Scott Kier is back with a rundown on the new faces of the Drexel Men's Basketball staff:
With the hiring of Zach Spiker, the Drexel Dragons set off in a new direction. The first task, of course, was filling out the rest of the coaching staff. Spiker comes from a different kind of program. Army does not recruit like more traditional Division 1 programs which can be a double edged sword. While it shows Spiker’s ability to in theory do more with less on the court, it could also handicap him when it comes to recruiting in the heavily competitive Mid-Atlantic region.
For most of his time with Drexel, now former head coach Bruiser Flint surrounded himself with guys who were overshadowed by their boss’s perceived ability. A large portion of the front court work fell on the shoulders of Associate Head Coach Mike Connors and while former walk-on Bobby Jordan did an admirable job with recruitment, the bench was largely made up of guys whose resumes either revolved around Bru or had coaching credits that had at least touched the now former head coach during their career.
One of the signs of a strong leader is the self-awareness to know one’s weaknesses and surrounding oneself with support staff that can offer something to address those weaknesses. This past week, Coach Spiker rounded out his coaching staff with the hirings of Associate Head Coach Rob O’Driscoll, and assistants Paul Fortier and Chris Clark. Each brings something unique to the table.
Rob O’Driscoll – The first Drexel staff member named by Coach Spiker was JMU mainstay Rob O’Driscoll who served in the same capacity for The Dukes. During his eight seasons on the JMU bench, the team made one NCAA appearance and posted four 20 win seasons. His real value, however, comes with his ability to recruit.
During his four years at Marist he served as the team’s recruitment coordinator and handled a large chunk of the scouting responsibilities. Digging a little deeper, O’Driscoll also has long standing Philadelphia ties having started his career with Villanova way back in 1994 as the team’s administrative assistant while working on his master’s degree in business administration.
The most interesting thing about O’Driscoll is unlike the rest of the coaching staff, he has no college basketball experience on the court. O’Driscoll instead was selected to the Big East All-Academic team in 1992-93. In Tennis.
Paul Fortier – Fortier comes to Drexel from Cal Polytech where he served for three years as an Associate Head Coach. Fortier, who himself was a power forward, was regarded as a key component in the success of the Stangs’ front court in the 2014-2015 season turning out a pair of juniors, one of whom led the team in scoring and the other who put up 1.3 blocks per game. He is the kind of guy that the likes of Rodney Williams could thrive under.
While Fortier lacks the Philadelphia and CAA ties that his colleagues possess, he has been a part of a few successful programs. He was a big part of some strong Cornell teams in the early 2000’s (which is where he met Coach Spiker), and during his eight seasons on the University of Washington bench, he helped coach four teams into the NCAA Tournament and was part of two that made appearances in the Sweet 16.
Chris Clark – Clark is an interesting addition to this coaching staff. Clark is a 2008 graduate and former captain of the Temple University Owls who served most recently as the team’s Video Coordinator, a position that he took at the beginning of the 2015 season. Clark also has coaching experience at first with a four year stint at St. Francis University followed by two years at Campbell University in North Carolina. He real benefit to the Drexel program, however, is in some of his off the court contributions.
A lot of people championed Bruiser Flint because of the positive light that he represented Drexel University and the basketball program in. Carter, like Flint, has a long standing history of volunteerism in and around the Philadelphia area. He is a guy who can guide Coach Spiker through the philanthropic channels of West Philadelphia and while this staff might not accomplish some of the things that Bruiser was able to, Clark could certainly be a key component in maintaining a connection with the community.
When Zach Spiker was named as the new head coach in March, some were quick to point out his weaknesses. His ability to recruit, specifically in Philadelphia, and his lack of ties to the area were two of the most frequently mentioned concerns. While Bruiser Flint chose to rely on his own coaching ability as well as the input of long-time confidant Mike Connors, Spiker has chosen to go in a different direction. With the hiring of O’Driscoll, Fortier, and Clark he has a guy with experience recruiting CAA caliber players, an assistant who has proven himself capable of effectively developing front court players, and a young up and comer with his finger on the pulse of Philadelphia.
Most importantly, Spiker has surrounded himself with a group that has collectively made eleven appearances in the NCAA Tournament, nearly twice as many as the previous staff. Connors and Flint made five of those in house that Calipari built at the University of Massachusetts almost two decades ago. The sixth belongs to John Linehan who danced during his junior year at Providence College in 2000-01.