Douglass basketball coach Lynn Allen has four letters that he sometimes uses in practice.
“MTXE” — Mental Toughness and Extra Effort — a phrase former Wichita State coach Gene Smithson used often, has since been adopted by Allen.
“I think it’s a great thing,” Allen said. “It’s something that all teams should strive for.”
From 1978 to 1986, “MTXE” was the rallying cry for the Shockers, who won better than two-thirds of their games under Smithson. In that span they made two appearances in both the NCAA tournament and the NIT.
Though Allen sticks to the principle of the phrase, he has not mimicked “MTXE.” Smithson lectured it every season, no matter his team’s record.
Allen’s stressing of “MTXE” has been circumstantial, said assistant Scotty Williams, who has been with Allen since the two restarted Douglass’ program in 1997.
“This year he’s focusing on it more than other years, because of the type of year we’re having,” Williams said.
After a winless three-game run in the Brashear Tournament last week dropped their record to 4-13, the Bulldogs are doing something they’ve rarely done under Allen: struggling.
Entering this season, Allen had won 103 games at Douglass in seven years, nearly 15 wins per season.
This year’s Bulldogs are a far cry from last year’s team, which was led by seniors Anthony Johnson and Andre Burgess.
That tandem led Douglass to an 18-7 record. Burgess averaged 19.8 points, scoringmany of his baskets in transition after steals. Johnson averaged 15.3 points.
Only three players returned from that squad that lost to Fayette in district play.
While senior Simon Shavers-Hall, junior Aaron Camp, and sophomore Billy Brooks have shown signs of their experience this year, they have been trumped by the team’s collective youth.
Allen has more freshmen on his team than ever before.
“You’ve got to stay mentally tough when you’re young and you know you’re young and learning through the school of hard knocks,” Allen said.
Try as they might, the Bulldogs have struggled to follow their coach’s big credo.
“The problem is mental toughness,” Williams said.
Things will not get any easier for the team this week. On Friday they travel to Tipton before coming home to play two games.
The Bulldogs face Sturgeon at Rock Bridge High School on Saturday and Chamois at Smithton Middle School on Monday.
“We’re improving,” Allen said. “But we’ve got a tough road ahead.”