Monday, March 27, 2017

Several Proven Candidates Surfacing At Quinnipiac

This past week, word of Baker Dunleavy reaching a deal as Quinnipiac University's next basketball coach has circulated the internet.

Drexel coach Bruiser Flint has also permeated the walls of the conversation, though a number of other viable candidates are being considered.

Whether realistic or not, Quinnipiac has long entertained the idea of putting men's basketball on the same plateau as the nationally ranked hockey team.

 Quinnipiac's perennially potent women's basketball team recently wrapped up a wild NCAA tournament run, which garnered the school heavy publicity and maximized fanfare.

 And so the men's basketball team is the downtrodden product, in dire need of a quick and promising resurrection.

Ten years later the program is out there again, moving aggressively to up the ante (an 800k salary is word around the campfire) to one proven and decorated  coach capable of altering the recent losing culture.

Quinnipiac certainly has the pieces to build around with promising freshmen guards Mikey Dixon and Peter Kiss (should they stay put).

Chaise Daniels, a stud 6-foot-8 forward out of nearby Meriden, Conn., is widely regarded as the best big in the MAAC next year. Daniels has the potential to attract high-major programs, should he opt to weigh the market following Tom Moore's firing.

 Should the triumvirate of Kiss, Dixon and Daniels remain at Quinnipiac, the quality and the chances are definitely there.

 Quickly reviving the program entails an NCAA tournament berth and sustainable 20+ win seasons in the MAAC.

Though it can't be done overnight, Quinnipiac will take a candidate with the influence and capabilities to make it happen sooner than later.

 Remember, Quinnipiac has a high-end, damn near Big East caliber 3,600+ seat arena.

The school has the highly competitive education, the scenic campus, the no-secret reputation of scintillating women.

Yes, the place is far from a tough sell. This is not Duquesne or Rutgers we're talking about.

The lifestyle there is comfortable and the money is flowing and being spit around like water.

Villanova's Dunleavy, the brother of NBA veteran Mike Dunleavy Jr. and son of famed Tulane (and former NBA coach Mike Dunleavy) certainly has the inner circle, resume, and the brand name to bring talent in.

He possesses the national reputation as a recruiter and tasted true NCAA  success as a reserve on the "four guards" team of 2006, a memorable squad with Allan Ray, Mike Nardi, Randy Foye, and Kyle Lowry. 

As an assistant under Jay Wright, he tapped into the area's richest recruiting markets.

It is hard to gauge how serious the interest is with Flint, who was a four time CAA coach of the Year and has been at Drexel since 2001.

 Flint comes in carrying a 331-289 record and was the eventual successor to John Calipari at UMass.

Dunleavy is supposedly a dun-deal. He has the shiny souvenir working in his favor, with a 2016 NCAA championship ring.

 Yet Quinnipiac quickly jumped to net high-major product last time and didn't exactly reap the rewards of it.

Tom Moore, fired after 10 seasons and zero NCAA appearances, certainly had the character and charisma and strategic recruiting acumen to turn the place around. For the first few years, he seemed on pace to do that.

 Moore had respect in the Quinnipiac community and was a likeable personality with quality motivational tactics.

 The Calhoun understudy's success recruiting the tri-state region, where he penned diamond in the rough recruits (Justin Rutty of Newburgh, N.Y. and James Johnson of NYC power Bishop Loughlin HS are two major examples) made it difficult for some to bid adieu to him.

Yet as Moore has acknowledged publicly, this is a results-driven business and 19-42 in the final two seasons just won't cut it.

Look at what Monmouth has done with a similar facility, since entering the MAAC.

 Moore had his winning seasons and had his berth in the Northeast Conference title game, a heartbreaking loss to Robert Morris.

Yet the last two seasons and most notably the tail end of his final season, his team appeared listless defensively and he seemed checked out mentally.

The proof was in the production tree. Moore, first rate professional though he was, had to go.

A key name that has special intrigue to the Quinnipiac community, who seems to be the most logical choice, is Jared Grasso. The amount of support Grasso has with the alumni and tri-state area is above and beyond any other candidate.

The associate head coach/assistant under Tim Cluess at Iona College, Grasso starred as a high-scoring point guard a few years after Quinnipiac first transitioned to Division-1.

Naturally, because of his stature in Quinnipiac's Hall of Fame and because he coached at QU as an assistant under Joe DeSantis (who he later hired as his own assistant at Fordham), Grasso would jump at the opportunity to plant the basketball seed in his hockey hotbed of an alma mater.

Under Cluess, Grasso attained four straight 22+ win seasons and helped the program to four NCAA tournament appearances and two NIT berths in the last six years. Iona has gone 44-24 the past two seaons

 Grasp that for a few seconds.

Those stats are emblematic of the level of national mid major clout Quinnipiac has been striving for since firing DeSantis in the spring of 2007.

 That is where the bar is set for them, those are the high standards the next head coach will be held to.

Grasso was also a major presence on the national recruiting trail. He helped Iona get guys like AJ English, a prolific scorer embedded in the program's history books.

He brought in crafty, rugged guards such as E.J. Crawford, Stamford native Shadrac "Sed" Casimir, and Rickey McGill.

What do English, Crawford, Casimir, and McGill all have in common? Each and every last one of them was targeted by Quinnipiac during their recruitment process.

One of Grasso's current commits, class of 2017 guard CJ Seaforth, is from Hamden, Conn. and chose Iona over Quinnipiac and several other mid-major suitors.

 Again, recruiting has forever been pegged as an inexact science. It is, however, surely results driven.

Southern Connecticut head coach and UConn legend Scottie Burrell seems like an intriguing candidate on paper.

 A Hamden native who authored a storied athletic career as a three-sport athlete at Hamden High, Burrell was an All-American and is an all-purpose reminder of when UConn basketball was a veritable NBA factory. Burrell won an NBA championship ring with the Jordan-led Bulls and is still tight with Ray Allen.

These are recruiting tools in themselves, albeit the Calhoun connection does not seem to hold much juice with this particular job. Burrell would be a quintessential "players coach" and would surely win over recruits, albeit it's difficult to envision QU plunking down this kind of money on a current Division-II coach.

Burrell was an effective mentor for Quinnipiac program great DeMario Anderson and knows how to work with star power. Yet because he was an assistant under Moore during that regime, it would seem to be a step backwards as opposed to forward.