The Redhawks finished 13-17 last season (5-11 in the Western Athletic Conference) and lost in the first round of the WAC tournament to eventual conference champ and NCAA tournament representative New Mexico State. While it was an improvement from the previous season's 8-22 mark, it was still the fourth straight losing season under Dollar, who has gone 61-88 at Seattle U.
Has there been steady progress during Dollar's tenure? That is in the eye of the beholder and dependent on what they would define as progress.
It should be noted, however, that what is happening at SU isn't a typical rebuilding job; it's a building job. This isn't Washington State being down for a few years and trying to claw its way back to respectability in the Pac-12. This is instead a program that in 2009 might as well have not existed on the big-time college hoops landscape, now trying to unearth a former glory that's been buried since the 1970s.
Shortly before the first official practice of the new season, Dollar talked with Redhawk Nation about what happens next:
REDHAWK NATION: You have two new assistant coaches, Mike Nowell and Lance LaVetter. What do they bring to the program?
CAMERON DOLLAR: Coach Nowell is a longtime local high school and AAU coach. He has a lot of relationships in the city, and obviously recruiting locally is something that's a big priority for us. He'll help us in that area. He played in college and did well as a big man. He played professionally. So he brings a lot of experience from a coaching standpoint as well as helping develop our bigs.
Coach LaVetter and I worked together at UW (Washington) and at Saint Louis as well. He's a really good teacher; he'll do a good job developing our guys. He's new here, but he's not new to me, so that familiarity is good. At Saint Louis we were on the road together recruiting. We've known each other a long time.
Both of those guys are really good quality hires in their own unique way. They're veteran, seasoned guys that have been around. They're both really good developers of young men.
Nowell and LaVetter are replacing Pape Koundoul and your father, Donald Dollar. What is your dad up to these days?
He's just back home. Him and my mom moved back home.
So does that mean you're officially the best-dressed coach on staff?
Haha! I don't know if I ever had that award anyway.
Looking at the 2014-15 schedule, SU's first five games are at home and the sixth is at ShoWare Center (Kent, Wash.). Eight of the first 10 are essentially home games. Most people would say that's a recipe for a good start.
Well, you know about me and "most people." It's just how the schedule works out. More than anything, I'm excited about our team. Obviously it's always good to play at home -- you want to have success there.
There's also a home game at the Connolly Center. What was the story behind making that happen?
We thought it'd be neat to have something back on campus, kind of do it like a throwback night. It's all part of building our brand, showing people who we are and what we're doing. If we can get some people to come out to Connolly who may not have been coming to KeyArena, that's good.
You've got a road game against Minnesota. How did that come about?
We want to continue to expand our footprint, so to speak. We haven't played a Big Ten school since I've been here, and we had been looking for that.
Often times with scheduling, dates and times plays more into it than people realize. Minnesota happened to be a good fit. It was a date we needed, and a date they needed. It just worked out. We've never been to Minnesota, so it should be a fun game for our guys.
Jadon Cohee was the first signee of this incoming class and the one guy everybody has known would be on the way for a while. What should SU fans expect to see now that he's finally here?
Really good size. Good ball-handler. Honestly, with most freshmen you have no idea what they're gonna be able to do until they get out on the court. But he's worked hard this summer to get ready and we're looking forward to seeing what he can do.
What about Jack Shaughnessy, the other freshman point guard?
Same deal. He's had a good summer. He's worked hard. You just don't know yet until he gets out there. But he's a good player. He can score the basketball. He'll come in here and do whatever he's asked to do.
Two more guys that aren't really newcomers but we haven't seen play yet are Manroop Clair and Theo Turner, who redshirted last season. What will they bring to the table?
Manroop can really shoot it and he's a good playmaker. Theo is still developing his game in the post, but he's athletic, he can block shots and has good size for rebounding.
I don't know yet. They all have the ability to be really good leaders. They've done a good job this summer, but as far as the details of that, we'll have to get deeper into the year to see.
Flora has been here a long time. He's a hard worker who shows more through his actions than his words. We're gonna ask him to step it up even more, though, and he's excited for the opportunity to step it up. Isiah did a good job leading us last year. Shore was just getting settled in last year, but I look for him to have a more productive year coming up.
How is Deshaun Sunderhaus' knee coming along?
He's doing well. He's progressing through rehab. He's on track and doing everything he's being asked by the doctors.
Overall, what do you like about this team?
I think we've got a good group of guys. We're led by four seniors, and one of them in particular (Umipig) has had a lot of success scoring the basketball and is ready to step it up even more. We've got a good group of bigs down low. Our young guys can come in and compete.
Manny (Chibuogwu) is doing a good job. He's ready to take the next step and provide some really good depth. Also, he'll be able to take over at times making plays for others and himself.
We could potentially start three fifth-year seniors. They're older, more mature, and just tough. The guys are ready. We'll get Deshaun back healthy. But even then I think we're built to where we can take some hits and withstand those hits and still win games. I'm ready to go.