You know what the saddest thing about being a Duquesne supporter is?
Three of the five most exciting months I’ve had in my fifteen years of following the team have been coaching changes. The other two were when they flirted with first place in ’10-’11 and the championship run in ’08-’09. Even more sad, the sixth came when Ovie Soko and Derrick Colter went buck wild at the summer league in 2014.
We can only go up from here, right? RIGHT!?!?!?!?!
Rumor has it, Duquesne is actually looking to blow the doors off this search which makes this change particularly exciting. They need to. As frustrating as Jim Ferry was as a coach, he at least had the program heading in the right direction in terms of personnel. Two freshman of the year contenders and a solid incoming class on paper made me think the coach had something going for all his foibles.
The Dukes literally need to go big or just go at this point. The program went from no measures under Brian Colleary to half measures under Greg Amodio after much settling for what had to be his second choice. The program is literally on life support. There are only a handful of fans that show their faces and invest their money. On the internet, the program has more trolls than Vladimir Putin has working the Dutch elections. The next hire needs to recruit strongly, plus the pending changes to the AJP renovations need to be on point, or the Dukes should explore voluntarily leaving the Atlantic 10.
So who would they hire? I have a shortlist just long enough to clear 1000 words.
Groce was the original Dino Gaudio in that he was a reported candidate for the Duquesne job in 2006 because he probably hung out with Greg Amodio after business hours during their time at Xavier. Ron Everhart got the job and the rest is history.
I get the complaints about Groce’s conference record and his inability to do more with more at Illinois. While this is consistently paraded as a great job, is it really? They’ve only danced in two of five years prior to his arrival and the guy he replaced jumped ship for a job in Kansas that wasn’t Kansas. Groce did well with what he inherited and was coming into his own recruiting with the 11th best class in the country according to 247 coming in next year. That would be his second top 20 class in the last three years and third overall. He’s also beaten some solid coaches in the B1G, the likes of which he won’t see in the A-10, including Tom Izzo three times. Groce would provide star power that Duquesne has not seen in a long time and with Travis Ford bringing in tons of transfer talent and coaching hot garbage to an 11th place finish in Saint Louis, why not grab a guy in need of a quick rebound?
I’m not sure if Gregory should actually be a true candidate but he’s worth mentioning briefly as he could be the new Dino Gaudio. He and Harper were at Dayton at the same time.
Would he be a terrible hire? He has had some success in the A-10, but he did so with the juggernaut that is Dayton basketball. Overall, he may have underachieved a little bit, finishing better than 7th in the league only once in his final four seasons though he was consistently strong in the non conference.
Fife was 25 when he took over then-independent IPFW Mastadons in 2005. He spent six seasons with the school moving them to the Summit and eventually posting an 18 win season his final year. At 31, he made an incredibly mature career decision. Fife played for Bob Knight and he decided to learn from another Hall of Fame coach, taking an assistant coaching job with Izzo and Michigan St.
Presumably, it’s a matter of when, not if, Fife will return to the head coaching ranks, but it likely will need to be the right situation. The question is would Duquesne be that situation?
We’ve now officially entered “the former guards from elite programs” portion of this piece. In the coaching world, Paulus is super young, but he cut his teeth as a player under Coach K and has spent the last six years on Thad Matta’s staff. He even mixed in a year with Ed Dechellis at Navy where he learned a thing or two about difficult coaching jobs no doubt.
Ultimately, his age could keep him out of the Duquesne graveyard, mitigating some of the risk any coach who comes here must acknowledge. He could sign, get canned, get another elite assistant coaching job and by the time he’s 42 be in line for another head coaching job. At the moment, he might be a touch too green for my taste, though he’ll certainly bring a lot of name recognition to the recruiting trail. He could be the most exciting choice on the list and likely has the highest ceiling.
Q: Why would Rice leave Monmouth to coach the Dukes?
A: A-10 teams don’t need to finish in the top 30 RPI to get at large bids (Unless you’re St Bonaventure).
Rice would be a huge win for Duquesne. His teams are so fundamentally sound that our aging fans won’t even feel compelled to shout ‘bend your legs’ every time one of his players takes a shot. Sadly, I haven’t watched much Monmouth basketball the last couple of years, but Rice built up a struggling program in a few seasons to where they were top 50 this year. His task will no doubt be difficult at Duquesne, but he has at least one elite build under his belt. His first successful core graduates this season, so he’s likely on the move this year rather than stick around for a second rebuild. He’s probably just off the radar of the Power Five jobs, but could be in play for UMass.
Mike Rice, Jr.
Mike Rice is a scumbag, but he’s also a really good basketball coach. He was great at Robert Morris and on his way at Rutgers before he melted down on his players and lost his job. Whether through skill or intimidation, his players are tough and get better year over year. He will likely take a hit on the recruiting trail, but I think he traditionally has done more with less.
You’ll note that this list is pretty big but if the Dukes don’t get someone who’s pretty big, again they might as well pack it in. They need to make a statement with this hire and while the next coaches name doesn’t need to be on this list it does need to turn heads.
I don’t care who the new coach is. I will be more interested in year 4-6 than 1-3, as I was with Ferry. This is particularly true for assistant coaches. I hope others take this approach as coaches taking over for fired coaches don’t often turn the corner until year four or five. Our fans would have called for King Rice’s head after his first two years. Patience is needed, but so is your unwavering support. It’s time for the fans that are left to stop hating. They need to redirect their energy to more constructive things than begging for the return of the motion offense and bashing 19 year olds. Showing up helps and making a commitment to do more of that, via an email to the AD and President promising to do so if they do this right, can’t hurt.