There’s no telling where and when Old Dominion’s basketball coaching search will end. Athletic director Wood Selig’s inbox and cell phone remain flooded with pleas and recommendations, and a committee soon will be in place to sift through candidates.
Sitting head coach? Promising young assistant? The flavor du jour unveiled by March Madness? None of the above?
Beats me. But this much I do know: Since the school fired Blaine Taylor two-plus weeks ago, interim head coach Jim Corrigan, his staff and their players have done nothing but distinguish themselves and enhance Corrigan’s chances of shedding the interim.
This hasn’t been easy. Train-derailment of a season notwithstanding, Taylor was popular and charismatic, and the personal missteps that ended his 12-year tenure stressed everyone involved.
The Monarchs were 2-20 and had lost 10 straight when Taylor exited. Eight regular-season games remained. Moreover, with ODU ineligible for the Colonial Athletic Association tournament because of its July move to Conference USA, the stakes were minimal.
There was no postseason carrot, no hope of a miraculous run.
But Corrigan, assistants Rob Wilkes and John Richardson, operations director Drew Williamson and the players have bonded rather than frayed. The scoreboard results have been imperfect – two wins and three defeats – but the efforts have been beyond reproach.
“They came out and played hard tonight,” Corrigan told the Daily Press’ Dave Fairbank and other media after Wednesday’s 84-61 rout of visiting UNC Wilmington, “and (I'm) glad to see them get rewarded, because we've been playing really hard every time out.”
Now the Seahawks (10-17, 5-10 CAA) are no one’s idea of formidable, but when you haven’t won at home in 102 days, any and all victories merit celebration.
Under Corrigan’s steady hand, ODU has defeated Drexel, lost in overtime to CAA-leading Northeastern, fallen by two at Delaware, stumbled at home by 12 against William and Mary and cuffed Wilmington. The Monarchs have, generally, defended and rebounded energetically and taken care of the ball.
In short, they’ve improved markedly.
That’s a product of Corrigan’s 19 years on staff at ODU. The 54-year-old Duke graduate and former Winston-Salem, N.C., high school coach knows this team, this program, this university, and knows how to manage games and practices.
As Comrade Fairbank wrote so well earlier this month, we Daily Press lifers have known and appreciated Corrigan since his 1987-94 assistant’s stint at William and Mary. He has served ODU well, even while pursuing his head-coaching ambitions.
None of this means Selig and university president John Broderick will hire Corrigan. They may believe the program needs a fresh outlook. They may stumble upon an unexpected candidate of impeccable credentials.
All Corrigan wants is the chance to compete for the job, through this eight-game audition and the vision he presents during his interview. And based on what Selig told me prior to the Northeastern game, Corrigan is absolutely a viable possibility.
“Whatever I do, I don't want to slight his candidacy or the amount of time he's put into this program in helping us establish a really solid foundation,” Selig said. “Somebody's got to come in here and beat him.”
When Selig’s search crystallizes hinges on when others’ seasons end. Until then, he has three more games in which to observe Corrigan: Sunday at Hofstra, Feb. 28 against visiting Drexel, and March 2 at Northeastern.
“I enjoyed being at Drexel, sitting three rows behind our bench and watching Jim Corrigan during every timeout,” Selig said of Corrigan’s debut as interim. “He was in his element. He was where he was born to be. He was born to coach a basketball team.”
If Selig doesn’t hire Corrigan, rest assured he will share those sentiments with fellow athletic directors, one of whom just might.
As Corrigan told his staff the day ODU fired Taylor: Let’s make the most of this, because even if things don’t work out here, you never know who else is watching.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
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