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Friday, April 23, 2021

Clock Ticking for Hen's Basketball

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Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for CBSSports.com and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.

It’s almost as if the University of Delaware is trying to be bad in basketball. It seems like every decision the school’s administration makes sets the program back, and that’s mostly because it takes them so doggone long to make those decisions.

Delaware doesn’t have a head coach right now, and this happens to be prime recruiting season. The Blue Hens also don’t have an athletic director, which is why they don’t have a head coach, since the athletic director selects the head coach, and since they don’t have an athletic director … well, you get the idea.

Apparently, however, Delaware doesn’t. Like so many big institutions today, the UD administration has hired a consulting firm to help them in their nationwide search for a new basketball coach and that, of course, means it will be a thorough vetting procedure and that, of course, takes time – something the Hens just don’t have if they want to turn their fortunes in basketball sometime this decade.

By the way, the last time Delaware held a nation-wide search was in 2013 after football coach K.C. Keeler was fired. After a long, drawn-out process during which Delaware was supposedly looking at qualified candidates from coast to coast, they ended up hiring a friend of the athletic director. Some search…

Anyhow, time’s a wastin’ and this will be the second straight year basketball recruiting is held down by cement shoes the Delaware administration has created. Last year, coach Monte Ross’ future at Delaware was in limbo as the administration twiddled its thumbs before finally offering Ross a contract extension, and no highly-regarded recruit was going to commit to Delaware if he didn’t know who the coach was going to be.

So, the Hens lost a year of recruiting and then they went out and lost a lot of games – 23 of them – and the coach who was just given an extension was fired, but only after the athletic director who gave him that extension was fired first.

That A.D., Eric Ziady, parted ways with Delaware on the last day of last year and the Blue Hens’ athletic department has been left without a leader for three months. The interim A.D., Dr. Matthew Robinson, has done a fine job filling the breach, but you’d think they could have hired a full-time athletic director by now. If it takes three months to hire somebody, then the people doing the hiring don’t know what they’re doing.

Granted, it’s an important position and this decision will impact Delaware athletics for the foreseeable future. It should be given serious and sober consideration. At the same time, these guys need to get on the stick. There are plenty of qualified candidates out there – pick and hire her or him.

Robinson will be with other search committee members at the Final Four in Houston this weekend because they know all sorts of basketball people will also be there, including, of course, athletic directors and coaches, past and present. Apparently they’ll pick the brains of some of those basketball gurus and maybe even talk to somebody who could end up being Delaware’s next coach.

Despite all the problems – including the lack of recruiting time and the defection of the Hens’ only star player, guard Kory Holden – the Delaware job is an attractive one, especially for a young, ambitious assistant from a big-time program who’s looking to make his own mark on the basketball world. Of course, there’s no guarantee that approach will work – the Hens have had mixed success going down that road, hitting a homer with Mike Brey, but striking out with David Henderson and Monte Ross.

There’s also a chance the search committee will decide on somebody who already has experience as a head coach at the college level, somebody who has proven he can recruit and run a successful program. Of course, most of those guys already have jobs and Delaware isn’t going to woo a big name (or big ego) to Newark.

Whatever they do, they should do it soon, because the Blue Hens need all the help they can get and time is not on their side.

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