Ryan Bamford is a good guy. The University of Massachusetts athletic director is part of the new generation who still have enough of an old fashioned background in athletics to counter the growing trend of ADs who base everything on marketing and fund raising and need search firms to identify coaches.
When Bamford made the decision to fire UMass basketball coach Derrick Kellogg two weeks ago he had a list of names and procedures he wanted to follow. He hired a search firm to make the initial contact with coaches he wanted to interview. He went through a vetting process and established a priority list.
When the announcement was made earlier this week that Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey was coming to UMass, Bamford thought he had done his job and he had taken a major step to improve UMass basketball.
What Bamford didn’t see was a sink hole that came out of nowhere on Thursday afternoon when Kelsey, after spending a day and half of meeting and greeting people on the UMass campus, decided to back out of the deal.
Bamford never saw it coming. Maybe you can blame him for not having Kelsey come to campus BEFORE the deal was done and go through the process of meeting and talking to everyone. He didn’t deserve what happened to him and to UMass.
You can also blame Kelsey for that. What kind of person takes a job without knowing the environment or the culture he is joining? Kelsey has had issues aside from Xs and Os in the past that should have been checked out. Maybe they were and maybe they were not deemed as significant.
It doesn’t matter. What matters is that Bamford should and will learn from the past week. Almost every coach, athletic director and media member goes through moments like that earlier in their career, moments which can be described as “learning experiences,”
What happened with Pat Kelsey does take away one option for Bamford. UMass needs to be more cautious in its next move. The margin of error–taking a chance on a candidate who doesn’t have head coaching experience, has no ties to the area, has limited recruiting experience–is much, much smaller than it was a week ago.
The UMass basketball program needs a cornerstone as its next coach. It needs someone who can coach and who can build. It doesn’t need flash or glitter.
It is now a week later. The landscape has changed, including in the Atlantic 10, where VCU may have improved its coaching status and Dayton is now open after Archie Miller was hired by Indiana. Count on Dayton to hire a strong replacement. Duquesne is still open. The league will be stronger next season than it was this season. UMass needs to keep in step.
And the list of candidateswho fill the boxes that any new UMass coach needs have checked off on their resume—has shrunk considerably.
The right coach is still out there for UMass, but Bamford needs to be very, very careful and thorough. He also needs to be more conservative than aggressive. The new coach doesn’t need to win the press conference which will probably–barring some snag–be held by the middle of next week.
UMass’s next coach must be someone who has proven they can build as well as coach.
There are names out there who can fill that role, but they have good jobs and while it is trendy–we have been guilty of doing it in the past ourselves–of just throwing names out there without significant interaction with UMass, we choose to let Bamford do his job and surprise us with his selection.
But here’s the catch to this process. There have been published reports by ESPN that Celtic assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry will get a SECOND interview with UMass. If that report is TRUE, logic would suggest that the only way Shrewsberry agrees to that is if there is an understanding that he will be offered the job.
It seems inconceivable that Shrewsberry would take a chance on not getting a job for the second time and it seems even more inconceivable that UMass would take a chance on being rejected twice.
There also has been other chatter that UMass has interviewed ESPN analyst and former coach Seth Greenberg for the job, which would sound wacky, but this is a world in which former ESPN analyst Doug Gottleib was interviewed for an opening at Oklahoma State this week.
So look for some confirmation that Shrewsberry is indeed talking to UMass. What seems clear is that the next confirmed interview is likely to be the next UMass coach no later than Tuesday or Wednesday.