The worst kept secret in town is no longer a private matter.
Pat Kennedy is out as the head basketball coach at Towson University.
Don’t let the press release fool you, Kennedy didn’t “step down” or “resign” or “move on to another venture”. He was relieved of his duties. Or, at the very least, Pat was told he wouldn’t be offered a new contract. Call it what you want, but this much is certain: Towson didn’t want Pat Kennedy to coach their basketball team any longer. Evidently, the team’s assistant coaches were also dismissed today, although no formal word of those departures has been made by Towson’s athletic department. (EDIT: Two basketball staffers WERE retained, including assistant coach Phil Cohen, but they are both remaining on board in an “interim” capacity to see the program through the coaching transitional period.)
It should be noted that Kennedy’s contract was set to expire next month, anyway, so his removal earlier today was merely getting a head start on the obvious.
I like Pat Kennedy. And I know there were a handful of mitigating circumstances that led to his 7-year run of disappointing seasons. It wasn’t ALL on him. But I also know that Pat Kennedy would have fired Pat Kennedy if he were in charge of the program and Pat Kennedy-the-coach produced a 4-26 campaign.
I’m not sure why a school with a 4-26 basketball record – and an unmentionable 0-19 conference mark – can’t just say “we fired the coach today”, but Towson – perhaps at Kennedy’s request – tried to make everyone in town believe the 7-year Tiger coach “stepped down”. And as far as “classy moves” go, it’s at least a decent-enough going-away gift to let Kennedy word the press release to his liking by giving him the opportunity to “resign”.
Of course he didn’t resign.
But that’s neither here nor there, honestly.
After 7 seasons on the job and a stunning 2010-2011 campaign that saw the Tigers fail to win a game in the CAA, it was time for Towson to look past Pat Kennedy and make a decision on where they want their basketball program to go in the next few years.
Athletic Director Mike Waddell said all the right things in today’s press release, talking about restoring pride to the program and giving the fans an exciting team and all the other stuff you say when the coach and his staff get jettisoned. But the one thing Waddell needs to reinforce at this point is simple: This job, even at Towson…this opportunity…in the CAA…should be highly coveted by the right individual. And it will be, as long as the Tigers and their national search firm look at the right people and ask the right questions.
Initially, the names that pop out as viable candidates include Mike Lonergan, the erstwhile Maryland assistant who has enjoyed tremendous success at the University of Vermont, Tommy Dempsey of Rider, who hasn’t had a sub .500 season since taking over the program five years ago, Billy Hahn, another former Maryland assistant under Gary Williams who is currently on the West Virginia staff and former Towson assistant Eric Skeeters, who played his college ball at Coppin State and has been on the University of South Florida staff for the last two seasons.
A college basketball source says Dempsey – whose Rider club lost to Iona in the MAAC semi-finals yesterday – is considered a strong candidate for the job as is Lonergan, who saw his team’s chances for an NCCA bid go up in flames over the weekend when the Catamounts were shocked by Stony Brook in the America East tournament.
Skeeters was responsible for recruiting in and around the Baltimore area when he was on Kennedy’s staff from 2004-2009 and has prior experience with the local AAU circuit.
The search process will also include coaches who are dismissed in the next week or two once their conference tournaments conclude.
Towson would also serve themselves well to look at two area coaches who might see the Towson job as enticing; Loyola’s Jimmy Patsos and Morgan State’s Todd Bozeman.