Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Searching for a Dragon

It's apparent that the wagons have been circled in the Athletic and Executive offices at Drexel.  Basketball game attendance is down sharply, but number of business suits at basketball games is up.  The leaks are getting tighter and the cloud within the DAC thicker.  With three weeks left in a stubborn, frustrating season it's not too early to be looking forward to the next chapter, and if planing for the future, it is well past time.  When the college basketball season ends in Houston the Drexel Men's Basketball program is more than likely going to have a new steward.

When that person is chosen, supporters can only hope the next coach will treat this program with the same class and dignity that Bruiser Flint did.  We can hope that the coach will also buy (of age) students a round when they see them at a watering hole, and that they will treat their fellow staff like they would like to be treated.  Writing this piece at this time is tremendously insulting to a man who has never been anything but outstanding to those who have supported the program.  It's kicking dirt when we should be saying thank you.  Today we plan, but when that time comes, we will say thank you, although not nearly - not even close to - as loudly, as passionately or as brilliantly as his fifteen years of service deserve.

When it became clear that the likelihood of a coaching change was high, an informal questionnaire was sent out to a number of Drexel Men's Basketball supporters and stakeholders.  It received a 60% response rate to the one question that was asked:  "What would you look for in a potential Head Coach?"  It was kept as broad as possible and no recommendations or ideas were provided.  What was received back had a handful of consistent threads, and some surprises.  Those answers are below:

  • The overwhelmingly most common and in fact unanimous response was said in a number of different ways.

    "Youth" "Upcoming" "Not a big conference retread" "Successful at a lower level" "Promising Assistant" "Ambitious"

    Not that we would ever give a weary eye towards a former conference mate, but it certainly sounded like an all out avoidance of a Paul Hewitt/ George Mason situation would be appreciated.

  • The second most common piece of feedback was split down into two remarks.  The first was not just to avoid the Flint coaching tree, but rather the entire Calipari coaching family.  There is a desire for a clean break, to use this opportunity to put a fresh face on a program that seems in decline both on the court and in the stands.  The second segment of that commentary is a desire to bring in someone who will surround themselves with a staff that will add value to the Head Coach.  The Head Coach and Athletic Director need to understand the coaches areas of weakness and bring in staff that will fill those gaps.  Perhaps out of need (those positions were allegedly underfunded) and perhaps out of desire, those positions had been filled as a way to promote from within, and to recognize and develop potential coaching talent.  Potential donors indicated a preference to see those positions used tactically rather than developmentally going forward.

  • One of the other areas of consistent feedback was a strong preference to continue one of Coach Flint's legacies.  The phrase "Student Athlete" may not be dead, but it is to the NCAA what Donald Trump is to the Republican Establishment.  It's an eye roll, a joke or outwardly trampled on at many Universities.  While no school is perfect, that the Men's Basketball program has largely stayed out of legal and APR trouble over Bruiser's tenure is admirable and was shown a large amount of respect by the respondents.

  • The importance of recruiting was mentioned by the entire group, but in a very inconsistent manner.  Some spoke to the importance of knowing Philadelphia basketball, or at least Drexel's place in Philadelphia basketball.  Others spoke towards recruiting for specific skill sets, or finding people to fit the coaches specific system.  The takeaway here seemed clear, there are multiple ways to skin this particular cat, the next coach simply needs an effective, actionable plan that fits their goals.
  • Respondents were extremely varied in their opinion as to stylistically what they would like to be represented by.  As such, no thought will be presented on the subject.  One related area to consider is Ken Pomeroy's recent study showing the predictors of future offensive performance.  One of the very troubling indicators when the Administration resigned Coach Flint in 2012 with an extended deal and a raise was that his offense had only ranked in the top half of college basketball twice in eleven seasons.  When we have predictors like 2pt shooting percentage available, they should be used and while that may not have barred a new deal at the time, it may have given the Administration some pause and concerns to address as part of the deal.  Going forward, this knowledge can be used to help highlight potential candidates and programs that have shown consistently strong results in areas that indicate future success.
  • One respondent noted Dragon Athletics pride around gender equity, and suggested that female candidates should be considered.  I wholeheartedly agree, and would like to use that to speak to a broader "money where our mouth is" approach.  The Drexel mission statement states that:

Drexel is an academically comprehensive and globally engaged urban research university, dedicated to advancing knowledge and society and to providing every student with a valuable, rigorous, experiential, technology-infused education, enriched by the nation's premier co-operative education program.

The next Head Coach needs to embody the University's principles.  Technology should be used to the best possible advantage, and a budget needs to be available to allow that.  The staff should be composed of individuals that will challenge each others assertions and bring arguments to the table that will enable an experimental learning process.  A thirst for knowledge and a constant desire to improve and adapt is the foundation of all education, and it is critical in this constantly changing sport.  Drexel has a phenomenal campus environment that appreciates and embraces those ideals.  It's time for the Athletics Department to join it.

