TURLOCK -- It seems basketball season came and went with nary a word nor whimper from the corner of Monte Vista Avenue and Geer Road.
Part of the problem was simply a case of out-of-sight, out-of-mind, since the Cal State Stanislaus men's and women's teams played a conference schedule in which they played exactly one home date in the 40-day span between Jan. 13 and Feb. 22 -- the time of year when basketball infiltrates that part of the brain previously occupied by football.
The other part was that the teams, well, to put it kindly, just weren't very good.
The numbers are harsh. The men went 6-21, the women 7-19. Both posted 5-15 records in the California Collegiate Athletic Association.
There is no outrage where there is no expectation, and unfortunately we've been conditioned to expect little from these programs.
"Both coaches are doing the best they possibly can do," athletic director Milt Richards said. "No one is satisfied with this year's wins and losses, but we have two good coaches who are coming back and we're going to support them."
There's the answer to your first question. Yes, Keith Larsen and Sharon Turner-Dean will return for the 2008-09 season. There was fair speculation to the contrary given their records, combined with their contracts expiring this year.
Which begs the second question, another fair query: If an average of 6.5 wins in a season isn't bad enough to get a coach's contract left unrenewed, what will it take?
That's another easy answer: not caring. And these are two coaches still not only very much committed to winning but also to doing everything possible to put a winning product on the floor.
"I've been coaching 20 years, and this was the most difficult season I've ever had," Larsen said. "It was difficult because at the beginning of the year, I thought we had the talent to qualify for the playoffs."
Turner-Dean spoke of her similar season.
"I'm disappointed in where we are," she said. "I had one losing season as a coach until these last few years, and I'm frustrated because I don't know anybody who thinks losing is fun."
That's a given. Coaches like to win as much as players and generally even more so, since a player on a losing team isn't risking a career.
But it's up to the coach to build and maintain the program's winning mentality, and that's what both Warriors coaches see as their challenge.
Larsen's plan? Cut back on the number of community college kids he brings into the program in favor of high school kids willing to commit to a four- or five-year plan. The plan actually began last season, and Larsen opened in October with eight freshmen on the roster.
"The way we went around building the program looked good on paper," Larsen said. "We got JC guys from winning programs that played the high-paced tempo game. These are good kids, but they were stuck in their system and couldn't adapt to our system.
"My mistake was that I tried to get wins and elevate us too quickly. Now we're going the freshman route. We're going after good students who want to be coached -- kids who will make eye contact with you."
That was the same epiphany Turner-Dean experienced several seasons ago. After her first team went 18-10 and went to the NCAA Tournament, she filled the next season's roster with community college athletes. The program still is trying to recover.
"We had so much drama and conflict, and some of those girls never played a game for me for various dramatic reasons," Turner-Dean said. "We had to start over in a year when everybody we played was so much more experienced than us. So the freshmen we brought in had no one to show them what Division II basketball was about. They got kicked around, and by the time they were upperclassmen, they had doubts as to whether they could play."
Turner-Dean's 2007-08 opening-night roster also had eight freshmen. Most are from winning high school programs who saw this season's record as completely unacceptable.
"They don't want to go through this again next year," Turner-Dean said.
No one wants to endure another combined 13-40 season, another year in which Warriors basketball fails to register a tremor on our sporting Richter scale.
It won't be easy, but Stanislaus teams have won in the past and will win again. Only then will they once again capture our fancy.
C'mon Warriors, make us care again.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.