CLEMSON - The stages of rebuilding a college basketball program are many. The early rewards can be few.
But even with the stark reality that wins can be scarce during such times, those determined to be successful find ways to motivate themselves through the dark days. Such is the burden currently being thrust upon Oliver Purnell's first Clemson University basketball team.
Yet the coach sees it as part of the growing process, a process he has seen before during previous coaching stops.
"I don't think there's a secret. You're going to be frustrated in anything that you do," Purnell said. "As a basketball player or basketball coach you become frustrated sometimes. And clearly that's where we were as a basketball team. We were frustrated about not having any fruit for our labor."
Purnell used the word "were" in reference to his team's mindset before the Tigers' 60-55 upset of No. 13 N.C. State Wednesday at Littlejohn Coliseum. Before that Clemson (10-13, 3-9 ACC) had lost seven of its previous eight games, a stretch which seemingly ended any fleeting hopes of reaching the postseason.
And while an NIT bid even now would take nothing short of a miracle finish, the victory over the Wolfpack provided that fruit Purnell's team so desperately needed.
Yet had the win never come, Purnell's expectations for his team wouldn't have diminished.
"You have a choice (of) how you're going to deal with frustration," he said. "You can either deal with it by stepping back and saying it doesn't matter what I do; easing off the throttle, if you will. Or you can deal with it by losing yourself in what you're doing. Work harder, play harder. Those kind of things. If you continue to work hard and stay committed to the things that make you successful, and you really enjoy what you're doing, I think it's just a matter of time before you're successful."
"If you don't love what you're doing anyway, you probably don't need to be doing it at that level. Enjoy the fact that you're playing in the best basketball league in America. Recognize that and have a passion for your position."
Of course winning creates its own kind of passion, and ultimately that's what Purnell is seeking for Clemson basketball.
But it comes in stages, and right now the veteran coach is looking simply for his team's second consecutive victory. To do that the Tigers today (4 p.m., Littlejohn Coliseum) must knock off a Virginia (13-10, 3-9) team which used a late run to pull away from Clemson for a victory earlier this season in Charlottesville.
That game saw the Tigers struggle in a couple of familiar areas - turnovers and scoring. Freshman point guard Vernon Hamilton, for one, struggled in the return to his home state - he finished the game with nine turnovers and zero assists.
But with a consistent defense in place and an offense which has shown signs - small as they may be - of improving, Purnell hopes for better things when the teams take the floor this afternoon at Littlejohn.
"Hopefully we can continue to improve in those areas and play well," he said. "Hopefully we continue to play the kind of defense we're capable of and then we've got a good chance.
"We're on our home court, and we want our home court to become a place that's difficult (for opponents) to win."
Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.