New basketball coach Jimmy Allen tries to make history at West Point

Zach Spiker did a very good job at the United States Military Academy's basketball program. He produced a 2016 senior class which won 65 games. He won at least 10 games in seven straight seasons. He produced two winning seasons during his tenure. At a lot of programs, those achievements aren't achievements in the first place. At West Point, they certainly are. Spiker deserves a chance to ply his trade at another program, and he pounced on the opportunity after Bruiser Flint was dismissed at Drex

If a coach takes over at most programs, he would look at at seven-year run which produced 102 wins (under 15 a season, never more than 19) and an overall record under .500 and think he's in for a world of hurt.

Army, however, isn't most programs.

The backstory is a sad one -- the Black Knights don't have an NCAA tournament berth in their history -- but the future makes this job a very hopeful one for the man who is succeeding Zach Spiker as West Point's new head basketball coach. 

At most programs, Spiker's body of work wouldn't elicit reactions of approval and admiration... but again, Army isn't most programs. Spiker has set the table for Allen, his assistant, to take the next step and lead West Point to college basketball's promised land.

Allen faces a significant challenge, but he's seen this program grow. He's seen young players evolve to the point that they became much more able to win on the road in this just-completed 2015-2016 season. He's seen how a talented coach (now in Philadelphia with Drexel) wrestled with the weight of history and came to terms with the NCAA tournament beast which has overshadowed Army basketball in a way only four other schools -- The Citadel, Saint Francis-Brooklyn, William & Mary, and Northwestern -- can fully understand.

Jimmy Allen can take all of his experiences at Zach Spiker's side, add them to his own experiences as the son of a West Point graduate (his father graduated from the academy in 1967), and carve out a new path for Army hoops. The decision by athletic director Boo Corrigan to stay in house was wise on its face; elevating Allen made more sense than other alternatives which might have existed. 

In order to emphasize the point that hiring a Spiker assistant was the right choice for the program, it's necessary to underline -- in bright red ink -- the history of Army basketball in a way which magnifies Spiker's place in college basketball.

Two former Army basketball coaches -- you might have heard of them in your life -- are all-time greats, the largest giants of the sport. They're not merely Hall of Famers at the back end of the Hall of Fame; they're the kinds of coaches who busted through the front door and have a front-row seat in the club, forever and ever.

Only five men have ever won at least three college basketball national championships. Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski are two of them, and they learned how to coach at West Point before soaring to unfathomable heights at Indiana and Duke. Zach Spiker, only 39, might not become anything close to what those two predecessors became, but the point is clear: Knight and K never made the NCAA tournament at Army, and that didn't exactly hurt their careers. More precisely, what they achieved at Army reflected the presence and application of great skill and craftsmanship. One should expect Spiker to make the NCAAs at Drexel, and if he does so often enough, he'll land a bigger job before 2025, giving him a chance at a Cadillac program before he's done.

Again, Spiker went 0 for 7 in terms of leading Army to the NCAAs on a season-by-season basis on the banks of the Hudson. In most situations, this was and is a poor track record... but you know the refrain being repeated here.

Spiker did good work. Therefore, it's not just right that a Spiker assistant gets a chance to carry Army forward; it's fair as well.

Jimmy Allen said at his introductory press conference that West Point is part of his DNA. Now, he gets a chance to expunge one strain of DNA from Army history: the part which says the Black Knights will never put on their Dancing shoes.

It will be compelling to see if the new coach can Jimmy the lock that's been placed on March Madness in West Point. Here's hoping he gets through the door.


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