The last 72 hours have been a blur for me. First, I finished my article late Monday night, an open letter to Hofstra AD Jack Hayes, and also started my "Tim Cluess for Hofstra Men's Basketball Coach" Facebook Group. I am proud to say seven members strong! Tuesday, the open letter to Jack Hayes brought some nice responses from several people, including those in the CAAZone discussion board. I just wanted to say thank you by the way to everyone for your nice comments, much appreciated.
In fact, earlier in the day yesterday, a fellow Hofstra alum e-mailed me. He appreciated that I had the same passion as him for Hofstra basketball. As we conversed back and forth, he mentioned Tim Welsh's name was now under consideration for the position and thought he might get the job.
That was a name I hadn't heard in the initial group of candidates from my source and from published reports. With my curiosity peaked, I immediately poked around the Internet and read the stories that Welsh was interviewing for the position. I also reviewed Welsh's coaching history.
Tieff called me at work, since we were getting together later in the evening. I informed him of the news on Welsh and both of us must have been on Wikipedia the same time (I knew I was). Tieff started going over Welsh's career coaching statistics on the phone.
So after work, I quickly got home, got changed and headed to my friend Mal's house. We discussed the hiring of Steve Lavin for the St John's position (Mal is a St John's alum) on the way to the Manhasset Train Station. And we also discussed how hot his wife, actress Mary Ann Jarou is. I can see the prospective Jonnies' recruits ask Lavin if his wife will be behind the bench for every home game. A simple "yes" would have me signing on the dotted line, that's for sure.
We were heading into the city to watch the NIT semifinals at "The World's Most Famous Arena", Madison Square Garden. As we waited outside on the Manhasset train station platform on a very rainy Tuesday night, my reliable source called me on the phone. I said hello and he simply replied "Tim Welsh, new Hofstra coach." We talked for a few minutes and he said he would keep me posted on further information.
I hung up the phone and gave Mal the news. At first, I felt great disappointment for Tim Cluess, because I felt like he deserved a chance to coach Hofstra. Cluess has convincingly won at every coaching position in his career and has been a major coaching figure on Long Island for years. I thought he at least deserved an interview. But that's ok, I have a feeling he is going to take Post to another Elite Eight next year. And then the phone will ring off the hook.
So after the initial disappointment of Cluess not getting the job, because my source is usually spot on, we got on the train. While getting on the train, my friend Bob called me and I informed him of the news. He too was disappointed for Cluess, because he works with him at Post and knows how good a coach he is.
But Bob also knows Tim Welsh. He did side work at Iona while Welsh coached there and he always thought highly of Welsh. So in part he was quite happy about the news and reminded me how Welsh is such a good coach and recruiter. Bob has often talked about Welsh over the years that I have known him, and he thought it was a great hire.
After I got off the phone with Bob, I sat on the train talking to Mal about the news. As we started talking about the hiring of Welsh, I became increasingly optimistic about the decision to hire Welsh. Because Hofstra actually got a name coach that I didn't even think was possible. And that was the talk for most of the night until we got into MSG for the start of the Dayton-Ole Miss game.
I texted Jerry Beach the news and Beach had heard the news too but was skeptical. But Jerry, my son, I wouldn't steer you wrong and I didn't. Jerry has his own take on the Welch hiring, and like all his articles, it has insight and in this case, even a 2002 Mets reference. Cmon Jerry, you can't put Tim Welsh and Art Howe in the same paragraph!
Welsh started out as an assistant under Pat Kennedy at Iona, then Florida State. He then was an assistant at Syracuse under Jim Boeheim, then went back to be the head assistant under his dad, Jerry Welsh at Iona. When his dad became ill, Tim became the coach of Iona midway through the 1994-95 season. When his dad was forced to retire, Tim became the head coach of Iona.
In his three full seasons at Iona, the Gaels were 70-22. Stop to read that again. 70-22. He led them to three MAAC regular season titles, one MAAC Tournament championship, two NIT appearances and one NCAA appearance in his last season at Iona, with a 27-6 record. Then he left the Gaels to accept the Providence head coaching position.
In his ten years at Providence, he had what you could call modest success, 145-126 in probably the toughest overall conference in the country, the Big East. Welsh led the Friars to two NCAA Tournament appearances and three NIT appearances. Welsh's ability to recruit talent led to the Friars getting Ryan Gomes, one of the best players in recent Big East history. Sharaud Curry is another talented player Welsh recruited.
Unfortunately, Welsh's teams were good one year, mediocre the next. He only had back to back winning seasons one time (2002-03, 2003-04). And that started to wear on the Providence boosters and fans. Welsh was fired after the 2007-08 season, a season the Friars finished 15-16. Welsh has worked with ESPN the last two years as a college basketball analyst, just like Lavin.
Now I know what some of you might be saying - Geez, Gary doesn't this seem like Hofstra is hiring a retread? My answer is "NO!" I think Welsh did a remarkable job getting Providence in the postseason 50 percent of the time in a conference that has sixteen teams.
Think about how other coaches have fared in the Big East the past several years. Norm Roberts had two barely winning seasons in six years and one postseason tournament (this year's NIT) before he was fired. Bobby Gonzalez had only one postseason tournament in four seasons (this year's NIT) before he got his pink slip. Jerry Wainwright had only one winning season and one post season tournament (2006-07 NIT) before he was kicked to the side of the road. Don't even get me started on Rutgers' line of coaches or South Florida.
