A Message To The Pirate Nation
March 16, 2010
The dynamics of college basketball at this time of the year present interesting challenges with equally interesting opportunities. Some of the coaches we would like to talk to have all been involved in some way with conference tournaments, either as coaches or as broadcast analysts, and many continue to be involved in post-season play in one way or another.
Therefore, we initially indentified a number of assistant coaches currently with high-level programs who also have had head coaching experience. Even though we could not talk to head coaches until their seasons ended, we were able to conduct telephone interviews with several assistant coaches prior to the start of the tournament frenzy. One of those interviews developed into extensive positive conversations, but we were unable to keep those conversations going.
During this time, we also took a long-shot chance at a Hall of Fame coach who now is in broadcasting. We had surprisingly positive results that continued through the past weekend. However, when I called him Monday to get his "final answer" and he whispered into the telephone "have to call you back, in the Cardinals' dugout and we just lost to the Mets on a ninth inning home run," I knew that he was not coming back into college coaching. He later confirmed that in an hour-long walk down memory lane after Tony LaRussa finally calmed down.
As the conference tournaments ended, the pool of candidates with head coaching experience began to expand as coaches who were not in post-season play were dismissed from their current positions. This expansion is a double-edged sword as it also means more athletic directors are competing for the most attractive candidates in the pool. There are several excellent candidates with ties to this area in the available pool at this time, and we are evaluating each through telephone and in-person interviews.
Those coaches who have exposed themselves to the highest levels of competition and who are not currently safely ensconced with guaranteed $2 million annual contracts will have some battle scars. College basketball is a brutal business with over 350 institutions in a bare-knuckle fistfight for recruits and the media limelight.
The Pirate Nation's welcoming response to battle-tested veterans like Skip Holtz, and now Ruffin McNeill, has been the most important first step in developing and now maintaining our momentum in football. We have an opportunity to develop similar momentum in men's basketball and that first step will be more important than ever if we are to finally become truly competitive in that arena.
We are looking for someone who has something to prove and who wants to do it here. It will then be up to the athletics department to provide the support we provided to football (facilities upgrades, creating an overall first-class environment, etc.) for basketball, while the Pirate Nation does its part in the stands and in other ways to show support.
As the athletic director, I made the decision to invest our rather limited resources at that time where we could get the greatest return on those investments. The unintended, but inevitable, result was that our basketball coaches and teams have attempted to shoulder a heavier load than was reasonable. As a long-time basketball coach, those were hard decisions for me, but the time has come for us all to invest in our basketball program financially and otherwise if we want it to succeed as our other programs are succeeding.