D3Hoops.com: Swarthmore establishing a new identity
The Swarthmore men started the season 9-0, with a schedule that was better than it looks at first glance, but certainly nothing splashy.
Still, the Garnet got no love from the D3hoops.com Top 25 voters. You can't really blame them, though, as wins have been hard to come by at Swarthmore in recent years. Last season the Garnet won double-digit games (11) for the first time since 06-07; this year, already at 10-2, they're poised for their first winning season in two decades.
Things are changing thanks to fourth-year head coach, Landry Kosmalski, and a talented group of underclassmen.
"Our guys are young," says Kosmalski, who starts three sophomores and two juniors. "But those guys all started last year. We returned five starters, so they're young, but they're experienced."
Swarthmore's success this year might be a surprise to everyone else (the Garnet finished 7th in the Centennial preseason coaches' poll), but it's all a part of the expectations Kosmalski brought with him to the program.
"Just because Swarthmore hasn't been good, doesn't mean we can't be good," he says. "If you look at the US News & World Report ranking every year, Amherst is right near the top with our school and Amherst challenges for national championships; there's no reason we can't do that, too."
This confidence comes largely from Kosmalski's pedigree at another top liberal arts college. Arguably the second most famous Davidson basketball alum, Kosmalski served two separate stints on staff with Bob McKillop at his alma mater.
"The one thing I learned at Davidson that I definitely brought to Swarthmore," says the coach, "is that we tell recruits openly we think this will be one of, if not the most, challenging experiences of their life. You're going to have to work in the classroom and there's no excuse for not working hard on the court. We want kids who are excited for the challenge."
This tenacity is evident on the floor, as 10 players average double figure minutes and scoring is spread out across the team. It's a unique spirit that permeates the squad; they don't act like a team new to winning.
"When you have big goals like we do, you can't come the next day and be sad about a loss or happy about wins," says Kosmalski. "You have to show up because you want to win every game. Our guys are locked in so that we get the results that we want."
Adds Chris Bourne '17, "What's really helped us this season is having a lot of really experienced players. In past seasons we had a lot of young players getting a lot of time – now those players have more experience. We expected to be very good, and I think we're very happy with how the season's going, but obviously this isn't enough right now."
The Garnet are focused on improvement. Being the most successful Swarthmore squad in history (18 wins would break the record) isn't enough for either coach or team.
"I know it sounds like a cliché, but we're just working hard to show up every day and get better," said Kosmalski.
Kosmalski's thoughts are echoed by Bourne, [an honors biology and Spanish major from Monmouth Junction, N.J.]: "What we say normally is do what we do, but better. We have to cut harder, use screens better. Our defense has to be better, get more stops, rebound better. We're not going to change anything, just do what we've been doing since mid-October, but better."
Perhaps the scariest part for Swarthmore's Centennial opponents is just how much time this team has left to jell. Beyond being near the top of the conference this year, the Garnet could return their starting five for an astounding third year next season. It's a real foundation for future success and Swarthmore men's basketball is certainly looking forward rather than back.
Kosmalski sums it up well: "We'll let the people who've been here for 50 years say what it used to be like; we want to change that and make it something different."