According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “overachieving” means to do better than expected. Usually, doing better than expected is a good thing, right? Well, yes, as long as you’re not asking the GW Men’s basketball coach Karl Hobbs about his team. For some reason, at certain points in past seasons, Hobbs has stated that his teams have overachieved. And in Sunday’s issue of The Washington Post, it was no different.
Before I discuss the most recent episode, let’s take a brief walk down memory lane looking at some of Hobbs’ most memorable “overachieving” quotes. According to an issue of The Hatchet from April 7, 2003, Hobbs said the team “even had a chance to overachieve a little” during the 17-loss season. In a December 2005 Washington Times article, while en route to an Atlantic 10 championship, Hobbs was quoted as saying, “I truly believe our program is overachieving a tad bit when you look at the big picture.” And more recently, in a Hatchet blog post dated November 12, 2009, Hobbs proclaimed, “I always felt like, hey, you know, clearly we’re overachieving,” when asked about the successful 2004-2007 seasons and whether he thought the momentum could have been sustained.
There is a new quote to add to that list, in the article published in the Washington Post on the day of the loss to Xavier, a game the Colonials should have and could have won. Hobbs simply said, “We’ve overachieved to this point.”
During Hobbs’ tenure, it seems that whenever our team has played well, he has repeated some variation of this mantra. These continued media gaffes lead me to question whether this coach has enough faith in not only this team, but also in the program itself and the goals it should aim to accomplish each season. While the A-10 media guide had picked GW to finish 13th out of 14 in the conference, many members of the GW community believed this team could at least make it into the conference tournament, usually seen as a respectable goal for most collegiate basketball programs. Even I noted in a previous column: this team had enough talent to do so.
So this leads me to ask the question: What is causing Hobbs to doubt the talent that he has recruited? Does he doubt the talent of his players so much that he later considers doing well overachieving? Or is he just caught up in what the so-called experts have predicted about the program?
If the answer to either of these questions is yes, there’s a problem. First, the talent that Coach Hobbs has recruited is good. They are good enough to play college basketball and good enough to strongly compete day in and day out in the A-10, as seen this season in the four conference games played. Second, since when do players and coaches listen to what the so-called experts say anyway?
Coach Hobbs expects us to have faith in the players. He asks us to come to home games dressed in buff and blue. And he asks us for our support at each and every home game. I have no problem doing any of these things because I do believe in the players and I do enjoy coming out to support our team. But when the captain is surprised to find that a ship is actually headed in the right direction, it might be a sign for somebody else to take over, or at least a change in attitude.
It is true that Hobbs needs to promote GW’s athletic program in the media. But this is not the right way to win over fans. Setting low expectations is wrong. Doubting the talent that you have on your team is wrong. Not having faith in the ability of your players is wrong. Yes, striving to overachieve is right, and I have no problem with that. But the issue arises when the coach misinterprets the expected accomplishments and labels them as overachievements.
If going 11-6 (1-3 A-10) at this point in the season is an indication of overachieving, Hobbs’ expectations are too low. While I support the coach profusely and truly believe what he has done with the program here has been absolutely remarkable, is it time to reassess his goals for this program and where he thinks it should be heading in the upcoming years? Here’s my idea: Let’s strive to do better than expected without setting the bar too low.
The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.