New Delaware Hoops Coach Ingelsby Faces Big Challenges

The University of Delaware finally hired a men’s basketball coach, and even though it seemed to take forever, at least the search is over.

On the other hand, that was the easy part – getting a coach. Now comes the hard part – getting players.

That’s the No. 1 task facing UD’s new coach Martin Ingelsby, the former Notre Dame assistant who was officially hired on Wednesday. Ingelsby takes over a bad team with little returning talent and it would be a loaves-and-fishes kind of miracle if he were to turn around Delaware’s fortunes quickly. This will probably be a long and painful process and everyone – administration, fans and media – has to be patient while the new coach brings in some new players.

As mentioned before, the Blue Hens don’t have a lot coming back from last year’s 23-loss team and they’re miles behind in the recruiting process because of the ham-handed way Delaware’s administration dealt with hiring an athletic director and coach. Almost all of the good high school players and even the just-OK players have already committed. And even if they haven’t, why would they want to go to Delaware? Eventually, Ingelsby could make Newark a desirable place for blue-chip players, but not now.

Ingelsby’s credentials and bloodlines are impeccable. His father, Tom Ingelsby, was a terrific player for Villanova’s’ 1971 team that made it to the championship game, where it scared the heck out of John Wooden and mighty UCLA before falling 68-62. That Villanova team was coached by Hall of Famer Jack Kraft, and Tom Ingelsby also became a coach and his son was one of his prize pupils.

Then Martin Ingelsby learned other important lessons by being an assistant to Mike Brey at Notre Dame the last 13 years. Brey is not just a good coach, he’s also a great ambassador for his team, his school and his sport. Brey gets it. He knows how to deal with the alumni, the fans and the media, and those are important assets just about every successful coach has.

So, Ingelsby knows how the game is played, on the court and off of it. That much is known. What isn’t known is how effective he’ll be as a recruiter and everything will depend on that. It doesn’t matter how well a coach knows his Xs and Os if the Xs can’t shoot and the Os can’t rebound. It always comes down to talent and the Hens just don’t have nearly enough right now.

That was supposed to be a strong suit of former Delaware coach Monte Ross. When he was hired in, everyone raved about what a great recruiter he had been at St. Joseph’s and how two of the players he helped land – national player of the year Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, both of whom became first-round NBA picks – helped St. Joe’s become the top-ranked team in the nation in 2003-04. But Ross was never able to bring that magic touch to Newark, at least not on a consistent basis, and that’s the main reason he’s the former coach.

Ingelsby addressed that issue at his introductory press conference when he said “At Notre Dame, we’ve spent a lot of time recruiting I-95.”

Ingelsby was referring to the talent-rich Mid-Atlantic area, which includes Washington, Baltimore, New York and, of course, Ingelsby’s native Philadelphia. The best players in that area won’t go to Delaware, of course, but if Ingelsby can even get the third-best players it will be a big step up for the Blue Hens. And, as anybody who follows UD basketball knows, there’s only one direction for this program to go.

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