Not all of this is easy.  None of this is inexpensive.  But there are approximately 1400 assistant men's basketball coaches on D-I, and another 1400 assistant women's coaches.  In a city that makes college basketball a front door to their learning institutions there is no reason why Drexel lags behind their peers.  The time is long past due.  The location is sound.  The resources can be made available.  Drexel can succeed.  The change is coming, and we look to our leaders to cultivate that desire for success.


  1. They should look at the brilliant Wayne Brent, presently head coach at Jackson St. He was a big winner in high school. He has done a tremendous job with xs and os and now with a team that wins. Outside the box but a proven winner.

  2. I've got a couple of others, but I'm just going to mention the one that has piqued my interest the most in reading up on him.
    Martin Ingelsby, assistant at Notre Dame under Brey.

    Local guy, Berwyn, played HS ball at a school that's been pretty good for us on the women's side in Archbishop Carroll. Tasked with scouting for the ACC and NCAA tourneys last year. Glowing reviews from Brey and Derek Wittenburg whom he started his coaching career under at Wagner.

    Him, Denise and Rullo out at Neumann are probably my main three, guess I lied about only mentioning one.

  3. For me Ingelsby is the leader. The more that I read about him the more that I like him.

    Joe Linderman is coaching high school ball in the area, and he's a Herrion guy, not a Bruiser guy.

    The only Bruiser guy that I would entertain bringing in would be Bashir Mason. He's young, and he has strong ties to the Hurley family, Danny specifically. With that and his North Jersey background, he'd have some strong ties to some strong basketball.

    Lastly, I am not comfortable with breaking through the glass ceiling of having a woman coach men's basketball. After what we have been through over the last fifteen years, we need a pick that is a little safer than that, for the good of the program. That said, if the right candidate came around, I would entertain the idea, but it needs to be the right candidate without gender figuring into the equation. Denise is very successful with the women's game, which is another reason that I think the school will avoid it. Its not like we are a program that rides on the back of men coaching women's sports.

  4. I agree that bringing in a women may be a progressive idea, but it's not time to be groundbreaking and experimenting. If they're going to bring in a coach from Women's Basketball, the person they should interview would not be a women, but Kenny Brooks from JMU. He's been a lot more successful than Denise has been. I'm not saying he's the guy I want as a head coach, just debating the women's basketball thing.

    1. Why not? We cant go any lower than we are now. If anything it is the perfect time to try something vastly different. I dont want Denise to be the person, though. She has been great for our womens team and I do not want them to suffer but if there was another coach with similar mentalities of experimenting with players/lineups through the OOC to ready them for the CAA slate, I would certainly be open to it.

  5. Mainly because there are lots of incredible candidates in Men's Basketball right now who would live to have the Drexel job and can succeed. In order to hire a women to coach Men's Basketball, I'd like to see her as an assistant first to prove that she can bring in men's recruits and get the respect from male players. Too risky to pull a women out of women's basketball and put her in a head coaching role right away.

    1. Yeah, I would be concerned with that as well and starting off as an assistant may be the better route to start off on. I should have also clarified my comment by stating those were names I'd like interviews to be offered to, not necessarily the job.

      I mentioned this in my response to the email, but my personal biggest wish should change occur would be for Fry to be at the press conference to explain how and why the expectations hadn't been met and what they will be moving into the future and what strategies will be utilized to meet them. The biggest foundational piece to rebuilding this program, in my mind, is going to be whether we offer COA. There are very few schools who aren't providing that for at least the basketball programs, and being amongst those few will limit our potential search.

  6. serious questions:

    - what's the sample size of this poll?

    - more business suits at the game...what does that mean, people are dressing nicely? fry's been at 2 games this year.

    - why avoid calipari family? calipari has done pretty well, as have many in that *family*

    - budget...if a change is made, are all of these so called dragon supporters who have "stayed away" "until bru is gone" suddenly going to start donating?

    1. Hi Dragon Fan, I think there are some very valid questions here and would be happy to discuss, but I'd like to avoid taking this too far off topic in this space. Please email and we can follow up online or in person. Thanks!

    2. i would avoid the calipari family 1. because of what we've seen from bruiser and 2. calipari has been successful, but not in a way i would be proud of. he's part of the problem with college basketball where guys come in for a year or 2 and then leave. at our level, we need a staff that can develop players because they're great coaches instead of great recruiters. it's what makes mid-major basketball so much fun to follow because you still get to watch players develop.

      and to answer your last question...yes...i will start donating. it looks like you only need to donate $2,000 to get 2 season tickets. that would be a good place to start. we'll see how it goes from there.

  7. Thanks for the feedback all, Brent and Inglesby certainly deserve consideration and we'll dive more into them offline.

    While the point was made about the gender and the conversation is very relevant, I will repeat what I said to Dragon Fan and say lets not go down too narrow a path and lose the overall focus.

    Ryan, your request of Fry (while I agree as wishful thinking, and that's another good discussion for another day) is interesting, but didn't fit with today's piece. Certainly a broader discussion of what his goal is for the program with STH's is a very good idea. I won't say transparency is a good thing at that level, but sharing the programs goals wouldn't seem to be harmful, and could in fact be quite helpful.

