Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Why Has the UNCW Coaching Search Taken So Long?

Jerry Beach, the author of the delightfully daffy Defiantly Dutch is equally as funny on his tweets. One of his latest ones early yesterday morning was "This is Day 74 of the #UNCW search right? It's officially lasted as long as the Falklands War!"

I responded with what I thought the reason was for the UNCW coaching saga - "
Reason UNCW coaching search has lasted as long as the Falklands war is potential HCs learn UNCW bball budget is $1.13M"

Brian Mull and Michael Litos have both done an excellent job covering the debacle of the UNCW hiring search. Litos recently chronicled the entire saga. Mull has gone in great detail seemingly on a daily basis with updates on the Seahawks coaching search. Yes, it is his beat. But he does it so well.

Now in fairness to UNC Wilmington AD Kelly Mehrtens, she couldn't hire anyone really until the NCAA Tournament started. But also in fairness, it might not be such a long saga had she and the rest of the UNCW administration let Benny Moss coach out the season, then fire him.

But one day after seeing UNCW's 36 point loss to Hofstra at the Mack Center, Moss was "reassigned" on Friday, January 29. You can call it a "reassignment", but basically he was fired. It was another of those despicable mid season firings that we saw a lot of this season. So I don't have really much sympathy for Mehrtens. She could have done the right thing and let Moss coach out the season. But she didn't. You reap what you sow.

However, the core problem with UNCW unable to find a coach is simply money, or lack thereof. Take a look at Litos' list of what CAA teams spend on their men's basketball budget. Three of the top four teams on that list - VCU, ODU and George Mason combined have won the last four CAA championships. Then take a look at who's last, UNCW.

You simply can't compete when you are spending less than half of what the top teams in the CAA spend on their basketball budget. You can't go out and recruit players across the country. And you can't hire good coaches from other Division I institutions for $250,000 a year. No wonder they have a long laundry list of people they have to talk to about the position and people that have turned down the position apparently.

Yes UNC Wilmington is a state school whose endowment is nowhere near as large as Virginia Commonwealth or Old Dominion or near the enrollment of George Mason. Thus in these tight economic times, perhaps that's all they can afford as the men's basketball budget. But that might have also been the budget for sometime. If so, that makes what Jerry Wainwright and Brad Brownell did at UNCW even more amazing (and if I was Clemson AD
Terry Don Phillips, I would be calling Brownell right now to see how much it will take to get him to coach the Tigers).

But I have a suggestion for Mehrtens. Either give interim coach Brooks Lee the position, who the UNCW base seems to really like, or hire a really good Division II coach with a solid recent history of winning, similar to what Iona did by hiring Tim Cluess. Sell that coach on the fact you will do your best to increase the men's basketball budget so that you might be able to keep that person there for a while. Then uncover every rock, turn over every stone, have emergency meetings with the alumni base, do whatever it takes to work on increasing the basketball funding. It's the only way you will compete in the CAA.

Otherwise, as Litos said yesterday, maybe it's time UNCW considers moving down in conference affiliation to the Southern or Big South. Seahawks are known to migrate.

Update - Clemson to announce Brad Brownell as new head coach. Excellent move by the Tigers.

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