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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East Regional: Full of potholes for Nova

East Regional Outlook:  Villanova would love to to pick up another trophy at Madison Square Garden.. But it probably won’t happen because of the way the bracket is set up. The Wildcats should breeze through their opening game in Buffalo against either Mount St. Mary’s or New Orleans, but there is danger lurking in the second game if  Wisconsin wins its first game with Virginia Tech.’ Wisconsin has been inconsistent enough to create some doubts, so let’s project the Wildcats back to New York,, where they just won the Big  East tournament. But this will be a different, much more dangerous group.  Either Virginia or Florida will be the first challenge. Both are capable of beating the Wildcats. In the bottom half of the bracket, SMU and Duke should emerge and they also can end Villanova’s championship repeat bid. Baylor could be a threat, but it could also be gone in the first round. My guess is that Virginia will pull off the upset, but the Cavs won’t be able to get past a Duke team that is getting better each game. Upset Specials: Marquette over South  Carolina. New Mexico State over Baylor Moving to New York: Villanova, Virginia, SMU, Duke Regional champ:  Duke  ...

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Selection Committee did Providence no favors

If I am Providence coach Ed Cooley, I am delighted I am part of the NCAA tournament field, but I am not real happy that the Friars tournament trip will start in the play in games in Dayton.  And I am really not happy that the opponent will be USC, who the Friars met in the first round of last year’s tournament. More about that later. Here’s what Cooley should be upset about. Providence is a No. 11 seed in the East Regional. Marquette is a No. 10 seed in the East and will face South Carolina in it’s first game in Greenville. Providence and Marquette should be flipped. Here’s why. Let’s look at some hard numbers first. Both teams finished with 10-8 records in the Big  East. So what is usually the first tie breaker? Head to head. The two teams played twice. Providence won both times. Not good enough. OK.  The much talked about RPI.  Marquette’s last ranking was 61. PC?  55.  Records against Top 50 opponents. Both teams were 1-4. Against Top 50, Marquette was 6-3, PC was 5-4. Against Top 100 PC was 2-1, Marquette was 2-3. Strength of schedule?  Providence was at 49. Marquette at 59. The ONLY real edge that Marquette has is a 2 point victory over Villanova.  The Friars lost to Nova twice. In my opinion, PC should have been the...

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Jersey Guy finally gets it ALL right

It took lots of tweaking and studying RPI’s, BPI’s and all the other numbers used in putting together an NCAA tournament bracket projection. But on Sunday, this Jersey Guy got lucky, going 68 of 68 in his last projections. Included in that was one perfect match up–No. 4 Butler vs. No.13 Winthrop in the Midwest Regional. It also included  35 teams seeded exactly, 21 within 1 spot and 9 within two spots. Admittedly picking the field wasn’t ALL that difficult because there just weren’t that many bubble teams to consider. But the final few teams are always covered with enough negatives to pick against them. As usual, the toughest calls came  late.  Deciding between North Carolina and Duke as the final No. 1 was a challenge, but the tie breaker was that North Carolina won the toughest conference in college basketball by two games. Keeping Syracuse out of the field was also another challenge, but we took a chance and put USC back in to replace the Orange in a Sunday morning switch. But in the fast paced world of college basketball, all of that angst disappeared the minute the actual brackets were released. We will do a more thorough breakdown of the brackets later this week, but with a quick look you can  find some nice potential challenges in each Region. The East is set up for a...

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UMass needs to move quickly in coaching search

The basketball season is over at the University of Massachusetts, but the search for a new basketball coach to replace Derek Kellogg is and should be moving with a sense of urgency. As legendary UCLA coach John  Wooden said, “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said last week that he hoped and expected to have a new coach by the end of the month, which is a quick two weeks. There will be no shortage of candidates. UMass plays in a solid multi bid league (the Atlantic 10), it has superb facilities and a roster which is capable of competing in the upper tier of the A10. The job will no doubt be filled with someone from the mid major category or someone who  is familiar with the A10. Bamford needs to do his home work–he is using a search group led by Eddie Fogler to help–and quickly come up with a list of four or five candidates. Hopefully, the vetting process will let Bamford know whether there is a mutual interest in UMass. In looking at potential candidates and matching UMass’s needs and assets, I would include the followiing group of coaches: Billy Coen, Northeastern, Joe Dooley, Florida Gulf Coast, Mark Schmidt, St. Bonaventure and Pat Skerry from Towson State. I would also inquire whether Al Skinner would be interested in coming back to...

