When the CU men’s basketball coach, Ricardo Patton, announced his resignation effective at the end of the 2006-2007 season at last month’s media day, there was hardly a stir on the campus of Boulder.
There were no pleas for the coach to change his mind. There was no grumbling from the athletic department that they would try to convince him otherwise. It was an amicable split — almost too easy actually. The kind of split you would expect between a coach and a program who has never found its proper place at the university.
From day one, since Athletic Director Mike Bohn took over the reigns at CU, it was clear that his relationship with Patton was less than ideal. Patton had two years left on his contract at the time Bohn took over and there was never any speculation about the talk of an extension for Patton.
Patton, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, decided to make his own move before his boss could tell him he wasn’t coming back. On what was supposed to be just another media day, Patton announced his resignation.
Following the resignation, Bohn publicly stated that he was “surprised” by Patton’s decision. But despite Bohn’s assertion, he knew it was just a matter of time before Patton was gone.
It is quite possible that the only reason Bohn didn’t relieve Patton of his duties sooner was because of the financial stranglehold that the athletic department is currently under. After owing $3 million to embattled former football coach Gary Barnett, the department could not afford to offer Patton a buyout that was believed to be around $1 million.
Now comes the intriguing part. Where does Bohn go from here and how does he sell the basketball program?
While many people say that Bohn’s hiring of football coach Dan Hawkins last December was a great hire, even given all of the turmoil surrounding the football program, selling CU’s basketball program will be even tougher.
CU men’s basketball has been to just two NCAA tournaments in the past 11 years. Only three times out of those 11 years has the team finished in the top half of the Big 12 Conference. The Coors Events Center is half-full on a good night (with the exception of a Texas or Kansas coming to town). The list of reasons of why a talented coach would not want to come to CU is longer than Snoop Dogg’s police record.
Despite all that, Bohn does have some positive things going for him as well. One huge asset in the process might be Tom McGrath, the special assistant to the athletic director . McGrath has over 10 years of experience with USA basketball, in which he built up relationships with some of the industry’s most respected teachers of the game. It can be guaranteed that McGrath will be instrumental in the selection process for the Buffs’ new coach.
For those of you wondering who is a realistic possibility as the next head coach for this program, forget any dreams of Larry Brown or Rick Majerus. That won’t happen, and the list of reasons why is too long for this column.
Instead, Bohn and his committee should follow the mold that Bohn used with Hawkins and the women’s basketball coach, Kathy McConnell-Miller. CU needs a young, fiery coach who will boost support and enthusiasm for a program that needs it in the worst sort of way.
Just think about it. Roy Williams could never walk down a street in Chapel Hill without thousands of rabid fans harassing him. Same goes for Coach K in Durham, Coach Pitino in Louisville, and Coach Boeheim in Syracuse. Coach Patton could’ve walked right through the middle of campus with a skirt on and his head on fire and no one would have noticed.
Beyond the obvious needs of grabbing a coach that has the tools and pedigree to be successful, CU needs a coach that can galvanize this community and boost some support for basketball around the town and the school.
That is the area where Ricardo Patton failed the greatest. Yes, he graduated his players. Yes, his guys stayed out of trouble for the most part. But, Patton failed to inject some life into his program as far as the school and the city of Boulder were concerned.
There has been a man in Denver for the past ten years by the name of Mike Dunlap that took a small program called Metro State and turned it into a Division II powerhouse by winning two championships. The Denver Nuggets thought highly enough of Dunlap to hire him as an assistant coach.
Mark Turgeon is out of the Larry Brown coaching family tree and has brought Wichita State to national prominence in the past few seasons. Rob Jeter is a coach that took his first University of Milwaukee basketball team to the NCAA tournament. Jeter worked at Wisconsin for Coach Bo Ryan, where he was the leading recruiter and academic coordinator.
These are just a few guys who have shown an ability to teach, recruit and boost enthusiasm at their respective schools, which is an ability CU desperately needs in its next men’s basketball coach.