NAU men’s hoops need big hire


Interim head coach Dave Brown watches a Montana State player shoot over junior guard Stallon Saldivar (Photo by Sarah Hamilton)

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.


1 Comment

  • Who didn’t see this coming with the appointment of Mr. Brown as interim head coach? Anyone with any sense of this game predicted this kind of outcome after hearing the news. Mr. Haeger, President of NAU, should be held to account for his selfish need to flatter a personal friend over doing what was in the best interest of the men’s basketball program, its boosters, fans, and players. In fact, I know speaking with a credible source that the entire coaching community in the Big Sky were scratching their heads on hearing the news of his appointment. Any head coach resigning in the middle of a season results in an assistant coach taking the reins for the interim, 99.99% of the time ( Yes, the drop from 100% was a result of Mr.Haegar’s unorthodox decision to appoint Mr. Brown). There’s no better current example as to why assistant coaches are appointed in this situation, than what Coach Deane Martin has accomplished with the Idaho State Bengals program. In stark contrast to what Mr. Brown has done, Coach Martin took his team from a last place team to a Big Sky tournament team. Mr. Brown’s coaching decision proves he is out of touch with basketball. After not coaching for over 20 years, and by the way never a Division 1 men’s basketball program, his approach of isolating individual players resulting in individuals playing for themselves and not as a team is further demonstration of his inability to coach at this level. In fact, he has created a group of individuals that look more like they’re playing playground or street ball rather than NCAA Division 1 ball. Say what you want about Coach Adras but you need to admire his knowledge of the game and his ability to command expectations of individuals executing as a team. His disciplines and structured rules were fairly applied to all his players and his preparation requirements to have players study game film and then quiz his players on the tendencies of the opposing team or the strengths and weaknesses of opposing players gave his team the best chance of winning, no matter the odds. Yes, the first devastation to this team and program: the “resignation”, of Coach Adras. The second: the self-serving appointment of Mr. Brown, as opposed to the more capable appointment of assistant Coach Hensley or Coach Colins ( I purposely don’t mention Mr. Grogin. that’s another story for another time and date).as interim head coach. What is more globally disturbing than what has happened to the men’s basketball program this year is this: What other programs or decisions by President Mr. Haegar have been influenced by his own personal agendas or alliances and not in best interest of the university’s community in which he’s charged? Just sayin.


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