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April 20, 2008
Around the Rim
Coaching Changes Abound

by John Perrotto

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Keno Davis couldn’t have had a much better first season as a college head coach. Once it was over, he leveraged it into a better job.

Davis was hired at Providence earlier this week, replacing Tim Welsh. While compiling a 28-5 record at Drake this past season, Davis led the Bulldogs to their first Missouri Valley Conference title and first NCAA Tournament berth since 1971.

However, the lure of the Big East Conference was too much for the 36-year-old Davis to resist. When Davis was a youngster, in the Big East's early days, his father Tom was the coach at Boston College.

“Drake did everything that I could’ve asked of them and more,” Davis said at his introductory press conference. “If it was about money, I’d have probably gone back. Not that they were offering more money but they were doing everything they could.

“It was about what Providence is and what they aren’t. It was about the Big East, and it’s my roots and an opportunity.”

Providence was 15-16 this past season and hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2004. The last time the Friars won a game in the NCAAs was 1997, when they got to the Elite Eight before losing to Arizona in overtime.

Despite the program’s recent lack of success, Davis believes he can make Providence a power in the Big East.

“Drake did everything, and more, to try to keep me there,” he said. “It was a tough decision for us. But with my background, being in this area I love the Big East and big-time college basketball. As excited as I am about being here at Providence, I want to bring that excitement because I think we’re at that tipping point where we can do something special here.”

Drake, meanwhile, is looking for a coach just a month after its magical season ended with a first-round loss in overtime to Western Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament. Athletic director Sandy Hatfield Clubb is confident she can find a suitable replacement for Davis, named national Coach of The Year by The Associated Press.

“If we want to be able to sustain the kind of success that we have had so far, we have to be a place where those really talented up-and-comers seek us out. That is happening," Hatfield Clubb told the Des Moines Register. “Some people I might put on my list of possible replacements have contacted us.”

Drake assistant Chris Davis is expected to get strong consideration for the job. Among others being speculated as candidates are Wisconsin assistants Gary Close and Greg Gard, former Missouri State coach Barry Hinson, Indiana State associate head coach Greg Lansing and Washington State assistant Matt Woodley.

From Amherst to Stillwater

Travis Ford also leveraged a fine season into a better job as he left Massachusetts for Oklahoma State after guiding the Minutemen to a 25-11 record and a berth in the NIT championship game. Ford turned down Providence before heading to Stillwater.

Ford was Oklahoma State’s third choice to replace Sean Sutton. The Cowboys were turned down by Bill Self, two days after he guided Kansas to the national championship, and Southern Illinois’ Chris Lowery.

Ford is 190-146 in 11 years as a head coach at NAIA Campbellsville, Eastern Kentucky and Massachusetts.

Ford has made his mark by playing a fast-paced offense. He said that will not change at Oklahoma State, though he bristled at the idea that the Cowboys will be a run-and-gun team.

“I get upset when people call it run-and-gun,” Ford said. “Run-and-gun to me is you don’t care what type of shots, you just want to run down there and shoot it. We just want to force a lot of pressure. We want to be aggressive. When people come in this arena they know it’s going to be a long night. We don’t live and die with every possession because there are usually so many possessions in the game. I want our kids to have fun and not have that pressure on their shoulders.”

Oklahoma State went 17-16 last season, but is just three years removed from being in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament and four years removed from a Final Four appearance.

From Memphis to Poughkeepsie

Memphis lost one of its assistant coaches after its run to the national championship game as Chuck Martin left to take the head coaching job at Marist.

Martin also served as an assistant at Manhattan, Massachusetts, Drexel and St. John’s. Many feel that hiring him is a coup for a mid-major like Marist, which plays in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Part of the lure of going to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., is that Martin is a native of New York City.

“I’m excited to be back in my home state and I’m looking forward to continuing a fine basketball tradition at Marist,” Martin said.

Martin replaced Matt Brady, who left to become head coach at James Madison. The Red Foxes were 18-14 last season.

From Manhattan to...

Forward Michael Beasley has decided to enter the NBA Draft after just one season at Kansas State. There are many experts who believe he will be the first overall pick following his fabulous freshman season with the Wildcats.

Beasley ranked third in the nation in scoring with a 26.2 average and led the country in rebounding with 12.4 boards a game. He was also third in number of possessions (33.5), sixth in defensive rebounding percentage (29.9), ninth in percentage of shots (35.7) and 46th in offensive rebounding percentage (13.3).

“I came into college knowing that I was going to be an OK player, but I didn't think I was going to be this good,” Beasley said during the news conference to announce he was turning pro. “I didn't think I was going to progress so quickly.”

Kansas State coach Frank Martin said he considered trying to talk Beasley into staying for selfish reasons but knew he couldn’t do so with a clear conscience.

“Like I told him, if I had a son his age that was the best player in college basketball, I would have to tell him he's got to go," Martin told the Manhattan Mercury. “It's why we all go to college, so we can make a living. If there’s an opportunity to be worth $100 million, you have to take it. That window is not always open.”

Meanwhile, a number of other well-known underclassmen declared for the draft this week including UCLA freshman center Kevin Love, Southern California freshman guard O.J. Mayo and the Kansas duo of junior guard Brandon Rush and sophomore forward Darrell Arthur.

The decisions of Love and Mayo, magazine cover boys at the start of the season, were no surprise as both were expected to stay for just one year from the day they stepped foot on their rival Los Angeles campuses.

“I’m in the right spot to take my game to the next level,” Love said.

“This is to secure my family,” Mayo said of his decision. “That’s the most important thing for me right now.”

Rush also declared for the draft last year but decided to return to Kansas after suffering a knee injury that required surgery. However, he says there is no chance he will be back with the defending national championship Jayhawks this time.

“There’s no turning back from here,” Rush said.

Arthur, meanwhile, is not going to hire an agent, which would allow him to return to college if he so desires.

“If it’s good, I’ll stay and move on to the NBA. If not, I’ll come back and try for another national championship,” Arthur said.

ACC/Big Ten Challenge

The matchups for the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge were announced this week. The headline game will be on Dec. 3 when Michigan State hosts North Carolina at Ford Field in Detroit, site of next year’s Final Four.

“North Carolina is a team that could potentially be No. 1 in the nation,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo told Booth Newspapers. “We should be pretty good, too, which could make this one of the most-talked about matchups of the year in college basketball.”

The other pairings are: Wisconsin at Virginia Tech on Dec. 1; Duke at Purdue, Clemson at Illinois, Ohio State at Miami, Virginia at Minnesota and Iowa at Boston College on Dec. 2; and Indiana at Wake Forest, Michigan at Maryland, Florida State at Northwestern and Penn State at Georgia Tech on Dec.3.

John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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