Giger: Krimmel’s tenure at SFU disappointing so far

LORETTO — What happened to the St. Francis men’s basketball team Saturday afternoon was humiliating and inexcusable on every level, and it added fuel to the fire for anyone who questions whether second-year head coach Rob Krimmel is the right man for the job.

The Red Flash got destroyed at home against a mediocre American team by 32 points, 75-43. Of the many low points the program has endured during the past 3 1/2 decades, suffering that kind of embarrassment at home might have been the worst.

The Flash are horrendous on the road, going 9-79 in the past five years, but since they’ve usually been decent at home, a 32-point drubbing was as shocking as it was unacceptable.

Holiday weekend or not, the St. Francis players turned in the kind of performance that would lead one to believe they don’t have much pride in their program or its rich tradition.

That loss dropped St. Francis to 1-6, and worst of all, the team had the worst offense in all of Division I statistically, averaging only 55.1 points entering play Wednesday.

This team looks like it’s spiraling toward yet another five- or six-win season.

But there is one sliver of hope.

That sliver — and maybe this is grasping for straws where none exist — turned up last night against Lehigh.

The Flash played hard. For 40 minutes. They didn’t play well, and their shooting was abysmal once again, but they gave it everything they had and showed character with a gutsy second-half comeback before falling to Lehigh, 57-50, at DeGol Arena.

There are no moral victories in college sports, and there certainly shouldn’t be moral victories just when kids who are on scholarship to play basketball happen to do just that to their best effort for an entire game. That should be a given.

Krimmel is now 6-31 in two seasons — 2-19 on the road, plus perhaps an even worse 4-12 at home — and nothing he has accomplished so far indicates he can turn this thing around. Had his team laid another egg similar to the rotten one it delivered Saturday, it would have been clear evidence that he had no control over this team and that the players had quit on him.

Wednesday’s solid effort, however, showed that is not the case.

“I’m very proud of the team,” said forward Earl Brown, who plays harder than anyone on the court, exemplified by his 16 points and 14 rebounds. “We played hard, especially coming off a tough loss from American.”

The fact that his players bounced back well is a good sign of their resolve and of Krimmel’s leadership. The same thing happened last season as the team, despite starting 0-11 and 1-19, continued to play hard and wound up closing strong with three wins in a four-game stretch in February.

“The effort tonight was much better,” Krimmel said, “and that’s what I told those guys: Every time you put on that jersey, you’ve got to give that effort.”

That’s the first step.

The next step is Krimmel must find a way to improve the team’s atrocious offense, because effort won’t win many games when a team can’t shoot and can’t score.

St. Francis not only was the lowest-scoring team in the nation entering Wednesday, it’s average actually went down by managing only 50 points. The Flash also were 349th out of 351 teams in field-goal percentage for the season at 35.8 percent, and that number went down, too, as they shot just 33.3 percent.

St. Francis not only missed about 10 bunnies within three feet, it also made only 7-of-14 free throws and is now shooting a woeful 59.2 percent from the line this season.

“We have guys that are too good of shooters, that have made shots in their career, that are just struggling right now,” Krimmel said. “The only way to get out of that is to continue to work, to continue to get in the gym and get up shots.”

Had just a few more of the easy shots fallen Wednesday, St. Francis probably would have won.

But it didn’t win, and now it’s in danger of this six-game losing streak snowballing in a hurry with three of the next four on the road. The skid likely will hit 10 before the next winnable game rolls around at home against NJIT on Jan. 4.

There was controversy when Krimmel became St. Francis’ head coach because his father, Bob, is the school’s athletic director, and that hire was made without a search. The nepotism issue was strike one.

Last season’s 5-24 record was strike two.

Right now, he’s just trying to foul off pitches in hopes of preventing this season from turning into a potential strike three.

This is a very smart guy we’re talking about, so he knows how important it is to get things turned around quickly to start changing public perception.

He’s a great guy, too. Rob Krimmel truly is an outstanding human being, and I can say that after dealing with him for 15 years.

But being a great guy isn’t enough in sports. It can be if there’s some moderate success, but not when there’s total failure.

Krimmel believes he and his coaching staff have a system in place that can lead St. Francis to success eventually. But how long is eventually? And does he deserve to stick around that long if it means winning only a handful of games for several more seasons?

It’s a messy situation at St. Francis, to say the least, but Krimmel is steadfast in his belief that he is the right man for the job and can enjoy success over the long haul if he focuses on the day-to-day process.

“There’s no magic formula,” he said. “I don’t have it. If someone does, I’d love to get it. But it’s every single day coming in here and getting better getting better as a coach, getting better as players, getting better as a program, getting better as a group.”

All of those things need to start happening soon, or else Krimmel’s two-year record at St. Francis will be so bad that it will be impossible to fathom him deserving a third.

Follow Giger on Twitter @CoryGiger.