The risk in participating in a team meeting, if you're the head coach, is this: What if it doesn't work?
What if you present to the players the best case for persevering together, for doing whatever it takes to win -- and nothing changes?
That's the slippery slope Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins faces as the Cardinal (9-6, 0-2 Pac-12) begins a critical three-game homestand Wednesday against Washington State.
"They cannot go down 0-3 and expect to compete for the top three in the conference," said Ernie Kent, the Pac-12 Networks analyst and former Oregon coach.
Following a not-as-close-as-it-looked 68-60 loss at UCLA last weekend, Dawkins gathered his players for an hourlong meeting. The intent, he explained, was to discuss "what we're capable of doing and how to go about doing it."
They had better do it quickly.
Now in his fifth year, Dawkins has yet to finish in the top half of the Pac-12, much less take Stanford to the NCAA tournament or make the Cardinal relevant in the crowded Bay Area sports market.
His chief accomplishment is beating a string a second-rate opponents to win the postseason NIT in March. The tournament title, combined with a bevy of returning players, created elevated expectations: Stanford was picked fourth in the Pac-12 preseason poll, its highest placement of the Dawkins era.
Despite an unimpressive first half of the season and a power rating in the 80s, the Cardinal
Anything less than two victories in three games -- Washington visits on Saturday, followed by Cal on Jan. 19 -- would jeopardize the season.
And anything less than maximum effort after the team meeting would speak volumes about the players' belief in the direction of the program.
"There's definitely a sense of urgency, but there's not a sense of panic," Dawkins said. "We have to play hard, play smart and play together."
The Zags are 112-8 in the building since it opened for the 2004-05 season, including 55-2 in WCC regular-season games.
The Gaels, defending WCC champs, actually own one of those two victories -- a 73-71 win two seasons ago. But that was their only win over the Zags the past 17 years in Spokane.
The matchup comes nearly one year after SMC ended Gonzaga's 34-game conference winning streak with a 66-63 victory in Spokane.
Otherwise, the Broncos (12-4) have lost only to top competition: Utah State, Duke and Gonzaga are a combined 42-2.
The Bears expect to play a fourth straight game without Smith (concussion), their backup point guard; they'll be without Kreklow (foot) for the 10th time in 15 games.
Montgomery said he has expected Smith to be ready for more than a week and added that the former De La Salle High-Concord standout is able to do non-contact drills. "But every time he does, he seems to get a headache," Montgomery said. "That includes today."
Kreklow had surgery on his right foot before the season to repair a stress reaction but hasn't recovered. "We can't get to a point where he's strong enough to practice," Montgomery said.
Bay Area News Group staff writer Jeff Faraudo contributed to this report. For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-920-5716.