Author: Mark Blaudschun

Anatomy of a UMass, firing, search and hiring of a new hoops coach

The following story is true, some names have been omitted, but the time line is accurate, as is the sequence of events which began with University of Massachusetts athletic director Ryan Bamford firing men’s basketball coach Derek Kellogg on March 9 and ended on Tuesday March 21 with the announcement that Winthrop basketball coach Pat Kelsey had been hired as the Minutemen’s new  coach. In talking to several sources familiar with the process, here is TMG’s account of how it unfolded. THE FIRING There was no question that Kellogg’s performance was being evaluated by Bamford and the UMass administration all season. The former UMass star was told at the beginning of the season that an upgrade was necessary. After a string of three twenty plus win seasons, the Minutemen stumbled last season. Kellogg made adjustments, increased the talent level on the roster and pleaded patience after last season’s drop to a 14-18 record. The Minutemen appeared  to have more talent and came into the Atlantic 10 season with an 11-4 record. It was their high water mark of the season. UMass won only four A-10 games and as the conference tournament began in Pittsburgh in the first week in March, the signs for Kellogg were ominous, with at least a championship game appearance the only likely escape hatch. UMass’s season officially ended on Thursday March 9 with a 73-60 loss to...

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UMass headed in new direction with Kelsey

It was shortly after University of Massachusetts athletic director  Ryan Bamford had made the decision to  fire Derek Kellogg. Bamford was talking to some friends about what he wanted in UMass’s next basketball coach. He talked about recruiting and coaching and game management. And then he came to the crux of the matter. “”What I want,” he said with a smile, “is to find the next Jay Wright.” Sixteen years ago, Wright was the boy wonder of college basketball coaches. At 40, he was ready to move from the mid-major level at Hofstra to the next level.  Rutgers wanted him, but so did Villanova.  Then, as it is now, Villanova was the better job. Wright who graduated from Bucknell, went to Philadelphia and became the star people predicted. The Wildcats won the national championship a year ago. They were the No. 1 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament before an upset by Wisconsin ended their season. In looking over a group of candidates during the past week and a half, Bamford saw some resumes he thought could fit the “next Jay Wright.  There was Joe Dooley at Florida Gulf Coast,there was Micah Shrewsberry, a young assistant to  Brad Stevens with the Celtics, whose future seemed to grow brighter with experience and there was Pat Kelsey at Winthrop. Other candidates such as Rice’s Mike Rhoades, a former VCU assistant,  also...

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Is parity in the NCAA Sweet 16 a good thing?

It is, as usual, a chalk city tournament, with some adjustments. Much has always been made of the Cinderella aspect of the first weekend of the three-week long NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The thrill of victory for lower seeded teams, the agony of defeat for the top seeds who knew on  Valentine’s Day they would still be playing on the Ides of March. But by Monday morning, after the field was pared from 68 to 64 to 32 to 16,  the trend was again clear.  The Power 5 (six if you include the Big East) Conferences overwhelmed the survivor pool.  If there is a surprise–a genuine head scratcher–for many college basketball fans it was the collapse of the Atlantic Coast Conference,which went from 9 teams to one survivor. Who saw that coming? What we have among the survivors is Power 6 conference parity- Big 12 three teams (Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia),Pac-12 three teams (UCLA, Arizona, Oregon),  SEC three teams (Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina),and  the Big Ten three teams (Michigan, Purdue and Wisconsin). The Big East has two teams (Butler and Xavier) and the ACC has only North Carolina.  Outside of the Power 6–there is only Gonzaga from the West Coast Conference. Oh, there are Cinderella stories if you want to throw in Xavier and Butler or Michigan, which has come out of the Big Ten pack and may be...

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UMass ready to make its move

Now that we have gone through a first round of NCAA tournament games in which most, if not all of the teams with candidates to become the new basketball coach at the University of Massachusetts, have been eliminated, there would appear to be few obstacles in closing a deal for UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford. Which means there should be no road blocks to focus on Florida Gulf Coast coach Joe Dooley, who according to several sources is a prime candidate on Bamford’s search list. FGCU ended its season on Thursday with a respectable 86-80 loss to No. 3 seed Florida State in an NCAA first round game in Orlando. Which means that if UMass is seriously interested in getting Dooley, Bamford should be headed south this weekend to talk to Dooley to see if a deal can be worked out. Dooley, who has credentials as an assistant coach at Kansas and a 91-45 record and two straight NCAA tournament appearances at FGCU, is ready to move up to the next level–which UMass clearly would be. He is a Jersey guy who has made no secret that he would like to return to the Northeast.  UMass is the only opening  in the Northeast that would match his profile for moving up. Bamford knows he must move quickly because there could be a domino effect among mid major schools as...

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South Regional: UCLA or Kentucky could turn Carolina blue

Outlook: North Carolina has the best team in the country–when it has its A game. But sometimes that game disappears and there are enough predators in this region to worry the most ardent Tar Heel fan. The Tar Heels should have no problems with Texas Southern in their opener and neither Arkansas nor Seton Hall should present that much of a challenge, which puts Carolina in Memphis There doesn’t look like much danger from the other half of Carolina’s bracket. Butler will probably emerge, but Carolina is better than all of them. Then it changes. Look at the bottom half of that draw. Kentucky, Wichita, Dayton, UCLA, Cincinnati. Kentucky, as the No 2 seed should squeeze past Northern Kentucky in what should be a wild atmosphere in Indianapolis, but then there is the winner of the Dayton-Wichita waiting. Wichita is better than a 10 seed, so a win over the Flyers would hardly be an upset. A Kentucky-Wichita rematch would be a show stopper, since Wichita no doubt has payback in mind after Kentucky ended Wichita’s unbeaten season in the second round of the tournament a few years ago. The winner will probably face either UCLA or Cincinnati. UCLA has already beaten Kentucky in Lexington this season and Cincinnati is just a hard-nosed team and is probably under seeded at No. 6. Kentucky has the talent and Coach Cal...

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