Five straight losses, but not one person has thrown a brick through Bill Curry’s window. There’s a reason for that.
“I don’t think they know where my window is,” he said, smiling.
Obscurity has its advantages. But it’s Season 2 at Georgia State, and reality has hit Curry over the head like a sledgehammer. He turns 69 years old Friday. Football has consumed his post-crawling life, and when he first took on this project he figured there was little left to learn. But there he was Tuesday, using words like “blindsided” and “stunned” when answering questions about his fledgling program’s season. A five-game losing streak wasn’t on the blueprint.
“It’s been a quantum leap in learning for this old guy,” Curry said. “But we’re living in America. We’ve got to win.”
In the shadows of the SEC, ACC and almost everything else, Georgia State has followed a 6-5 first season with a 1-5 start this year. Saturday’s game against South Alabama is homecoming. The fact attendance at home games also has dropped off might be a bigger concern than the product itself, but Curry can’t fix everything. This team poses enough problems.
After an impressive first season, he anticipated the Panthers were ready to step up in competition and face more experienced teams. He was wrong. It mostly has shown in key moments of games, particularly in the fourth quarter. That State has been outscored 57-7 in the final quarter isn’t mere coincidence.
If you’re a proud and competitive individual like Curry, you don’t take this reality well. Maybe a torch-carrying mob hasn’t shown up at his front door or thrown a rock through his window (as one Alabama knucklehead did after only one loss, not five, in 1988). But this has kind of been a shot to his ego. He prides himself on reading people and situations and certainly knowing football.
“I would’ve prepared the guys entirely differently,” he said. “I just believe if I could have anticipated some of these things, I could’ve headed it off. Practicing situations: ‘It’s the fourth quarter. We’re being manhandled. What are you going to do about it?’ It never crossed my mind.”
Curry is taking one for the team. Great coaches do things like this. Fact is, no matter what Curry did, most of these growing pains were inevitable. The Panthers are so early in the building process and they’re working with athletes who are in this program for a reason. Maybe a more established team thought they were too small, or too slow, or not smart enough. Maybe there was a question about toughness, resolve or leadership.
That’s not meant to be a knock at the players. Every team has them. The difference at major programs is they’re mixed among the elite. There are others to lead them. There are others to say, “Hey, this is what we did four years ago.” There are alumni to say, “This is what we did back in ’62.”
Curry has more stories than anybody. He has stories spanning Bobby Dodd to Vince Lombardi. But without a program resume to draw from, run-through-a-wall speeches about potential have their limitations in Year 2.
It was a good start. Georgia State opened the season with a 41-7 win over Clark Atlanta. But then came a pounding in the Georgia Dome by Old Dominion 40-17. The Panthers played the Monarchs last season, and they’re only in their third season themselves. Two weeks later, State was leveled by Houston 56-0, but Curry lamented: “We were really stunned before we ever get to Houston. We were stunned by Old Dominion. Our confidence was shaken. We’re still fighting out of that.”
The old coach added, “We will learn how to win again.”
He says he’s not going anywhere. His five-year commitment to the start-up program runs through next season, and he said nothing that has happened changes that.
“I’ll be 70 next year, but I don’t feel old. I feel good,” he said. “I still get up at five and go to work. I’m not going to tell you that it hasn’t been surprisingly difficult, but it’s been so worth doing.”
A win would make him feel better. Somebody may find his office one day.
By Jeff Schultz