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Off-Season News Update

April 26, 2006 Columns No Comments

Off-Season News and Notes – April 26, 2006

by Phil Kasiecki

Who Will Lead North Carolina State?

We start by revisiting last week’s first story – the North Carolina State opening. It’s not really any clearer this week than it was last week.

Friday night, a source said West Virginia head coach John Beilein was interviewing at the school that day. It should be noted that we saw Beilein in Houston on Saturday to check out the talent at the Kingwood Classic – not impossible depending on when during the day he may have interviewed and then flown to Houston. The Raleigh News & Observer reported that Beilein has emerged as the leading candidate.

But from there, it gets fuzzy, as has been the case often in this search. There was talk going around that Steve Lavin had been offered the job and was ready to accept, but reports say he turned it down.

This weekend will be the final spring weekend with travel team tournaments that are sanctioned for Division I coaches to attend. The Wolfpack are in danger of going through the entire spring with no one present at any such tournaments to scout out future talent.

Beilein has long been believed to be immovable from West Virginia, and not because of the large buyout in his contract. But at this point, nothing in this coaching search would surprise us.

Error Boosts Fan Interest

Last week, we mentioned UMass’ non-conference schedule for next season, one that will certainly be boosted from this year’s. In addition to Boston College at home, a report says that the Minutemen are trying for a home-and-home with Kentucky, Travis Ford’s alma mater. They are hoping to fill out the remaining games with a few more quality opponents.

A game we reported that got everyone’s attention has turned out to be in error. We have learned that there is not a game with Duke on the table for next season, and there was an apparent misunderstanding on our part. An athletic department spokesman says they’d love for it to happen for obvious reasons (as shown by the response after we printed it in error), but they are not sure it’s even realistic.

While we apologize for giving fans a little “false excitement”, there’s a real bright side to this to focus on: clearly, the UMass fan base has some good life right now, and well they should whether a date in Durham is on the schedule or not. Word about a possible game against Duke got around quickly and created a buzz on campus, with people wanting to know how true this is and contacting us and the school’s athletic department about it. Hopefully, the fan interest keeps up at this level; barely one-third of the Mullins Center is full on many game nights, a shame considering it’s one of the nicest arenas in the northeast.

Travis Ford is clearly moving the program forward. When he was hired, he talked about energizing the fan base, and he and his staff are taking steps to do that with the team’s progress this season and working on playing an exciting schedule next season. The Minutemen made it through the transition year of 2005-06, and with three full-time starters and two other part-time starters back next season, they have a chance to be among the contenders in the Atlantic 10. The conference had a good recruiting year, so the level of play should be on the rise as well.

Brown’s Next Coach

It seemed inevitable that Glen Miller would not be Brown’s head coach next season. His name came up for the Hartford and Northeastern openings, but it was the third time that was the charm as Miller is now Penn’s head coach.

The coach who succeeds Miller, who had a successful run save for this past season with a young team, is an open question. Eastern Kentucky assistant Ted Hotaling, who has Ivy League experience as a recent assistant at Yale, is one who has expressed interest in the job.

Looking internally, top assistant Kevin Jaskiewicz could be a candidate, but one would expect Miller to take him along to Philadelphia since he has been with Miller since his Connecticut College days. Fellow assistant Andy Partee has been at the school since before Miller, so he could be a possibility.

Other Notes

  • Maine head coach Ted Woodward said that Kevin Reed, their star guard who missed the entire season with a foot injury, is in great shape. He’s working out well and would probably love to play tomorrow if he could. That’s a good sign for the Black Bears, who had a tough season but look to be in good shape personnel-wise next season.
  • Give Boston University head coach Dennis Wolff credit for not backing down from playing tough teams. Next season, the Terriers’ non-conference slate will feature return home games with George Washington and UMass at Agganis Arena, and they start another home-and-home with Saint Joseph’s with a trip to Philadelphia. Additionally, they will play in the Holiday Classic in New York after Christmas and revive the local rivalry with Northeastern, heading across town to play the Huskies after the teams took a year off from playing each other. The Terriers lose two starters and have seen three reserves transfer this off-season, but they return their starting backcourt and will also get guard Tyler Morris back after an injury shelved him for the 2005-06 season.
  • It took a while, but now the early entrants to the NBA Draft are adding up. In just the past week, over a dozen players have declared, more than a third of the current total. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently reported that Panther center Aaron Gray should be another to do so before Friday’s deadline, and there may be a few surprises when the official list comes out as well.
  • Earlier today, FOXSports.com reported that Todd Bozeman will become the next head coach at Morgan State. Bozeman’s hire will be interesting not only because he was hit with an eight-year show-cause sentence (meaning a school hiring him must show reasons why he should be allowed back in as a coach), but also because his teams were looked at as underachievers even with the talent they had. The MEAC is a different game than the Pac-10, though, so perhaps his fresh start can be a good one.
  • An idle thought in light of the subject of UMass’ schedule: the Minutemen and Boston College owe the TD Banknorth Garden a game in their Commonwealth Classic series. With UMass appearing to be on the rise again, the day where that game could be big enough to warrant moving it to the Garden could come soon. Perhaps the athletic directors at those schools and a few others in the area can get together and add to that game to make a real basketball event: a tripleheader with Northeastern and Boston University hooking up in one other game and perhaps Harvard and Holy Cross in another. We can pipe dream, can’t we?

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