The Mad Ants' season-opening game began with plenty of pizazz and a cool gesture from new coach Joey Meyer.
"I want to thank you for coming out tonight," Meyer said, addressing the crowd. "I don't guarantee victories. But I will guarantee that this team is going to play very hard for you. They practice hard and prepare hard, and I know they're going to give a great effort tonight."
Unfortunately for Meyer, the night didn't go according to plan. An 85-77 loss to the Erie BayHawks was marred by what Meyer called "awful" play.
The Mad Ants never led, trailed by as many as 19 points and were beaten in just about every statistical category.
One of the very few bright spots was center Sean Sonderleiter, who scored a game-best 21 points and added 10 rebounds.
By Meyer's own admission, the Mad Ants should have gotten the ball to Sonderleiter even more.
There was a decent crowd, announced at 4,019, and many of them stayed until the end and were rewarded when Fort Wayne pulled to within seven points. But the few short moments of competitiveness were spoiled when Fort Wayne missed on a shot, turned the ball over and then, most frustratingly, had a shot-clock violation.
For that, Meyer took the blame because he told his team not to take a timeout but to be aggressive. That backfired, as the players overthought the whole scenario.
There was a somber post-game mood, not surprising when you bring in the D-League's winningest coach and then have a stinker in the opener. But it's just one game, and it's way too early for the janitors to be griping, as some of them were late Friday.
Fort Wayne plays host to Erie on Sunday. Bank on Meyer getting his players going more aggressively. The team has nowhere to go but up. Sonderleiter said there's too much talent for the team not to do exactly that.