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Basketball coach Tatham reflects on facing his old team Head coach Patrick Tatham reflects on changes, wins and losses and facing old friends

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Photos by Kyle West

Marauders basketball has been off to a great start this season. With a fresh new team and home opener win, things were starting to look up when the McMaster men’s basketball team defeated the nationally-ranked Brock University Badgers, giving them a 3-0 record.

This success is a result of head coach Patrick Tatham’s 2018-19 season changes. After having a slow start to the 2017 season losing nine games straight, Tatham learned a lot of lessons, but he also knew big changes needed to be made in his second year of coaching at Mac.

“One thing that I did learn is that there’s a ton of highs and lows in one program,” said Tatham. “Also, understanding how much works need to be done during the offseason, like recruiting players of different years.”

For Tatham, the one thing he enjoyed from last year’s up-and-down season was the one thing that remains constant: the support. No matter how much they were winning or losing by, the Hamilton community and the people that support their games would still come out. So, it was a nice treat for these loyal fans when the new and improved men’s team came out strong this October.

“We brought in nine new players. A mixture of young guys, transfers and a returnee, Connor Gilmore, who has helped a great deal,” said Tatham. “We’ve also added an assistant coach who used to play here, so that has been a great addition.”

Other off the court changes he has been passionate about was the formation of a social media team. For Tatham, in a world that is so social media driven, a strong social media presence is the best way to build hype for his team, win or lose.

“You kind of have to go with the mainstream or get lost in the shuffle,” said Tatham.

Back on the court, he has already seen an immense deal of improvement from his new recruits.  

“We’ve had about six of the new guys here all summer and you can see their progress already,” Tatham said. “Guys like Tristan Lindo, Jordan Henry, Maliek Gordon and Connor Gilmore have all had wonderful growth, but we have to continue to grow.”

Unfortunately for the Marauders, their first road trip weekend put an end to their early undefeated record. Falling short to the Nipissing University Lakers and the Laurentian University Voyageurs who are led by the 2018 BLG Award for U Sports Male Athlete of the Year, Kadre Gray. For Tatham, these losses were due to a combination of a number of factors.

“For the first-year guys, sometimes they don’t really understand how hard it is to get regular season wins on the road,” said Tatham. “But at the same time, I think that the approach for last week was a little tricky. We had yet to play back-to-back games for the first time, so guys we’re still just really understanding the magnitude of a road trip.”

The key for the team to bounce back is simply going back to the basics.

“Just getting back to all the little things that we were doing before,” said Tatham. “Rebounding, playing with our hands, getting deflections; playing with great pace and getting defensive stops. We’re excited [for our next game]. I think the guys are up to the challenge of taking the No. 2 team. But we’ll see what happens tonight.”

Being able to bounce back against the No. 2-ranked Ryerson University Rams is no easy task. The Marauders were able to hold their own for the first quarter, leading 19-17 with three minutes to play in the first, but Ryerson quickly reminded us why they were national contenders after going off on 10-0 run and Mac was never able to catch up.

Although the game’s results were expected for Tatham, former interim head coach of the Ryerson Rams, he will always take their matchups more personal than others. Having taken current Rams players to nationals in 2017, it always makes it an interesting experience for him to coach against them.

“They’re a team where I basically learned all my coaching from over the last six years,” said Tatham. “J.V Mukama — a Hamilton local, whose younger brother Jesse happens to play for the Marauders — is probably the one guy on the team that I considered a young son to me, and I also work with [Ram’s head coach] Roy [Rana] with the senior men’s national team. So, it should be a special night no doubt.”

Having to wear the two hats of friend or father figure and opposing team’s coach is not always easy for Tatham, but it has to be done.

“It’s funny because we’re going out to a Raptors game even though we’re going to play each other in two days,” Tatham said. “But I’m always ready to put that other hat on when it’s time to compete.”

The night may not have ended in the Marauders’ favour, as Ryerson took home the dub in typical Rams’ fashion 102-70, but it was a night to remember for Tatham regardless.

The Marauders bounced back as expected the following night, and defeated the University of Toronto Varsity Blues 89-77, thanks to veteran David McCulloch and a breakout night for the rookie and newly-named starter, Sefa Otchere.

Up next, the Marauders are headed to Ottawa to first face the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees and then the No. 1 nationally-ranked Carleton University Ravens.

“The Carleton one is an interesting one simply because we play them on the second night of a back-to-back. So right now, we are focused on if we can take care of what’s in front of us,” said Tatham. “Win, lose or draw, I think it will be a great experience for our guys because in the end, we’re focused on one thing, and that’s winning the West.”

Only time will tell if the Marauders can put this goal to fruition, for now, they are on to Ottawa.

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Author: Jessica Carmichael

Sharing the same birthday but not the same salary as Houston Rockets' Chris Paul, Jessica spends most of her days not practicing her free throw. In addition to studying communications and media, Jessica dedicates the majority of her time to flag football and watching an endless amount of sports documentaries. Looking for her own Last Chance U pet project, Jessica is committed to covering sports beyond the box score and faceless stats.