NAU men’s hoops need big hire
There’s only one word to describe this year’s men’s basketball season — dismal.
As the final two games of the season approach, the Lumberjacks have performed well below season expectations, finishing dead last in the Big Sky Conference (BSC) and compiling five wins on the year thus far. They were projected to at least qualify for the conference tournament, even during a time labeled as a transition phase.
Perhaps the biggest story out of the year was the resignation of head coach Mike Adras, who abandoned his post amid allegations of conduct detrimental to the team and violating NCAA regulations. He was replaced by Dave Brown on an interim basis, who won three of his first four games at the helm, but has not won in a 15-game span.
If the previous sentence does not make it obvious, then this should — Dave Brown should not be the head coach next year.
With that belief comes the feeling the university needs to make an impact hire to bring credibility back to the program.
So far, there have been three names to pop up in recent weeks — ASU assistant Scott Pera, Oregon State assistant David Grace and current Grand Canyon University head coach Russ Pennell.
All three have their merits: Pera has been at ASU for five years now and recruited current NBA player James Harden to the Sun Devils, Grace is in his fourth year at OSU and has been a successful head coach at every stop he’s made and Pennell took over for Lute Olson at Arizona during the 2008-09 season, leading the Wildcats to a Sweet 16 appearance before being hired at GCU.
Pennell would be the ideal candidate. He has already coached a Pac-12 team to the Big Dance, plus he has made tremendous strides at GCU, a school looking to move up to the Division I level next year. With that in mind, he has only spent one year as the Antelopes’ head coach and with the attempted move to D-I, it looks like he may be out of the question.
Pera, serving under Herb Sendek, has produced a coaching tree including current Arizona head coach Sean Miller and Ohio State head man Thad Matta. Pera has also been in charge of recruiting for ASU since joining the Sun Devils’ staff, and could bring quality players from the Phoenix area, a market NAU consistently misses out on. However, Pera has only been a head coach at the high school level and with ASU currently in a downswing, he may not be the best option.
Up at OSU, Grace has assisted in rebuilding a program that had been a bottom-feeder in the Pac-12. The Beavers have compiled quality seasons the last few years, including post-season tournament wins. He was a successful high school coach and has experience coaching in the BSC, having spent time at Sacramento State. He is a decorated military veteran and carries a strong presence with him, both on and off the court and his leadership experience could provide a strong boost to an unstable program.
NAU needs to pursue these three heavily and focus on these three alone. All three have their pros and cons associated with them, but all three would bring stability to a program that needs to regain its luster. If the administration chooses to go after someone else, hopefully they do not chicken out and go for a “safe” hire.