This chart from today’s dead-tree edition about Towson basketball didn’t make it onto Al Gore’s Invention, but it is extremely telling about the state of the Tigers’ program:
MOST CONSECUTIVE LOSING SEASONS IN DIVISION I BASKETBALL
Not good. Not at all.
And one guy not remotely interested in that? Towson’s high-energy new athletic director, Mike Waddell, whose big job last month was finding a replacement for Pat Kennedy to run a basketball program that went 4-26 and remains 0-for-2011.
“I wanted somebody that was results-oriented, that wasn’t going to worry about the past,” Waddell said. “Who cares about the past? One game, one year doesn’t have anything to with the next one. … I couldn’t care less we haven’t been to the tournament since the early 1990s when Terry Truax was the coach. It doesn’t matter that the last three head coaches here haven’t won because it has no bearing on the Kansas game on Nov. 11, it has no bearing on the Michigan game on Nov. 14 or Oregon State on Nov. 26 or Virginia on Dec. 30 or any of the other 26 games we’re going to play next year, minimum. I expect to be playing more than that.”
That guy who isn’t going to fret about the Tigers’ history is Pat Skerry, whose reputation as a recruiter will be needed for a program returning only three players who appeared a season ago.
“Pat gets players,” said Dave Telep, ESPN.com’s senior college basketball recruiting analyst. “He’s always had a knack. In recruiting, you’re either good or you’re not. There’s no middle ground, and he is. He’s been in some places where he had to really search under rocks to get guys and he’s done a good job with that.”
Consider Skerry’s progression as a Division I assistant: Northeastern to William and Mary to College of Charleston to Rhode Island to Providence to Pittsburgh. There were some solid basketball schools in there (obviously Pitt, but also Charleston and Rhode Island), but not exactly traditional college hoops royalty, either.
“He understands the lifeblood of success is recruiting,” said Marshall coach Tom Herrion, who hired Skerry for his staff at Charleston. “He’s cut his cloth as a recruiter at a lot of different places. He knows that in order to change the results at Towson, it first and foremost starts with changing the culture. Even more importantly, improving the talent level. He’s a tireless recruiter, and he’s very resourceful and creative in terms of exhausting every option.”
Whether looking to the past or future, there is an element Skerry and Towson can’t control as they vie for first respectability and then contention in the CAA. That is the competition, namely the resources other schools in the league are pouring into basketball.
Both VCU and George Mason have Final Four appearances in the last six seasons. Old Dominion won a game in last year’s NCAA tournament. Drexel’s a consistently good, if not elite, CAA program. Hofstra wins 20 games more often than not. James Madison, Northeastern and William and Mary all have improved in recent years. UNC Wilmington has a history of success, even if it’s not in the last four or five seasons.
That’s a lot of other schools to leapfrog, and all see basketball as a way to succeed as an athletic department.
Apparently, Towson does now, too.
“I think the thing with Towson is they made a commitment resource-wise, coaching-wise and financially to make a real run at this thing,” Telep said. “That’s the first step. There’s no forgiveness in that league. It’s a hard basketball league, so you have to be committed. They’ve taken that step now. The next five years will determine the direction of this thing.”
—- Patrick Stevens