The University of Delaware will eventually name a new athletic director to replace the interim AD, Dr. Matthew J. Robinson. And one of the first decisions that new AD will have to make is what to do with Monte Ross, whose team is about to wrap up one of the worst seasons in recent Delaware basketball history.
Ross still has two years left on the contract extension he signed last March, but Delaware fired football coach K.C. Keeler in 2013 even though Keeler’s contract ran through 2017, and Keeler was much more successful than Ross has been during his 10-year tenure.
Ross has had some good teams during that span – just not enough of them. In his decade at UD his team has won the Colonial Athletic Association tournament one time and made it as far as the semifinals just one other time. Going into Friday’s first-round game against Charleston – Delaware is the lowest seeded team in the tourney — the Blue Hens are 7-22 overall and 2-16 in the conference.
Ross’ overall record is 132-183 and his career CAA record is 79-99 and that is not good. In fact, Ross’ career records are worse than that of his much-maligned predecessor, David Henderson. Ross has an overall winning percentage of .419 and .443 in the CAA; Henderson was .477 overall and .490 in the conference. And this season has been the worst for Ross, even though he only won five games in his first season at UD, 2006-07, when he inherited a bad team with a cupboard bare of recruits.
Some of what happened this season was out of Ross’ hands. He lost three key players to injuries early in the season and that can be hard to overcome at the mid-major level – it’s not like he coaches at North Carolina or Kentucky and can just plug in another high school All-American.
But what has made this season such an awful one in Newark isn’t that the Hens have lost as much as how they’ve lost, which frequently has been by a lot. Delaware has lost 17 games by 10 points or more and 13 by 15 points or more, and on average the Hens have been outscored by 13 points a game. Losing is one thing, but getting clobbered on a consistent basis is another.
There are other disturbing statistics. Opponents have had many more assists than Delaware (478-314) and Delaware has turned the ball over a lot more (342-264). Those are two stats that point to basketball IQ and it appears that’s an area where the Blue Hens are lacking.
Again, this is not all Ross’ fault, but he is the head of the program and we all know where the buck is supposed to stop. The only thing in his favor is the fact that his bad team is also a very young team, with only one senior – Marvin King-Lewis – who plays a prominent role. A new athletic director might decide that Ross should get the opportunity to keep developing young players like Kory Holden and Cazmon Hayes, especially since Delaware has to pay Ross for the next two years anyway. At the same time, a new AD might be eager to turn things around quickly and fill that spot with a coach of his choosing.
One thing in Ross’ favor is the man himself. Monte Ross is a great role model for the kids on his team and he’s proven in the past that he’s not afraid to discipline his players if it’s called for, even his star players. His standing with his players and their parents was evident last year, when Delaware was fiddling about before it offered Ross a contract extension. Several parents contacted the athletic administration in a show of support for Ross and that should have carried a lot of weight, since few people are in a better position to judge somebody’s character than people whose kids are under his wing.
Still, that won-loss bottom line is hard to ignore, and it’s not like Ross hasn’t had the time to establish some consistency in his program, like women’s basketball coach Tina Martin has done in hers.
So, it comes down to this: Does Delaware basketball want a strong role model and leader, or does it want to win? That is something the new man in charge will eventually have to decide.