How down is down? How low is low? Not only did Crespi lose 18 games last season, but the team found new and exciting ways in which to do it. Last season was as unwanted as fungus in the usual Crespi harvest of victories.
"Losing kind of mushroomed," Coach Paul Muff said. "A lot of the games were close, really close, but it seemed like we always found new ways to lose."
After Crespi fell from first place in 1985-86 to dead last in 1986-87, players felt like low men on the school totem pole mainly because the numbers on the tote board were so different in comparison to previous Celt teams.
"Last year's kids were all new," Muff said. "They were not at all connected with the successes of the past. It was very disheartening for the whole group--I think they felt like low-lifes or something."
A look at last year's results shows why a collective guilt trip was in order. After winning four Del Rey League titles in five seasons, Crespi finished 3-18 overall, 2-10 in league play.
A big reason for the skid might be found in the numbers 0 and 12: None of Crespi's 12 varsity players returned from the '85-86 league championship team. Last season, those Celts learned how mean it is to be green.
Five full- or part-time starters are back this season. Muff, however, would not predict an instantaneous return to Crespi's past levels of success. His patience also remains from last season--he expects progress to come a little at a time.
"We've got a little bit more experience that last year," said Muff, who is entering his 11th season. "If you go two years without winning, people start to ask, 'What's going on?' Last year, we just didn't have anybody to take charge.
"This year, that's not as much of a problem."
That doesn't appear to be a Muff bluff. Help isn't on the way, it's already here. Ken Lynch, who last season became only the third sophomore to start for Muff, returns at forward. And last season's junior-varsity team was a respectable 15-9.
Lynch, whom Muff says is perhaps Crespi's best all-around player, typified the Celts' struggle. In a 73-65 loss to Calabasas in the Celts' fourth game of the season, Crespi twice was whistled for having six players on the court after timeouts. On both occasions, the culprit was Lynch.
It was a microcosm of Crespi's season.
"I just wanted to play," Lynch said with a laugh this week.
He didn't laugh much the rest of the last year. Lynch said there were some ego problems then; some players, he said, weren't crazy about passing the ball--the buck, maybe, but not the ball.
"It's totally different now," Lynch said. "Last year it was more of a job, everybody seemed out for themselves."
Unity is the buzzword now.
"We have guys up from the JVs that are fighting for seniors' positions," Lynch said. "But even with that and last year and all, we are a real close team."
If Crespi re-establishes its success, it will be with a balanced attack. Division I recruiters should look elsewhere.
"I'd have to say we have eight guys that will get lots of playing time," Muff said. "There are no real all-stars."
Last year, Lynch put his neck in a noose by boasting that Crespi would win the league title. Now a year older, he is a little more reserved.
"I think we are good enough to win the league," he said. "But mainly, we just want to bring Crespi basketball back to where it belongs."
COACH: Mickey Cady, second year
LAST SEASON: 8-13, fourth in league, 6-6
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Historically, Notre Dame has not been known for its basketball program, but Cady might be changing that. The Knights fared well during summer season, and if early indications prove correct, they could challenge for the league title. "There has never been a history of winning here," Cady said. "The kids never really knew how to win. I think they're starting to believe." Cady's corps includes eight returnees from last season. Bruce Heicke, an All-Del Rey selection, is a three-year varsity player. Heicke, a 6-2 senior guard, averaged 25 points a game in summer-league play. Kenny Hicks, a 6-4 junior, is the team's most improved player. Hicks scored 34 points in an alumni game last week, the first time in seven years the varsity defeated the alumni. Ed Cogan, a 6-6 1/2 senior center, gives the Knights good height in the middle. Cogan should snare his share of rebounds--he has leaped 6-8 in the high jump. Brian Jones, a 6-3 junior, probably will start at forward. Dave Forseca, a 6-2 senior, will quarterback the team as the point guard. All-league baseball player Jeff Antoon, a 6-2 senior, is the first player off the bench. "If we stay away from injuries and continue to improve, I think we have a good chance of being right there with Loyola at the end of the year," Cady said.
COACH: Paul Muff, 11th year
LAST SEASON: 3-18, seventh in league, 2-10