By David Teel
9:56 AM EST, February 7, 2013
Wood Selig hires coaches he knows and coaches who know his university and/or its region. That is his history as an athletic director, at not only Old Dominion but also Western Kentucky.
Since replacing department icon Jim Jarrett in 2010, Selig has hired eight head coaches at ODU. Six had ties to the school and/or Hampton Roads.
At Western Kentucky, Selig hired two head coaches each in men’s basketball and football coaches. All had WKU connections.
Selig has elevated assistants and interims. He has brought graduates and former assistants home.
That MO should inform any handicapping of Selig’s search for ODU’s next men’s basketball coach, a search that started Tuesday when, with eight games remaining in the season, he fired Blaine Taylor for unspecified personnel reasons that went far beyond the Monarchs’ 2-20 record.
Taylor was 239-144 with four NCAA tournament bids in nearly 12 years, and this year’s free-fall notwithstanding, the job will attract credentialed candidates. Moreover, with nearly two months before prime hiring season, Selig has ample time to discover candidates that neither he nor your neighborhood keyboard jockey has envisioned.
But enough with the preamble. Here are names certain to cross Selig’s radar.
Ladies and gentlemen, start your speculation.
COACHES SELIG KNOWS
* Selig inherited Dennis Felton at Western Kentucky, and the two worked well together. But after three consecutive NCAA appearances, Felton went to the University of Georgia.
He took over a program hamstrung by NCAA sanctions, and with the Bulldogs mired in a seven-game, mid-season losing streak in 2009, Georgia fired Felton. His record there was 84-91 and included one NCAA bid.
Felton then joined the San Antonio Spurs’ front office. He wouldn’t be Selig’s first ODU hire with Western Kentucky connections. Two years ago Selig plucked Hilltoppers baseball coach Chris Finwood, a Hampton High graduate, for the same position with the Monarchs.
* Selig and Jeff Jones go back to the 1990s at Virginia, where Selig was an administrator and Jones the head coach. Jones now coaches at American, and the two remain close.
Jones has guided AU to nine winning seasons in 12 years. The Eagles are 8-14 this season, 3-4 in the Patriot League.
In eight years under Jones, Virginia reached five NCAA tournaments, advancing to an Elite Eight and Sweet 16. His career record is 356-280, 146-104 at U.Va., and 210-176 at American.
Jones and his wife are entrenched in metropolitan Washington. But might working for a friend and running a much better program tempt them to move?
* Interim head coach Jim Corrigan has worked at ODU for 19 years, under first Jeff Capel and then Taylor. You don’t last that long without doing a lot of things right and essentially making yourself indispensable.
A walk-on player at Duke who later earned a scholarship, Corrigan has never been a college head coach, and that void hurts his chances considerably.
COACHES WHO KNOW ODU AND THE 757
* A Newport News native and graduate of Warwick High and U.Va., Anthony Solomon is in his eighth season as a Notre Dame assistant under Mike Brey, who will lobby hard on his behalf. Solomon has also worked as an assistant at Dayton, Clemson, Virginia, Richmond, Bowling Green, and Delaware.
But Solomon’s sole head-coaching stint, from 2003-07 at St. Bonaventure, was troubled. The Bonnies were reeling from NCAA issues when he arrived, and the school, citing his “strong emphasis on integrity,” dismissed Solomon after his teams went a combined 24-88.
* Holy Cross coach Milan Brown graduated from Kecoughtan High and Howard University, and is a former ODU and William and Mary assistant.
This marks Brown’s 10th season as a head coach, the first seven at Mount Saint Mary’s (95-120 overall, 68-58 Northeast Conference), the last three at Holy Cross (33-47 overall, 18-17 Patriot League). He took the Mount to the 2008 NCAA tournament.
* Steve Merfeld coached Hampton University to four winning seasons in five years, a 90-57 record, two Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference titles and, most famously, a 2001 NCAA tournament upset of Iowa State. A year later, the Pirates nearly pulled a repeat against Connecticut.
His five seasons at Evansville (54-91 from 2003-07) were disappointing, but Merfeld is back in the Missouri Valley Conference, serving for a second season on Greg McDermott’s staff at 16th-ranked Creighton.
COACHES WITHOUT LOCAL TIES
As much as Selig appreciates area knowledge, he’s not foolish enough to limit his options. For example, to lead ODU’s renowned field hockey program, he selected Andrew Griffiths, a Canadian who coached previously at Lafayette and as an assistant at Boston College and Maryland.
Paulsen guided his alma mater, Division III Williams College, to the 2003 national championship, and his Bucknell teams are 69-23 in the last two-plus seasons with a 2011 Patriot League title and accompanying NCAA bid.
Murray State was 31-2 last season in Prohm’s head-coaching debut and is 16-5 this season. Dambrot is an Akron native and graduate who coached LeBron James for two seasons in high school – nice recruiting tool there. His 18-4 Zips are poised to win at least 22 games for the eighth straight year.
A 13-year assistant to Gary Williams at Maryland, a stint that merits a Purple Heart at the very least, Patsos took the Greyhounds to their first NCAA tournament since 1994 last season. He’s 138-131 in eight-plus seasons, 16-8 this year, immeasurable progress considering Loyola’s 1-27 finish the season before his arrival.
Whether any of the four, especially Dambrot, would leave a successful program for ODU is uncertain.
Then there’s Ritchie McKay, Tony Bennett’s top lieutenant at Virginia. He compiled a 204-186 record in 13 seasons as a head coach, at Portland State (two), Colorado State (two), Oregon State (two), New Mexico (five with one NCAA bid) and Liberty (two).
McKay recruited Seth Curry to Liberty, and after a 23-12 finish with the Flames in 2009, Curry transferred to Duke, and McKay joined Bennett, a long-time friend, at Virginia.
There are a baker's dozen names (bios of all available by clicking). Might ODU’s next coach be among them? I don’t believe Selig even knows. The vetting and interviews will tell all.
This much is clear: As abrupt as Taylor’s dismissal appeared, his personal issues had long been brewing. So be certain that Selig was not blindsided and is prepared for the search.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
Here’s a link to my Daily Press print columns, including one on Taylor’s firing.
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