New London - Losing streaks offer nothing, really, except perhaps wisdom for the pain. And maybe reference points and war stories during better days.
There's the case of former tennis player Vitas Gerulaitis, for example, who once lost 16 straight matches to Jimmy Connors. When Gerulaitis finally won, he offered the immortal line, "Let this be a lesson to you all. Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row."
And then there was former Coast Guard basketball coach Pete Barry, who suffered through a 3-20 season a few years before he made the Elite Eight. Looking back at 3-20, Barry said, "We did the whole Casey Stengel, '62 Mets thing. Dan Sheppard was Richie Ashburn, the guy who had the good season. I don't know who the hell Rod Kanehl was. Maybe Peter Gavin. The fan favorite who couldn't play."
The '62 Mets, sadly, have reunited the band for a reunion tour at Coast Guard this season. The Bears are in the middle of a 1-12 season, now losers of 11 straight after Saturday's loss to Clark University. Nobody was expecting another run to the Elite Eight this season. But 11 straight losses have turned school anthem "Semper Paratus" into Simon and Garfunkel.
Hello darkness our old friend. We've come to talk to you again.
Injuries and 10 freshmen and sophomores have conspired to test every level of patience. It has not been pretty. But the Bears have at least one thing working for them. Coach Kevin Jaskiewicz has been there before.
He was Glen Miller's assistant in the early days at Connecticut College when the Camels had four-win and six-win seasons. Miller actually feared for his job. And then not long after, they went to the Final Four.
"It's a great lesson, actually," Jaskiewicz said Saturday. "You're not always going to be 28-1. I've been there. At both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between. The one commonality is to work hard. That's what we continue to do."
Jaskiewicz worked harder than a coal miner during Saturday's game, twice firing his sportcoat to the deck. He never sat. He coached, quite literally, every pass. He was issued a technical in the second half and didn't come close to uttering anything R-rated, merely protesting a foul call that prevented his team from cutting into Clark's lead. His team played well in spots. Just not enough of them.
"The most important thing that I've learned is that you work hard, play hard and you cannot ever accept losing," Jaskiewicz said. "We have perspective, but we don't accept losing. You fight, scratch, claw. Losing is unacceptable. If you fight, scratch and claw, good things will happen. One thing I guard against all the time is to accept losing."
Coaches of any sport throughout the region should take note. Eleven-game losing streaks can happen to anybody. There's no immunity. Jaskiewicz has the universal respect of his colleagues. He was there with Miller when they brought Conn from a punchline to nirvana. He was there with Miller when they won more games than anyone else ever did at Brown. He's one of the brightest people in his profession.
"I'm constantly evaluating myself. It's all part of the process. I'm not removed from it. I'm part of it," he said. "I know the answer. It's to keep working hard. And if we lose again, we prepare for the next game."
The next game is Babson on Wednesday. The Bears need a win only slightly more than the proper functioning of a lung. But the reality is that they'll need to play as close to perfect as possible.
"It's not difficult at all to be quite honest," he said. "It's a great bunch of kids to work with. My job is to prepare for the next opponent. It's no different if you are 12-1 or 1-12. You work and play just as hard."
Then Jaskiewicz paused and said, "at some point, we'll see rewards. Rome wasn't built in a day."
Not a quote that has the flare of Barry and the '62 Mets, but very true nonetheless. Jaskiewicz speaks from experience.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.