Having Some Faith In Haith

By Josh Herwitt - December 23, 2007

No one likes to admit that they're wrong. No one wants to take the blame when are there consequences to suffer.

It's especially true when you're actually getting paid to write about a particular sport that you're supposed to know something about.

Look, we all make mistakes, and anyone who can't admit to that is really fooling themselves. But while making mistakes is just a natural process of life, it's really those who can fess up to their own miscalculations that deserve to be forgiven, or at least, given some credit for admitting to their flaws.

That's what I'm hoping my friend and colleague Mr. Kroll will do after razzing me the last couple of weeks about picking his Miami Hurricanes to finish last in the conference in my ACC Preview before the season started.

Now, I know I wasn't the only one to do so.

In fact, at ACC Media Day back in October, the 50 or so other media members in attendance joined me in picking the Hurricanes last.

But as we're all finding out now, Miami is no push-over (and I can see the smile that has just lit up on Mr. Kroll's face).

So with the way Frank Haith's team has jumped out to a 12-0 start to the season and a No. 22 ranking in this week's AP poll -- with the likelihood of moving up some spots when the new rankings come out Monday -- my preseason prediction really makes me look like an idiot now.

That, for a perfectionist like myself, is part of the problem of working in this business. Sometimes you're right and sometimes you're wrong -- I'll be the first to admit that.

Yet if there's one thing for sure, it's that Frank Haith and company couldn't have started the season any better than they have with Miami being two victories away from tying the mark set for the school's best start ever.

The Hurricanes, in the meantime, also remained as one of the nation's nine teams to still be undefeated with a 95-64 rout Sunday over North Carolina A&T and could enter conference play on Jan. 12 against George Tech without a blemish if they can score wins over Winthrop and Ivy League rep Penn, games that will both be played in South Florida (one in Sunrise and one in Coral Cables).

For as good as the 'Canes have been so far this season, though, Haith isn't one to get overly enthusiastic about the early-season success.

In a 85-63 victory over North Florida on Friday, for example, Haith ripped his team, saying afterward that it was the worst game it had played all season.

"I thought it was our worst performance of the year," the Miami coach admitted. "Our intensity level was not good the whole game.

"You just can't turn it on."

Maybe it's because Haith knows what his team will be up against when they face the challenges of the ACC, the conference that's been notoriously known for showcasing the best talent and toughest arenas to play in for opposing teams.

Maybe it's because he remembers what ACC rival Clemson did last year, starting the year at 17-0 before struggling in conference play and missing out on an NCAA Tournament berth in March.

Either way, Haith understands that this is no time to get complacent, but he is proud of the way his team has played for the most part this season.

"I'm proud of the hard work that both the players and staff have put into building a winning team," said Haith. "We are going to continue to work to improve. We have to get that back."

"Each and every one of us has something that we can bring to the table," senior forward Raymond Hicks explained. "We depend on each other and have confidence we can do the job."

What they really have to do is get back to the NCAA Tournament, a place the Hurricanes haven't been since 2002 when they lost to No. 12 seed Missouri in a first-round game in Albuquerque, N.M.

It's also the last time the Hurricanes were nationally ranked, something that will put additional pressure on Haith's players to prove themselves against stiff ACC competition over the next two months.

Haith, nevertheless, likes the challenge of it all.

"This is good attention," he assured. "You'd rather have that than the other. I told the guys, the bull-eye's on their chest now."

But that's certainly a good thing for a coach that is trying to make a splash in his fourth year at the helm and take a program that had nearly flat-lined after 2002 and turn it into a national contender.

Because after all, if the 'Canes keep winning like they have been, Haith will have to get used to a much more regular dose of attention, and that's something I'm sure he won't mind too much.

Posted by Josh Herwitt at 06:23 PM on December 23, 2007

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