Dickson Faces Decision On Basketball Coach

When the Tulane men's basketball team was eliminated from the C-USA post-season Tournament Wednesday, Dickson faced the problem of making a decision on the fate of Tulane head basketball coach Shawn Finney.

Tuane athletic director Rick DIckson is a man on the horns of a dilemma.

When the Tulane men's basketball team was eliminated from the C-USA post-season Tournament Wednesday, Dickson faced the problem of making a decision on the fate of Tulane head basketball coach Shawn Finney. Finney, something of a protege of Dickson's from the time when both worked at Tulsa University in the early '90's, has been the head man of Tulane's basketball program since replacing Perry Clark in the summer of 2000 after Clark's departure for the top job at the University of Miami.

But Finney's tenure has resulted in a paltry 60-86 won-loss record, 48-28 in Fogleman Arena, the Green Wave's 3,600 seat home court.

In his first season, Finney led the Wave to a 9-21 record with a 9 member squad, only 7 of whom were on scholarship and all of whom had been recruited by Clark. The following two seasons showed progress, with the Green Wave managing to break even at 30-30, with a home court record of 21-11. But the past two seasons, even as the roster began to be composed of players recruited by Finney, have resulted in records of 11-17 and 10-18, with only two road wins in those two seasons combined. In 2005, Green Wave home attendance averaged only 1,814 per game.

Key Tulane supporters are openly expressing their disappointment in Finney.

Finney's record and the failure of a youthful Tulane team to show much evidence of progress this season, are the factors that lead to DIckson's dilemma. Dickson would probably rather keep Finney than seek out a successor. But it's hard to see how that could be justified, given Finney's lack of success and lack of continuing progress. With speculation concerning Finney's fate running rampant in the Tulane community, DIckson will probably be forced to make a statement either endorsing Finney or announcing his ouster. The embattled head coach reportedly was in the final year of his original 5-year contract.

In the five seasons under Finney, Tulane's basketball fortunes continued a decline that had begun in Clark's final three seasons. The decline appears to have begun in the 1997-98 season, the first losing season for Tulane basketball since Clark revived the program in the 1989-1990 season. Tulane had voluntarily disbanded it's program following the 1984-1985 season after players were found to have shaved points and evidence of NCAA violations associated with the program surfaced.

In Clark's 11 seasons as head coach, Tulane had enjoyed it's most successful era in college basketball: a 185-145 (.561) record, had six 20-win seasons, seven postseason appearances (3 NCAA, 4 NIT) and won the Metro Conference championship in 1992. Clark was named the 1992 National Coach of the Year and was twice named Metro Conference Coach of the Year (1991, 1992). Clark's Tulane teams were known for their fast-paced, energetic, all-out style, particularly "The Posse," a four or five man substitute unit which helped Tulane force more than 20 turnovers a game for a span of four straight seasons.

1999-2000, Clark's final season, marked the club's most recent appearance in the NIT as Tulane rallied from two losing seasons to fashion a 20-11 record, 15-2 at Fogleman, losing in the first round of the NIT to North Carolina State in Raleigh, 64-60. The Green Wave averaged 2,729 in attendance at home that season. In part Clark left Tulane because of a sea change within the university after the retirement of long term president Eamon Kelly, the inauguration of his successor, Scott Cowen, reduced the autonomy Clark had enjoyed during Kelly's tenure. Kelly brought Clark to Tulane over the objections of then athletic director Chet Gladchuck, allowed Clark to grow his fledgling program financially and smoothed the academic and admissions waters, paving the way for Clark to achieve on-the-court success in the Metro Conference that was unprecedented in Tulane history.

Essentially, but in a subtle way, Tulane deemphasized men's basketball after Clark's departure.

Ironically, Clark is among the potential candidates to replace Finney. Two former Clark assistants, Ron Everhart, the head coach at Northeastern University in Boston and Billy Kennedy, the head coach at Southeastern Louisiana, are also likely to be interested in the Tukane job, if it becomes open.

Former Mississippi State Richard Williams has long expressed an interest in the Tulane job.

Mike Davis, Bobby Knight's beleaguered replacement at Indiana sought the job when Clark left, as did Jerry Dunn, then the head man at Penn State. Dunn subsequently resigned after back-to-back 7-win seasons but had a 117-121 overall at Penn State, including a 45-88 record in the Big Ten in eight seasons. He is now an assistant coach at West Virginia.

Samford head coach Jimmy Tillette, who will be 54, would be considered a long shot to become a candidate to replace Finney. Tillette has a record of 129-102 as Samford's coach.

Tillette's assistant, Paul Kelly, a Tulane alum and the son of former Tulane President Eamon Kelly, is more likely to become a candidate for the Tulane job.

Another former Clark assistant, Brock Kantrow, is the head coach at St. Mary's College. Former Tulane players and Clark assistants Greg Gary and Kim Lewis are assistant coaches at South Florida and Northeastern University, respectively. Former Clark-era Tulane player Carlin Hartman is an assistant coach at Louisiana-Lafayette.

However, Dickson is more likely to hire someone with whom he has worked in the past rather than someone with connections to Tulane's Ancien' Regime.


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