    Thanks as always!

  8. I really hesitate with the idea of someone from Bru's coaching tree. However, right after his playing days ended and coaching days began, I gave Bash and his girlfriend a ride home from an all star game in DC to Philly. It was really eye opening, as he said the players shared the same offensive frustrations as fans did. They sort of felt like Bru's coaching was holding us back on that end of the floor. I haven't followed his career to see if he runs better sets at Wagner or not, but I do think of him as a potential good young coach. While Denise might be able to coach the men better, no way would I even think of that route. First off, I doubt a woman could get much respect from a female coach. That would probably be a bigger hurdle than anything. Boys & Girls HS in NYC did have a pretty good woman coach for awhile, but I'd think that would be the exception.

  9. how is any of what i asked off topic? all are points made in this post?

    1. Dragon Fan, you're absolutely correct, they are underlying points that support the broader theme of where to go from here. If you would like to discuss where to go from here in the comments, go to town. If you would like more detail on the supporting points, again, I'd be genuinely happy to discuss, I would just like to do it in a forum more conducive to the discussion than the comments section of a post about moving forward. So please, feel free to email me at

      With regards to the Calipari tree, because that question of yours certainly applies to looking forward, I agree largely with what Nate spoke to above. No one questions how successful that tree has been at other institutions. Cal wins off of recruiting more than anything else, but even he can start 5 NBA players and still lose college games with them. Had Bru won, it would have been much the same way, by getting guys like Damion Lee, Frantz Massenet and Chris Fouch, who would be successful in any type of offense they played in and could have been playing at a level above the CAA.

      While the respondents main point seemed to simply be a desire for a clean slate, which seems fair, I also believe and saw a couple of comments about having more of a do more with less coach then a coach who relies on recruiting. Note that that last comment was not across the board, as other commenters noted a desire for a Philadelphia presence and that recruiting should still be the number one concern. While the desire for the clean slate was seemingly unanimous, what they were looking for beyond that was certainly more divisive.

  10. Since I've got some time, I'll take some shots here.

    First, if they go with a new coach, it should be someone like Rullo or Linderman that completely understands the "Drexel Approach."
    What is the "Drexel Approach?"

    The "Drexel Approach" is an attitude among university management that as long as the team isn't an embarrassment and appears competitive "all is well". Winning and achievement aren't the goals with the "Drexel Approach." Keeping up appearances and giving 100% are far more important. (P.S. don't forget to bring in some money so we can offset the costs for the other sports that have little chance of earning money. This will kill your winning% in the short term, possibly hurt your career chances longer term, and the lousy turn out kills who you can schedule, but chin up all is well cause you get to coach DI at Drexel.)

    Drexel's next coach faces even more struggles than most realize.

    1) Drexel isn't an easy school. Finding competitive recruits that can still remain eligible at DU is no small task. There is a reason most of the players in the Philadelphia area can't be touched by our coaching staff. It is a societal issue much bigger than anything Drexel or government can address.

    2)If you can get past the academic challenge, look at the facilities. Yes, they are better, but some suburban high schools now have larger gyms. There is no designated practice facility. Drexel will almost always be recruiting the lower tier recruits as a result of 1 and 2. The university may luck out and find a transfer like Massenat that fell through the cracks, but numerous seasons pass for talent like that to fall in your lap. Remember, Frantz was supposed to go to Towson.

    3)The NCAA basketball world has changed. You can't defensively muck up games like in the past. The 30 second shot clock won't allow it. If you want an argument against older alumni (Linderman or Rullo)coming in to coach this would be it. The game has shifted to an offensive-motion-quick tempo style. High School still focuses on defense so I don't see a chance at a High School coach. Bruiser's defense oriented game doesn't have a place here. Teams can't hide in delay offense at the college level. Fall behind and the only choice you have is aggressive man to man. Today's game needs stretch 6-7 to 6-9 forwards that can knock down 3's and defend the wing. Watch Jim Boeheim's teams at Syracuse. I won't praise Boeheim for much but his vision to accept the Carmelo Anthony type foward kept Syracuse competitive for decades.

    The deck is even more stacked against anyone that takes the job. The 5 big conferences have autonomy now. How's our cost of attendance amount being paid out? O.K. We had an AD that voted against it. What was he thinking? Do you honestly think that the tide won't roll back to the shore when you look out at the ocean? When I saw Zillmers resistence to change, it all became apparent.

    So what can Drexel do?

    Here's a radical idea. Ask Brett Brown of the 76er's to find us a "PROFESSIONAL COACH" from his staff that wants an extra 250k a year to coach the team. When he can't attend games because the 76er's play or travel, he's excused and the assistants coach at the Drexel games.

    Experimental, hell yes. But you won't win without players and you would get a large amount of publicity not to mention players that want to play for a known pro coach with contacts.

    It won't happen. Too radical, but radical is what turns this around.