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SJSU basketball: The brutality of it. The reality of it.

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Why head coach Jean Prioleau presses on

San Jose State head basketball coach Jean Prioleau photo: Vic Aquino | Mountain West Connection

A 94-56 loss to Utah State (23-7) this past Tuesday night was brutal. Scoring only 14 points in the first half and losing by 38, the Spartans (7-22) were outsized, outmuscled and outclassed, obviously.

In today’s last game of the regular season against UNLV, who beat the once-undefeated San Diego State Aztecs, it gets no easier for the Spartans at home. San Jose State was also within a possession of upsetting the Aztecs earlier this season, but since this is college basketball in the Mountain West, sometimes anything goes.

The Spartan’s season as a whole has been one of inconsistent performances with some episodes of sustained gutsy performances that helped scrape out seven wins - three more, so far, than last season. Still, not much to write home about.

“We’re a young team who will be older and more experienced next year and we expect that same team the year after too,” said Prioleau. “We have a lot of young guys, obviously, and they’re getting a lot of minutes and they are producing.”

But does anyone care?

The few that do, of course, are the alumni, administration, some of the student body and the athletes’ families who attend games. The next few “care” for a different reason - the witty online couch-QBs and shrewd writers feeding on the obvious.

Bottom line, win more, more people pay attention, of course.

For Prioleau, one can’t imagine the pressure of so much losing, remaining positive, then repeating it many times over.

“You don’t think about it as pressure. You prepare. You practice and you compete,” explained Prioleau. “You don’t get caught up. We are young and the players are still finding themselves in the college game. We try to instill confidence in our guys every single day, win or lose.”

A large majority of people couldn’t handle such public pressure and wouldn’t consider it for a second, especially if you’re not winning.

“You don’t and can’t think about those things,” continued Prioleau.“You just always move forward.”

When a sports program experiences decades of not winning, the big question is alway why? Is there enough support? Do they have the right people? The right players? Etc.

“We have enough,” exuded Prioleau. “San Jose is a special place. We have a lot of good people who know their responsibilities. We’re doing what we need to from president Papazian, Marie Tuite and staff on down. Everyone’s working hard, but everyone on the outside wants it to move at an astronomical pace. It’s not, but it is moving.”

It sounds much like Prioleau is putting the pressure and responsibility squarely on himself. No surprise. But clearly, it takes a village but this village is in essence a business. The business of basketball as Prioleau noted in the past.

“It’s tough in this day and age. I’m here because I have a vision for San Jose State basketball and I see what it can be,” emphasized Prioleau. “That’s the underlying driving force and it takes time to come to fruition. I’m really in it for what San Jose State can be and I feel it. And yes, of course, we have to try and win games now.”

Prioleau also notes the SJS support from its other sports’ coaches. It’s an intangible value that could help stop the coaching carousel that has plagued the Spartan sports programs over the years.

“I’ve been around a lot of places: TCU, Iowa State, Marquette, Wichita, Colorado and I haven’t seen this much support among the head coaches from program to program, as much as San Jose State,” touted Prioleau.

For Prioleau, there will be a lot of work to do in the off-season, as he would say, “obviously.” Next season, perhaps there’ll be another side to see besides the stoic, serious and all-business Prioleau.

“Hey, I actually have a sense of humor, if you’re around me long enough.” countered Prioleau. ”But I’m here to try and be a part of the community, win games, see players graduate and make sure they have a holistic experience. That’s where my head is all the time.”

Prioleau admits he may not be showing much of a personable side with so much coming at him to build up the program. It’s probably safe to think he’ll do anything for the sake of the team, as it should be, like washing a windshield so the team has a clear view of where they’re going.