Russell Turner turned 41 Monday and, at least by late morning, the second-year UC Irvine men's basketball coach's office displayed no signs of a party.
Coming off a 13-19 debut campaign, embarking on the 2011-12 season with the least-experienced roster in NCAA Division I (including eight freshmen), and being pegged for last place in the nine-team Big West Conference preseason poll, there appears to be little to celebrate.
Yet the energy and enthusiasm that created a buzz long after the former NBA, Stanford and Wake Forest assistant was hired, clearly continues to burn more brightly than the appropriate assemblage of birthday candles.
With one full season under his belt, Turner said he more clearly understands the challenges facing him and his program as it attempts to gain the school's inaugural NCAA Tournament appearance.
But he embraces those challenges, with an optimism he said has not diminished in the least.
"Not at all," Turner said when asked if his expectations have lowered after his initial season. "In fact, I'd say the opposite has occurred. There definitely have been some things that were surprises, but I assumed that would be the case. It's tough here. When you are being recruited to be here, you are mainly looking at the positives, if you are a young guy like me and figuring out if this is the place you want to be a first-time head coach. As you struggle, you identify things that made others who have been outstanding coaches in this position, also struggle.