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Taxing stretch for Pittsburgh native's team

By John Grupp
Friday, Dec. 9, 2011
 

The schedule resembled an NCAA Tournament bracket where no one would want to land.

Pittsburgh native Matt Driscoll, the third-year coach at the University of North Florida (5-4), was looking at another murderers' row of opponents and thankless journeys from Gainesville, Fla., to Columbus, Ohio, to Manhattan, Kan.

"We're 0-4 against the BCS and 5-0 against non-BCS," Driscoll said Thursday from his office at the 16,000-student Jacksonville school. "They end up helping you in the long run."

North Florida has won four in a row, including its Atlantic Sun Conference opener against crosstown rival Jacksonville, since returning from a grueling early-season schedule that included trips to No. 16 Alabama, No. 12 Florida, Miami and No. 2 Ohio State.

On Sunday, the Ospreys play at Kansas State. After that, there are trips to Auburn and Virginia Tech in a three-day span beginning Dec. 17.

The trips financially benefit the basketball program, which is in its seventh season in Division I.

"We are making well over $500,000," said Driscoll, a graduate of Northgate High School and Slippery Rock. "That will help the athletic department. There are a lot of plusses."

North Florida held Alabama to 50 points in the first 33 minutes of a 64-44 loss, and Ohio State All-American Jared Sullinger didn't score in the opening 10 minutes of the Buckeyes' 85-50 win. The Ospreys trailed Miami, 66-60, with 3:10 to go before losing by 13.

But, said Driscoll, "We don't get into moral anythings."

The Ospreys reached the Atlantic Sun tournament championship game last season on the way to a 15-19 record. The program was 20-96 in its first four seasons in Division I -- and then Driscoll, a former assistant at Wyoming, Clemson, Baylor and Valparaiso, took over before the 2009-10 season.

It will be an emotional weekend for the 46-year-old. Saturday is the one-year anniversary of La Roche coach Scott Lang's death from a heart attack at 41. Driscoll, who coached at La Roche from 1993-97, and Lang were close friends.

"I've had a lot on my mind," Driscoll said.

 

 
 


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