both games on last second shots, finding a way to win. It was something they hadn’t done yet that year. One time it was a freshman in Micah Parrish with a putback layup, the next day it was the experienced Williams with the last second 3. Both games, Oakland weathered runs, kept their heads on, and looked like a team that had learned from previous mistakes.

Coming off that high, though, they came out flat and got throttled by Wright State in their first game of the weekend. Wright State was the bigger, better, stronger and more experienced team. It was clear in the first game. The growing came in the second game. Oakland jumped out to a lead, lost it and fought back for the win. They really did seem to grow in front of fans’ eyes. 

The quote from Kampe after the game that really stood out was “One of the best wins I’ve been involved with in a long long time, as good as maybe ever.” To me, that sounds like coach speak. A happy coach after a big win who was proud of his team. However, if they can truly use that win as a springboard and continue to grow, that win could prove to be a huge win for the program.

We are seeing what makes Oakland dangerous. Can they figure out how to do that more often? That will be the key. If they can be that team, it will make Kampe a truth teller, not someone who just deals in coach speak.

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