Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Kent State loses another good coach

Just last week, we were overdosing on college basketball with the NCAA tournament and Kent State’s run in the NIT and were wondering how long it would be before the Golden Flashes would start worrying about coach Geno Ford leaving town.

We just never thought that day would be today.

In news as shocking as it was quick, the two-time MAC Coach of the Year is leaving to take over Bradley.

“I am ecstatic to work at such a great institution with such a rich basketball history,” Ford said in a statement released by Bradley. “The passionate Bradley fan base, academic excellence and exceptional facilities will give us an opportunity to compete at the highest levels of the Missouri Valley Conference.”

Ford leaves the Golden Flashes after three years with a record of 68-37. Kent won back-to-back regular season conference titles and made two trips to the NIT under Ford, who had four years remaining on his contract at KSU which was paying him $300,000 annually, according to The (Peoria) Journal Star.

The unanswered questions are why now and why Bradley?

It was one thing when Stan Heath left to go to Arkansas, at least the Razorbacks are an SEC school. Or when Jim Christian left for Texas Christian.

But Bradley? A team that was 12-20 last season, 4-14 in the Missouri Valley Conference?

That was a better alternative than coming back to a Kent State team that is only losing one player off this year’s 25-win team?

Now the pressure falls on athletic director Joel Nielsen, who must find a way to continue what has been an incredible run of Kent coaches:

  • Ford was the fourth KSU coach to be named MAC Coach of the Year in the last 13 years.
  • Seven times since 1999, KSU has had the conference’s Coach of the Year.
  • The Golden Flashes have had 11 seasons of at least 20 wins in the past 12 years, with five NCAA tournament bids and six NIT appearances.
  • Through four coaches since 1999, the team’s worst record was 19-15 in Ford’s first season, 2008-09.
  • Gary Waters took KSU to its first NCAA tournament in 1999, his third season. He did it again in 2001 with a 24-10 record and a first-round NCAA tournament victory.
  • Stan Heath took the Flashes to the Elite Eight in his only season as head coach.
  • Jim Christian had a 135-58 record, six seasons of at least 20 victories, three NIT and two NCAA appearances.
  • And now Ford

One thing that stands out about the former Kent coaches is none have had the same success once they left:

  • Waters coached five seasons at Rutgers with three NIT appearances and a 79-75 record. He just finished his fifth year (26-7) at Cleveland State. Has three 20-game winning seasons and an appearance in the 2009 NCAA tournament.
  • Heath coached at Arkansas for five years (82-71) with two NCAA appearances. Spent the last four seasons at South Florida (41-54) with a 2010 NIT appearance and a 9-22 record this season.
  • Christian just finished his third season (11-22) at Texas Christian and has a 38-58 record (11-37 in the Mountain West Conference).

We have to wonder if Ford considered that before making his decision.

So what will Nielsen do? He wasn’t in charge for the previous hirings, which were handled by retired athletic director Laing Kennedy. Does Nielsen have what it takes to make the right call?

Nielsen said he will use Kennedy as sort of a consultant as Nielsen goes through the search. The candidate pool reportedly will include former KSU assistant coaches Rob Murphy, now at Syracuse, and Eric Haut, now at TCU with Christian.

For now, Nielsen has appointed Rob Senderoff as interim coach. Senderoff has been the associate head coach for all three years under Ford, and also had a three-year stint as a Kent State assistant under Christian.

“I’m confident we’ll find a candidate, inside or outside, who will keep this thing going,” Nielsen said.

For Golden Flashes fans everywhere, we hope Nielsen is right.

But how many times can Kent State keep going back to the table before their roll comes up snake eyes?

***

Ford leaving Kent State makes us wonder how long Butler will be able to hold on to Brad Stevens and VCU will be able to keep Shaka Smart.

***

The Big Ten finished the NCAA Tournament with a 6-7 record and no teams advancing beyond the Sweet 16.

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