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Bracketology: Final guess–NC barely holds off Duke for No. 1 seed

Here’s TMG’s final prediction on the brackets. Lots of angst about the No. 2 line more than the No. 1 line, although the Duke-Carolina debate is interesting.  Finding a 4th No. 2 seed after Kentucky, Duke and Arizona was also a challenge. So here it is. Let’s see what happens. EAST At  Buffalo 1.Villanova 16. Mount Saint Mary’s/ North Carolina Central winner 8. Virginia Tech 9. South Carolina   At Buffalo 5. Virginia 12. Vermont 4. SMU 13. Bucknell   At Indianapolis 6. VCU 11. Providence 3. Louisville 14. Iona   At  Tulsa 7. Arkansas 10. Michigan State 2. Baylor 15. Kent State   SOUTH At Greenville 1. North Carolina 16. New Orleans/South Dakota State winner 8. Wichita State 9. Maryland   At Milwaukee 5. Iowa State 12. USC-Wake Forest winner 4. Butler 13. Winthrop   At  Sacramento 6. West Virginia 11. UNC-Wilmington 3.   UCLA 14. Troy   At Indianapolis 7. Minnesota 10. Miami 2. Kentucky 15. North Dakota   MIDWEST At Tulsa 1. Kansas 16. Texas Southern 8. Creighton 9.  Northwestern   At Orlando 5.  Purdue 12. Middle Tennessee 4. Florida 13. Princeton   At Sacramento 6. Saint Mary’s 11. Nevada 3.  Oregon 14. Florida Gulf Coast   At Greenville 7. Michigan 10. Seton Hall 2. Duke 15. Northern Kentucky   WEST At Salt Lake City 1. Gonzaga 16.  Jacksonville State 8. Vanderbilt 9. Xavier   At...

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A sad tale of two basketball programs

It was the best of times (once). It was the worst of times (now). It isn’t even the Ides of March, nor Selection Sunday and the basketball seasons at Boston College and the University of Massachusetts are over. The Eagles were a woeful 9-23, while the Minutemen were a more respectable, but still not acceptable 14-18. Over the past two seasons, the combined conference records of the two programs was 12-60. Clearly, both programs, which had seen far better times in the not too distant past, are pointed in the wrong direction. The curse! The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click...

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One bid leagues need a re-set on their post season plans

So you like championship week right?  You like the drama, the Cinderella stories?  ESPN loves it, of course, hoping for reruns of Hoosiers each night this week. But for the  traditional one bid conferences in the NCAA tournament–and that could be as many as 22 of the 32 conferences who will receive guaranteed bids in the 68-team field when it is announced next  Sunday– a dangerous game, which totally devalues the regular season, is again unfolding. If you doubt that, check how they feel at Monmouth this morning, where the team that breezed to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season championship with an 18-2 record–four games better than the runner up-almost certainly will not be Dancing in the NCAA tournament. The Hawks lost in the semifinals of the MAAC to Siena, which finished the MAC season with a 12-8 record.  The MAAC likes the big feel of tournaments and plays on “neutral” sites, which was in Albany, N.Y–which also happens to be where Siena is located. More about that later. It marks the second year in succession Monmouth has breezed through the MAAC conference regular season, but then lost in the conference tournament  The consolation prize is a bid to the NIT. In the Ohio Valley Conference , Belmont finished with a dominating 15-1  regular season, but also lost in the tournament.  In the SWAC, Texas Southern finished...

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