Sunday, May 22, 2011

John Becker In As Coach

Coach Becker. I can get down with that.

The University of Vermont made John Becker the head coach of the men's basketball program on Friday. The hire was not as juicy as it could have been, but it was a safe and calculated hire. The team will face less of a transition period going into next season, assuming that Becker's style of coaching will not differ dramatically from that of former Coach Mike Lonergan. Also, returning players and recruits who committed to play at Vermont will be less likely to look into playing at another program, which is often a concern when you hire a coach from outside of your program.

Becker has previous head coaching experience at Division III Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf and hearing impaired. He then moved on to being an assistant coach at Catholic University (where Lonergan used to coach) before coming to Vermont to be an assistant under Lonergan. That type of experience had to be what set Becker apart from Lonergan's top assistant at Vermont, Hajj Turner, who will be going to GW with Lonergan.

Apparently, Becker had tears in his eyes while he was being announced as the head coach. Imagine how hard he will be bawling when Vermont wins an NCAA tournament game.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Coaching Search Continues

In the midst of Vermont's search for a new coach, I have been on a four day, 2,300 mile road trip back to Vermont (I took a bizarre route to make sure I saw some old friends). That is the my excuse for the lack of coverage detailing UVM's ongoing coaching search. Sporting Vermont recently ran a great piece covering this subject, and, as that article points out, John Fantino has also done a predictably good job keeping the Catamount faithful up to speed.

So here's what we know: former Lonergan assistant John Becker is the interim head coach -- a great choice because he helped keep recruits committed to UVM, and he has helped keep current players from transferring (so far). Keep in mind how many schools would love to have Brian Voelkel, Luke Apfeld, or Sandro Carissimo and their three years of remaining eligibility. We know that Middlebury coach Jeff Brown is not interested in the job. As our friend Oscar, who writes for America Least, pointed out, Brown has a really good situation at Middlebury. You have to respect coaches who know that good is good enough. Just ask Dan Munson. Or Billy Gillespie. Or Jeff Capel. It's a long list, and those are only a few high profile cases of coaches who sprung for "better" coaching jobs that turned out to be a whole lot worse. We also know that Hajj Turner, Lonergan's top assistant, will be headed down to GW with Lonergan.

Other than that, several names have been thrown around as possible candidates to take over at UVM. Don't count Becker out, but I would personally be surprised if he landed the head coaching job without the "interim" part attached to the title. He was not even Lonergan's top assistant, and though he has legitimate experience coaching at the Division III level, you would think UVM would look for a bigger name. It will be interesting to see how it unfolds.

Sure is nice to be back home in Vermont.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Lonergan Leaves For GW

The Vermont men's basketball team has no head coach. Mike Lonergan announced last night via text message that he will be coaching the George Washington Colonials next season.

During Lonergan's six years at Vermont, the Catamounts enjoyed a record of 126-68 and qualified for one NCAA tournament, a CBI, and two NIT appearances. They won the regular season crown twice during his tenure (and shared it a third time).

The national search for a new head coach to fill the gaping hole at Vermont will begin immediately. The front runner for this job will likely be somebody with no Division I head coaching experience -- remember, Lonergan did not have any when he first came to Burlington. Jeff Brown, who graduated from UVM in 1982, seems to be the people's choice (I know this because of twitter). Brown is considered a great tactician and recruiter at the Division III level, down the road at Middlebury, where he has coached for the past fourteen years. All the Panthers did this past season was go 28-2 en route to the NCAA semifinals.

Another possible candidate would have to be Hajj Turner, Lonergan's former top assistant. Turner was rumored to be going back to his alma mater, Louisville, to become an assistant under Rick Pitino. It seems like that has fallen through.

The dark horse, the crazy-hire, the are-you-out-of-your-mind-candidate is your boy, T.J. Sorrentine, who has been a top assistant at Brown the last two seasons. Lord knows, Sorrentine would be welcomed back to Patrick with arms wide open. If you foolishly clicked that link, I apologize.

So today we say goodbye to Mike Lonergan and wish him the best of luck in the future. I can already picture the odd frequency with which I will find myself on the GW athletics page, quietly hoping that Lonergan can make us proud, and the strange warm feeling that I will get when a GW game is on television and the ESPN announcers are obliged to say, "Lonergan had great success at his previous job, coaching up in Burlington. (Second announcer): He coached at UVM, where he replaced our buddy, Tom Brennan." And UVM basketball will get a little more well-deserved respect. And for that, Coach Lonergan, we thank you.