Jim Phelan is feeling that old tingle again.
He has survived a showdown with Mount St. Mary's president Dr. Robert Wickenheiser over his job, and the result is that Phelan will coach through next season, his 40th in Emmitsburg.
And Phelan said he is excited about his recruiting success in locating help in the backcourt, the Mount's most glaring trouble spot during a 6-22 season in which the team did not win a game on an opposing court.
"When we started practice, I got the way it was the first time I saw Fred Carter here," said Phelan, who is seeking to become the eighth man in collegiate history with 700 victories.
"I felt the hair on my back stand up, got goose bumps. It's been a long time since I've felt such a tingle."
Phelan's upbeat demeanor can be traced to the return to health of fifth-year senior Kevin Booth and the additions of freshman guards Chris McGuthrie and Jeff Balistrere, both of whom will start in the opener Tuesday at Bucknell.
In the guard-oriented Northeast Conference, Mount St. Mary's now has a suitable arsenal to overcome last season's woes, when it committed 564 turnovers to its opponents' 414 -- a difference of more than five per game -- and allowed too many easy baskets because of its injuries and personnel shortage.
"I'm pleased with the way things are going," said Phelan. "McGuthrie is out of the [former Mount point guard] Durrell Lewis mold, and Balistrere has outstanding basketball sense, can play four positions and is an excellent leaper and ball handler."
There is more. Booth averaged 19.3 points last season, but played in such pain, because of tendinitis in his knee, that he often couldn't practice.
"The last couple of years have been real frustrating," said Booth. "I've gotten over one injury and gone into another. It eventually takes its toll, especially coupled with the losing.
"Now, I feel great. I was really affected on the defensive end by the injury, but now I can pretty much do everything.
"And the team is looking real deep. I think we can go down nine to 10 players this year."
The influx of newcomers will send Phil Galvin, a 13.4 scorer last season, into the role of top backcourt reserve in a system that will accent three guards.
Behind McGuthrie is veteran Dave Kapaona, the starter at the point two years ago, but absent last season after he suffered a stress fracture in his right foot and was redshirted.
That injury forced Booth to carry an extremely heavy load.
Overall, there are nine guards on the roster, including veteran Doug John (who had a troublesome back) and walk-on Sefton Robinson, who figures to help with his quickness when the Mount has to press.
"We're going to be more up-tempo," said Phelan. "We have the depth on the perimeter that we lacked."
The primary concern is who will help junior forward Chad Stull on the boards. Phelan is looking for someone to emerge in the middle from among seniors Dave Nanni and Anthony Carr and sophomore Matthew Meakin.
The problem increased when the only inside recruit, Kenny Gardner, suffered a broken ankle and went out for the season.
"We're going to struggle some with our rebounding. We're not deep at the size positions," Phelan said. "But we're in a perimeter league, and we can get by with all the perimeter players. You can bet we'll put up quite a few threes and play a lot of inside-out basketball."
Progess may not appear initially. The Mount opens with four tough foes on the road, including Loyola, and is home only for two nights (the Mount Holiday Tournament) before Jan. 9.
"I think we're going to do well on the road," said Phelan. "We have enough home games, just not in the beginning."
The coach needs seven victories to reach the 700 milestone, but he is down playing that pursuit.
"I try not to think anything about it, and I try not to have the players think about it," he said.
Tomorrow: Maryland, UMBC.
Mount St. Mary's at a glance
Coach: Jim Phelan (39th season, 693-350)
Affiliation: Northeast Conference
Last year's record: 6-22, 3-13 in conference
Radio: WQSI (820 AM)
Starters lost: Chris Cavanagh, Jeff Hall
Key returnees: Kevin Booth, Phil Galvin, Chad Stull, Dave Kapaona, Michael Watson, Anthony Carr, Dave Nanni, Matthew Meakin
Outlook: Phelan's first order of business was to get his own status settled with the school president. That issue settled, he now seeks to become the eighth coach in history to reach 700 victories. The Mount's big problem last season was an inability to take care of the ball in the backcourt and the recruiting accent was on guards. Freshman Chris McGuthrie may be the answer at the point and Jeff Balistrere can light up the scoreboard. With veteran Kevin Booth relieved of major ball-handling and healthy again, the Mount should have plenty of firepower from the perimeter. The big question is at center. Mount St. Mary's should improve its 6-22 showing.
@Returning players Name Yr. Pos. Ht. Wt. Fast breaks
Kevin Booth Sr. G 6-1 180 Has healthy knees again
Anthony Carr Sr. F 6-7 230 Averaged 8.3 ppg., 7.1 rpg. in 9 starts Phil Galvin Jr. G 6-3 190 Led conference in three-pointers
Tom Hickey So. G 6-0 175 Walk-on, played in 10 games
Doug John Sr. G 6-3 185 Caught in backcourt overload
Dave Kapaona Jr. G 6-3 203 Red-shirted last year with injured foot
Matthew Meakin So. C 6-9 235 Program's first foreign recruit
Dave Nanni Sr. C 6-8 240 Potential starter in middle
Sefton Robinson So. G 6-2 185 Walk-on adds quickness
Chad Stull Jr. F 6-5 220 Rugged rebounder, defender
Michael Watson So. F 6-4 190 Great leaper had solid first season
Jeff Balistrere Fr. G 6-4 180 Son of school's AD Tom
Silas Cheung Fr. G 6-2 160 20.5 ppg. at Magruder HS
Kenny Gardner Fr. C-F 6-7 225 Out for year with broken ankle
Chris McGuthrie Fr. G 5-8 155 Will start immediately at point