Tuesday was Valentines Day for everyone across the country. In an attempt to ease some of the talk surrounding the search for a new basketball coach at the University of Cincinnati, Athletic Director Mike Thomas issued a Valentines Greeting in the form of an official statement with hopes of easing all the talk among those on talk radio, message boards and news papers in the Cincinnati area about the upcoming search and hiring of a new Men's Basketball Coach. While I feel this was a great step in giving supporters an update about the future, I also see the attempt didn't work for those "hard core" anti-UC supporters who have expressed their displeasures since the departure of Men's Basketball Coach Bob Huggins.
Here is the statement as released on UCBearcats.com today.
Feb. 14, 2006
"The men's basketball coaching search at the University of Cincinnati has been and will continue to be my highest priority until we have solidified the selection of our next head coach. Countless hours have been spent reviewing the credentials of perspective coaches and speaking with experts in the industry and other leaders in the game of college basketball."
"Out of respect for potential candidates, including Andy Kennedy, who is a legitimate candidate, the search will continue to be handled in the strictest of confidence and I will be the only person at UC who speaks on this issue. President Zimpher has entrusted me to make this decision and this is a responsibility I take very seriously. I also want to say at this time there is absolutely no truth to any rumors that a new coach has already been identified, or that any potential deal has been struck."
"Every effort continues to be made to move the process along as expeditiously as possible while ensuring that UC gets the very best coach possible. Cincinnati has been one of the premier basketball programs in the country and it deserves nothing less than a very thorough and comprehensive search."
But while the statement should have silenced many who follow the Bearcats, it only fueled more grassfires by those who don't want truth and only look to create more disturbance among those caught on the fence.
If you can't see by the statement a man trying to do his job and do right for a tradition rich basketball program, then I feel sorry for you. A man in the position of Mike Thomas could have stayed silent and not give any statements towards what disgruntled fans have been yelling for. Since taking over on December 1, 2005 for Bob Goin, anti-Zimpher segments have asked to be informed about what steps are being taken in the search and hiring of a new basketball coach. The new athletic director did the best he could in the statement without going out of bounds with any names that may be considered for the position.
For months many have spoke about Skip Prosser being the next man at the helm of the Bearcats. Many have stirred rumors based on his wife and her love of Cincinnati, the ownership of a home still in the area, his wife's job and secret meetings between Coach Prosser and President Nancy Zimpher. Today all those rumors can be laid to rest as the search for a new coach is in the early stages with Director Thomas working to fill the coaching position.
Lets breakdown Director Thomas released statement section by section and I give you my take on each section.
Section One: "The men's basketball coaching search at the University of Cincinnati has been and will continue to be my highest priority until we have solidified the selection of our next head coach. Countless hours have been spent reviewing the credentials of perspective coaches and speaking with experts in the industry and other leaders in the game of college basketball."
High Priority: That above all else he understands the importance of this hiring in the short and long term success of UC Basketball.
Countless Hours: Time is being used to review those who may be considered for the job and some background work is being done before the process gets into full gear after the finish of the season.
Industry Experts: The university is not just looking at coaches who they feel can do the job. They are talking with those around the country who follow the college game. No stone will be left unturned.
Section Two: "Out of respect for potential candidates, including Andy Kennedy, who is a legitimate candidate, the search will continue to be handled in the strictest of confidence and I will be the only person at UC who speaks on this issue. President Zimpher has entrusted me to make this decision and this is a responsibility I take very seriously. I also want to say at this time there is absolutely no truth to any rumors that a new coach has already been identified, or that any potential deal has been struck."
Respect: The University of Cincinnati is not going to be a problem to other universities during the early stages of this process. We've seen this in football just down road at Louisville just the other year when a couple of colleges were trying to hire their new football coaches as Louisville was still playing. John L. Smith being hired by Michigan State and word coming out by the start of the Cardinals Bowl Game and questions being asked by players before and during halftime is not the direction Mike Thomas or the UC Athletic Department wants to be apart of. Do you remember when the head coach at Michigan took another job as his team was heading into the NCAA Tournament? Do you want UC to be looked at in the same light as the university that hired this former Michigan coach? I don't...
