Steve Prohm's first season as Murray State men's basketball coach was a joy ride. The Racers (31-2) won their first 23 games last season and the OVC regular season and tournament titles.
So in the special torment that is coaching, Prohm spent this past summer agonizing over the one big thing that went wrong.
Bidding for its first trip to the NCAA Tournament sweet 16 in school history, Murray State led Marquette 46-41 with 7:43 left in a round of 32 matchup in the KFC Yum Center.
Then Marquette closed out the game on a 21-7 run to win 62-53. For a Murray State nucleus dominated by seniors and juniors it was a devastating defeat.
"That game was just a physical war," Prohm says, "and I thought our guys got tired. We were up five with like, seven minutes to go, and if I had it to do over again I would have gotten our (regular) guys some rest, trusted my bench more.
"Our guys thought of themselves as a team that belonged in the (round of 16). It was tough for me to see them not to get that chance. So, yeah, I thought a lot about that game this summer. But you don't get to do it over, you just try to learn from it and move on."
For Prohm, 38, a former Alabama basketball manager under David Hobbs and a protégé of former Murray State and current Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy, the pre-season leading into his second go-around as MSU head man has epitomized the concept of "good news, bad news."
The best news came in April when Isaiah Canaan, the All-America-candidate point guard, announced he would not put his name into the NBA Draft and would return to Murray for his senior season.
A Biloxi, Miss., native, the reigning OVC Player of the Year averaged 19 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists and shot 45.6 percent from three-point range last season.
"I think part of the reason he came back is he wants one more crack at trying to make another NCAA Tournament run," Prohm said.
The MSU coach knew coming into the season he would be without departed senior starters Ivan Aska, Jewaun Long and Donte Poole. Over the rest of the off-season, the bad news mounted when Murray lost two players expected to step up as replacements.
Senior forward Latreze Mushatt — who filled in ably last season when forward Aska was out with a broken hand — ruptured an Achilles tendon over the summer. He is not expected to be cleared to return until after the New Year, maybe not until February.
"He was just a huge 'glue guy' for us last year," Prohm said, "did things that didn't show up in the stats. We were expecting even more from him this year."
Another likely Murray starter, sophomore guard Zay Jackson, is suspended for the season after allegedly striking two people with his car following an altercation in a Wal-Mart parking lot.
"The biggest thing we lost with Zay, he was our best defender in the backcourt," Prohm said.
So after a season in which most everything but the ending went right for Murray State, this year figures to be a bit more challenging for Prohm.
"Our goals haven't changed," he said. "At Murray State, it's about winning championships and playing in the (NCAA) tournament. That's the goal this year, too."
Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com