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Peoria needs a winning basketball team

Hope springs eternal on Bradley’s campus.

The volleyball team is 6-3 after a painful couple of seasons, the men’s soccer team is nationally ranked and the women’s basketball team returns nearly every player from last year’s team.

But you’re kidding yourself if you think any of these stories mean as much to Peoria as the new men’s basketball coach does.

Geno Ford has taken the city by storm with his accessibility and well-rehearsed coach speak. Ford is promising a high-flying offense and a stifling defense that I hope will be a combination of the Steve Nash-run Phoenix Suns and the 1985 Chicago Bears.

After thinking about a new coach for a couple of months, I realized I had done this before.

Let’s take a trip way back to the year 2002.

Bradley basketball head coach Jim Molinari was canned after a decade on the Hilltop. Despite NCAA Tournament success with current NBA starter Anthony Parker, Peoria became tired of a team that played slower than the construction on campus.

At the wishes of Bradley great Hersey Hawkins, Jim Les was brought in to be the savior of Bradley basketball.

Les promised conference titles and NCAA appearances. The city as a whole scarfed down everything Les was cooking, like it was a shrimp cocktail.

The only downside to Les’ hiring was the alienation of the team’s best player.

Sound familiar?

Just like Sam Maniscalso, future NBA All-Star Danny Granger didn’t quite like his head coach being fired, so he left Bradley for the University of New Mexico and  later NBA fame.

Four years in, the Braves did what was possibly the highlight of my adolescent years, making the Sweet Sixteen. Marcellus Sommerville, Will Franklin and future NBA bust Patrick O’Bryant led a mid-major university against college basketball giants such as the Kansas Jayhawks and the Pittsburgh Panthers.

After that, it was all downhill for Les and Peoria got tired of their savior in a matter of years.

Why do I keep saying Peoria and not Bradley? Like it or not, the Bradley Braves men’s basketball team does not belong to 5,000 or so undergrads. They are Peoria’s team.

Geno Ford doesn’t just have to answer to President Glasser, he has to answer to the 115,000 citizens of the city as well.

We live in a city that is surrounded by corn fields. We don’t have a lot to do in central Illinois during college basketball season except eat pumpkin pie and shovel snow, so Peoria’s obsession with Bradley basketball makes sense.

How do you please a city?  Playing good Bradley basketball. A city that wants to see nothing more than the Braves be a great team deserves a team that is competing for conference championships, not just fifth-place finishes in the MVC.

You hear that Coach Ford? That’s me, a die-hard, lifelong Bradley basketball fan laying out my demands. I love your gusto, spunk and the style of your teams, but I’m just one of the 115,000. All we want is not to let down, because we’ve seen it all before.

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