Entrusted: This should set to rest all the talk that Director Thomas is a puppet for President Zimpher or the BOT. Director Thomas will be the main person making the choice of the Bearcats new head coach. Just as a coach is hired to be fired, Director Thomas knows his choice of a new coach will play a major role in his success at UC.
Andy Kennedy: One thing I've learned since Director Thomas has taken over at UC is he's a man of his word. If he tells you something you can take it to the bank. His comment that Andy Kennedy is a legitimate candidate tells me he's is still in the running no matter what many have guessed over the past few months. Will he get the job? That was not stated here and shouldn't be. This is a major job and not one where the hiring of a new coach should just happen. I think were seeing this play out just across the border in Indiana as Mike Davis took over for Bob Knight and has seen issues each of his years as head coach. Fans who loved Davis just a few years ago can't wait to see him go.
Responsibility: This statement proves to me Director Thomas is taking this hiring very serious and understands what is at stake. In fact, his legacy is part of this hire and all athletic directors wish to leave a legacy when their time is over. I've had a few dealings with Director Thomas and I can tell you he pulls no punches on any subject. I expect the same from him in this matter.
Truth: Rumors and talk of backdoor deals should now become less of a topic. Director Thomas says no coach has been identified or deals have been struck. What reason would he have at this time to not speak the truth? Keep in mind in today's game of college athletics, coaches also have agents and these agents work to help their clients get bigger pay days. Just ask Jay Wright if having his name come up for other jobs didn't help him in signing a new seven year contract extension on Tuesday. So while you may be hearing names, keep in mind some of these leaks or sources could be the agents for the name you see in print or hear on the radio.
Section Three: "Every effort continues to be made to move the process along as expeditiously as possible while ensuring that UC gets the very best coach possible. Cincinnati has been one of the premier basketball programs in the country and it deserves nothing less than a very thorough and comprehensive search."
Effort: While many have asked questions as to what Director Thomas is doing in Edwards Center, those who've seen a coach hired before understands it takes much effort for all the pieces to fit and a coach to be hired. But with the season on the downward, look for more information to come as who may be the next coach in about three to four weeks.
Premier Program: This should prove Director Thomas understands where he's employed at and the type of fan base the University of Cincinnati is at this time. UC has been a basketball school and the highest profiled program at the university to date. While you will see more of a focus on football in the coming years, basketball is still the king at UC.
Comprehensive: No stone will be left unturned by Director Thomas or the Athletic Department in the process of hiring a new basketball coach. Keep in mind Director Thomas has been working on the Athletics Department as a whole. Many issues needed to be addressed with staff members before other serious issues could be handled. With one-on-one meetings with the Athletic Department staff, look for other changes to be made in several departments. Some of this is already happening with more to come by June. So while a Men's Basketball Coach is in the limelight, there are many other employees who are learning where they stand with their jobs at this time.
But while I look at the statement and see a step forward, some have questioned the statement and want more from the man who has only been involved with the UC program for a little over two months. While I understand there are more questions to be asked and even answered, I also understand the hiring process and the reasons such things must stay silent until the proper time for a release.
For any coach to have some early success, he will need to be in place by mid April to take part in the next group of recruits. As for who will hire the new coach, a search committee or Director Thomas himself, I feel Thomas has the background and know how in hiring a head coach for any of the universities 18 varsity sports. If not, he wouldn't be in the position he's earned over the years of service in several other athletic departments.
So while some will take the words of Director Thomas and twist them in some way, I look at them as being a step in the right direction and a step closer to putting the Bearcat basketball program back on the track it needs to be on.
If you have a comment about this subject, please visit the Bearcat Insider message boards and post them on the basketball forum. Bearcat Insider Hoop Board