UMBC's Zimmerman on loss: "This is unacceptable"
UMBC coach Don Zimmerman is generally an optimistic person, but there was very little that he could take solace in after watching his team get routed, 16-5, by No. 14 Johns Hopkins in the final contest of the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Saturday.
In fact, Zimmerman, whose team had lost three consecutive games after opening the season with a victory, sounded off when asked about toeing the line between disciplining and encouraging the players.
“To tell you the truth, there wasn’t a whole lot of encouragement in that locker room, and there shouldn’t have been,” Zimmerman began. “You can’t be encouraged after a day like today. This has got to hurt, and they got to sense that, and they’ve got to know that’s the way I feel. That’s the educational process from today. This is unacceptable. This is unacceptable, and to perform like this is unacceptable. Now what can we do to improve? That will come starting on Monday. But you can’t be encouraged. I can’t go in there and be encouraging to these guys. I did that after the North Carolina game. I went in and said, ‘Hey, we just lost, but we showed some good things, we fought hard, we came back.’ And that might have been a mistake because maybe our guys were thinking, ‘It’s OK if you lose because you still did OK.’ This is a bottom-line business, and I’ve never been a win-at-all-costs coach, but I am an educator, and the guys have to know that this is unacceptable. But the key is, now what are they going to do? What are they going to do and for each and every man in that locker room, what is he going to do to try to assure that this doesn’t happen again? And that’s basically work harder, get tougher on ground balls, play more as a unit, and get better. But today, there can be no encouragement. There can’t be.”
A reporter then asked Zimmerman to comment on the difference between the Retrievers’ seven-goal rally in an eventual 13-9 loss to North Carolina on March 5 and the team’s effort against the Blue Jays.
“I wish I knew,” he said. “Again, it’s a young team, and sometimes if you give a young team an inch, they take a mile. Last week, we did play well in the second half against North Carolina, but I can tell you that after the game, we talked about it, and I had to handle some things. And when I went up into the locker room and the guys were showering, it almost sounded like we had won. I addressed that. I said, ‘Look, don’t take a little encouragement and run with it. We did show some good fight, and we did climb our way back, but we lost the game. That’s not acceptable.’ Sometimes I’m too nice to a team, and I understand that they’re young kids. I’m getting older, and I understand they’re young kids, and I want to encourage them. But I think at this point now, I’ve got to lower the hammer a little bit and demand more of them. I told them, ‘This whole thing about us being young, that’s over with now. We’ve got to grow up now.’ We’ve got to grow up and understand that to play at this level, you’ve got to be able to do some things and handle some things and work with some things to be successful. So the whole thing about us being young is no more of an excuse. We’ve been through enough battles right now. So our kids understand this is what it takes, and we’re going to do it. And I think they will. It’s a great group of kids, but sometimes kids are going to make mistakes, and they learn tough lessons. You’re definitely going to stick with them, but I’ve got to be harder. I can imagine that [Johns Hopkins] Coach [Dave] Pietramala was very hard on his team this week, and it paid off. Maybe I should’ve been harder on my guys this week. But that’s hindsight.”