Tuesday afternoon, a few hours before Cal State Fullerton's season-opening exhibition game, the door to Titan Coach Brad Holland's office was shut tighter than a post office on Veteran's Day.
Holland and assistants Bob Hawking, Chris Brazier and George Tuttle were inside, going over last-minute details--such as, who would start.
Things are still that basic for the Titans. No matter how many times Holland and his staff shuffle the cards, they turn up the same way.
The Titans have no starters returning from last year's 15-12 team. And there are only two returning players, swingman Greg Vernon, who averaged 2.3 points and 1.2 rebounds a game last season, and forward-center Todd Satalowich, who averaged 0.7 points and 1.7 rebounds.
"I feel like a first-year coach now that's taking over a program that is down," said Holland, beginning his second season. "We are truly rebuilding now. Any team that loses five starters. . . ."
Already, the Titans--who also have only one player taller than 6 feet 7--have been tabbed to finish 10th in the Big West by conference coaches and preseason college basketball publications.
"We're going over zone offense, man offense, who can score from the perimeter, how we can score," Holland said. "That's what we're going through right now. That should be done already."
Four seniors started last season, so their departures were expected. What wasn't, though, was that of shooting guard Don Leary, who would have been a senior. He dropped out of school over the summer. "It's a shock," Vernon said. "Sometimes I'm out there during practice, looking for guys on the team last year, and they're not there."
Leary, who had grade problems last spring and then chose not to attend summer school, led the Big West with an average of 3.3 three-point field goals a game. He made eight, tying the Titan school record, during a 90-82 loss at UCLA.
"We're not going to be able to replace Don Leary and his attributes," Holland said.
"Unfortunately, that's a question mark in our program right now, a legitimate three-point threat."
Instead, in addition to Vernon and Satalowich, the Titans have three community college transfers, another who is expected to become eligible at the semester break in December, two freshmen--two more are injured and out for the season--a transfer from the University of Washington, a transfer from Groupe Pigier University in France and a walk-on.
They will probably start Vernon and James French, who started 37 games and played in 55 during two seasons at Washington, at guard. Up front will be Winston Peterson, who averaged 19.6 points and 12.3 rebounds last season at San Jacinto Community College in Texas; Darren Little, 16.6 points and 10.9 rebounds at Palomar Community College in San Diego, and freshman Josh King, 19.3 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots at Jesuit High in Carmichael.
"We're going to find out in the next two or three weeks just how deep this team is," Holland said. "I'm hoping we can go with a nine- or 10-man rotation. It just depends on what we're able to do in the next two or three weeks."