PROVIDENCE – Bob Driscoll is back on the clock, and this time the Providence College athletic director is bringing some important friends along for the ride.
For the second time in three years, Driscoll finds himself making an important assessment of the men’s basketball program. PC parted ways with Keno Davis on Friday after three turbulent seasons, a tenure that was marked by tough times on and away from the court. Speaking from inside his Alumni Hall office late Friday afternoon, Driscoll mentioned he plans on forming a search committee in his quest to find the next Friar coach.
It was a process the college steered clear of the last time, when Tim Welsh was fired with one year remaining on his contract. Judging by the names Driscoll rattled off, he is sending a bold message that the past will not be repeated.
“I’ve engaged the services of (ex-Big East commissioner) Mike Tranghese, who is very knowledgeable in basketball. He has a great relationship with a lot of folks out there,” Driscoll said. “I have good relationships with (former Friar greats) Joe Hassett and Kevin Stacom. We have put together a small group of folks who can help us cultivate the criteria necessary to find the right fit. That’s the first thing that’s a little bit different than the last time.”
Sources close to the PC athletic department say that Fairfield head Ed Cooley in on Driscoll’s short list. The former URI assistant and Central High standout will be coaching in the postseason next week after the Stags captured the MAAC regular-season title.
“The timetable is to try and do it as quickly and as thoroughly as possible, but there are probably people who are going to be in the NIT or NCAAs,” said Driscoll. “I’m hoping that within the next 2-3 weeks we can really narrow it down and ultimately make a decision, but we’ll see how it goes.”
Driscoll says he started to develop second thoughts after about Davis’ ability to lead the Friars after last spring’s disastrous turn of events, when two players were expelled for attacking a student and another (Jamine Peterson) was involved in messy dormitory room incident that occurred on campus grounds. Combine that with the poor performance on the floor – the Friars have finished 4-14 in Big East play the last two seasons – and Driscoll felt a change needed to happen sooner rather than later.
“(The incident involving Johnnie Lacy and James Still) was a warning sign for me. That’s not say incidents don’t happen on campus, but it’s something that concerned me because it happened against a student,” said Driscoll. “I started to pay closer attention to all aspects of the program, but over the last year I just felt we weren’t maintaining the standards that I had hoped we would after spending a lot of time and energy.”
Davis, who came to Providence in April 2008 after posting one good year at Drake, registered a 46-50 record and an 18-36 mark in Big East play. He did not a call to Blackstone Valley Sports.
Asked if he or PC officials classify Davis’ run as an institutional failure, Driscoll paused a moment before responding.
“I don’t look at it as a failure. When we hired Keno he was the National Coach of the Year, though there’s no guarantee that you’re going to get to the top of the mountain,” he said. “I think our program is much better than it was three years ago. It may not be showing it in terms of wins and losses, but it’s still not of the standard of what I expect.”
Even though the Friars continue to face an uphill climb in the toughest conference in the country – a record 11 Big East teams could be in line for NCAA Tournament bids come Selection Sunday – Driscoll feels its still important to place high expectations on the basketball program. He then added that the fact Davis was still under contract for five more seasons did not cloud his judgment on what many observers felt needed to be done.
“I didn’t allow the length of the contract or the money affect my decision,” Driscoll said. “I just wasn’t convinced that in a year’s time that we would be that much closer.”
Driscoll delivered the news in person to Davis on Friday morning.
“I’m a pretty direct person, so when there are issues that need to be addressed, he’s well aware of them,” said Driscoll. “It did not come out of the blue. I will say it was a good conversation because Keno is a good human being and understands the business. He actually wishes the college well and was really a class individual. I have the utmost respect for him.”
Davis did not have a chance to address the Friar players as a group. The vast majority of them had already departed with next week being spring break. Driscoll plans to reach out “to as many of them as I can in the coming days.”