So two NCAA Tournaments and three NIT appearances in ten years in the Big East actually looks pretty good compared to the aforementioned Big East coaches and teams. And remember, he never missed a postseason in his three seasons at Iona. Thirteen seasons, eight postseason appearances. Pretty darn good ratio if you ask me.
Now what really impresses me the most is the reported salary for Welsh. A five year contract at an annual salary of $600,000. Yes, that's more than Tom Pecora was making at Hofstra.
What?!! Say again??? Yes, he is getting more money than the previous coach, Pecora got at Hofstra (now don't cry for Tom, he is still making more now at Fordham, $700,000 then Welsh will be making at Hofstra).
Now it gets even better. If reports are accurate, the coaching assistant and recruiting budget will also be significantly more than when Pecora was coaching.
Does this mean that Hofstra is doing what Kyle Whelliston has long suggested, what Jerry Beach has long suggested, what yours truly has suggested? Actually increasing the men's basketball budget?
As Marv Albert would say.....YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And for those of you who think, why didn't they offer this to Pecora? Well, a couple of reasons. One, from what I heard, Pecora went to Fordham last Wednesday and signed the contract that day. There was no chance of a counter offer. Besides, Pecora wanted to be in the A10 in the worst way. He has a serious need to finally get into the NCAA Tournament and the A-10 simply offers a better chance to do that. He had enough of the CAA and he knew Hofstra was in no position any time soon to join the A10. I knew from my reliable source on March 1st that Pecora was gone and perhaps Hayes knew it then too.
Second, no offense to Tom Pecora, but Tim Welsh has a longer track record of success. It's not even up for debate. Thirteen seasons with three NCAA and five NIT postseason appearances vs. nine seasons with three NIT post season appearances. And no, I am not going to count the CBI appearance in Pecora's total. Over 4000 of you decided to stay home on March 17 and not count that appearance, so neither am I now.
Also, I think this past Sunday's Newsday article entitled "Hofstra's AD Downplays Concerns" very well could have made a difference. The administration may very well have said that we need to find a coach to take us to the next level. Also they may have said that we need to show that coach and more importantly our alumni/fans that we are serious about that commitment. That appears to be the statement made by Jack Hayes and President Stuart Rabinowitz
In my open letter to Jack Hayes on Monday, I intimated that if the money that was originally appropriated from the football team will indeed still be in the budget as the administration has noted, then "increasing the [basketball] budget is easy." Some people on the Hofstra CAAZone board scoffed at my notion that increasing the basketball budget money was easy.
Well for one of those rare solar eclipse moments, I might actually be right. It sure seemed easy enough to appropriate the money for Welsh and his assistants. And I bet you are wondering how good Welsh's assistants will be.
Well what from what my friend Bob tells me, this man, Steve Demeo will be joining Welsh at Hofstra. Yup, his top recruiter from Iona and Providence and a coach listed at one time as one of the Top 25 recruiters in the country. Yup, in the country. However, I have no confirmation yet though that Demeo is joining Welsh at Hofstra.
But if Demeo is indeed joining Welsh at Hofstra, then I have a question for someone.
Hey Steve Marcus, do you still think Pecora will "freeze out" someone like Tim Welsh in local NYC recruiting? Riiiiight.
In 2003, Tieff and I traveled up to Providence to watch the Hofstra-Providence game at the Dunkin Donuts Center. It was the only match up ever between Providence under Welsh vs. Hofstra under Pecora. It was our first look ever at Loren Stokes and Carlos Rivera, both freshman at the time. Rivera started and scored nine points. Meanwhile, Stokes came off the bench in his first game and scored six points.
And it was also our first look live at Ryan Gomes who put a double double on the Dutchmen as the Friars won 69-56. Instantly I became a Ryan Gomes fan. He could shoot, rebound and even pass really well (four assists in that game). Gomes has ended up having a nice NBA career. And now the coach who recruited him is coaching Hofstra.
If you can tell that I am positively giddy about this, you're right. I will be watching the press conference at 11:00 am tomorrow. I will be curious to hear what Welsh says, what Hayes and President Rabinowitz say about the commitment to the program. I think it will be a great day in Hofstra basketball history.
Well the smile on my face lasted the entire evening in a surprisingly well filled MSG for two exciting though sloppy games. Due to the overtime game with North Carolina and Rhode Island in the second NIT semifinal, I didn't get home till nearly 1:30 this morning. Immediately I posted the quick article on Welch being the coach. Then I went to bed and before I knew it, I was up at 5:30 due to the fact my younger son wanted his morning bottle of milk.
So perhaps it's due to the fact that I am punch drunk from lack of sleep, but I already want the 2010-11 college basketball season to start tomorrow. But wait, the Final Four hasn't even occurred yet and one of my favorite teams, Butler has a chance to win it all.
So, ok, I will wait till next Monday after the Bulldogs with the national championship, then I will want the 2010-11 season to start on Tuesday. Hey I have Tim Welsh and a talented Hofstra team with Charles Jenkins returning to look forward to. Why not have the 2010-11 season start on April 6.
I tell you, is that so wrong?