A program that went 15 years without a winning season is eyeing two straight, thanks in part to the arrival of head coach Pat Skerry. During Skerry's third season leading the Towson University men's basketball team, the Tigers were 16-9 and tied for second in the Colonial Athletic Association standings as of Feb. 11. During the 2011-12 season, Towson went 1-31, and the NCAA banned the Tigers from the 2012-13 CAA and NCAA postseason because of the team's past cumulative Academic Progress Rate scores. Morgan Adsit talked to Skerry about the progress of the program and the 2013-14 season.
Pat Skerry: We absolutely see a culture change. I never forget it. You try not to get too high or too low, but certainly, you always remember where you came from. We're a long way from that, but we're not where we want to be yet, either.
Morgan Adsit: Is there a difference in the season, as far as not that you guys didn't finish strong and weren't playing hard [last season], but there wasn't anything to play for as far as the no postseason rule? You guys have that now. Are you a team that teams were fearing last season and now you guys have a chance to make an impact and it's here in Baltimore as far as the CAA tournament?
PS: I think we're more aware that people have been aware of us. There was some hype and expectations, so I think with that comes a greater responsibility. And we're starting to play longer stretches of consistent basketball, which certainly we're going to need to do that to get to where we want to get to.
MA: Everyone knows [senior forward] Jerrelle Benimon, knows the name. ... He leads you guys in scoring. How have teams not been able to figure out how to slow him down?
PS: Well, hopefully they don't. He's a special player. It's funny, our athletic director, Tim Leonard, and I were saying the other day, hopefully people at Towson understand him and a guy like [running back] Terrance West, how rare that they are and appreciate that. I've been telling people, if you haven't seen us play, you've got to come out and see the guy play. He's a special talent on both ends of the floor, and we try to play through him every way humanly possible.
MA: He's going to have a future after he leaves here. Do you see it growing, as far as attention he's getting, maybe scouts coming out to games to see him play?
PS: We've had scouts at almost every game. We've had about, I think, 12 or 13 teams at practice as well. He's absolutely on the radar. That's his goal. And I might be biased, but I certainly think he can get there.
MA: A guy maybe not on the radar -- but obviously on your radar -- Marcus Damas, he's been an interesting kind of "Yes, coach." Is that the kind of player he is? His role has changed throughout the years. He's been a defensive guy, but he's really stepped up this season as far as taking care of the ball.
PS: Especially in our wins … if you look at our wins versus our losses, he's the one guy whose numbers are extremely high in the wins. We feed off his energy. I've got kind of a special place in my heart for him. He was the one guy who played a ton of minutes in that first year. He's one of those guys; he gives you everything he has. Whether he makes a good play or bad play, you know he's going to keep battling. He likes the moment, so he's certainly a guy we're going to ride here getting into the stretch run.
MA: How has the transition been not having your starting point guard, the true point guard that you had at the beginning of the season? You had to make a decision with Jerome Hairston [to suspend him indefinitely]. How has it been with the collective group of guys coming together and trying to handle point guard that maybe aren't really true point guards?
PS: I think pretty good. Our ... assist-to-turnover numbers are positive for the first time since I've been here. I think [Mike] Burwell and [Four] McGlynn especially have been taking care of the ball. ... Our ball movement and chemistry has been outstanding. … That's been a point of emphasis, and these guys have certainly bought into that.
MA: You guys are undefeated at home. You didn't get your first road win until you got into conference play in the new year. What's changed? Is it just the grind to know that conference play, you got to get serious? Or is it just games and experience?
PS: Maybe a little of both. I also think, and granted, most the teams we lost to on the road were pretty good teams. Even like Stephen F. Austin has the nation's longest home-court winning streak -- probably not a lot of people know that. We were in some games, but like you were saying, playing longer stretches of basketball, I think we're starting to do that more.
Watch Morgan Adsit on "Sports Unlimited" on Fox 45 Baltimore, at 5:30 p.m., 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. weekdays and at 10 p.m. weekends. Follow Morgan on Twitter: @MorganAdsit.