PROVIDENCE — Keno Davis never failed to mention that Providence College featured one of the youngest men’s basketball teams in the Big East, if not the country. Many saw that as a plea or a copout on Davis’ part, but the fact that the Friars’ 2010-11 roster was comprised of 10 first- or second-year players is not lost on athletic director Bob Driscoll.
Besides dealing with multiple coaching searches, Driscoll says the process is already underway in making sure the cupboard isn’t completely bare for the next PC head coach. When Providence fired Tim Welsh three years ago, the nucleus was heavily made up of juniors heading into their final season. It made little sense for players such as Weyinmi Efejuku, Geoff McDermott and Pawtucket’s Jeff Xavier to transfer with one year of eligibility remaining, even though the coach who recruited them to campus was no longer in the picture.
Driscoll spent a good amount of time over the weekend reaching out to the Friars slated to return next season, and the general vibe the A.D. picked up is one of them staying together through thick and thin.
“My impressions are that there’s no one that has expressed any interest in leaving at all. In fact I’m not sure why they would at this juncture,” said Driscoll when contacted Monday night. “They’re home (for spring break) right now and we have a meeting set up with them when they return to add some structure to what they’re going to do.”
Driscoll relayed that none of the players were caught completely off-guard with last Friday’s news that Davis was relieved of his duties.
“They didn’t comment that they were surprised, nor did they express that to me,” he said. “They appreciated that I contacted them and were looking forward to coming back on campus. My concern was more for their well-being. They all responded, ‘we’re doing fine.’”
Having members of Davis’ coaching staff – Chris Driscoll, Rodell Davis and Kevin Gamble – stick around Providence’s campus until a new coach is in place should help create a business as usual atmosphere for the players, feels Driscoll.
“We want to make sure that they are doing their workouts and continuing to go to class,” he said. “There’s a plan in place for them to stay on task until we hire the new person.”
Davis and his assistants signed two players for the 2011-12 season. One is Dallas-area guard Kyan Anderson and 6-foot-5 forward Markus Crider, who according to the Dayton Daily News scored 12 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in an Ohio high school playoff game on Saturday. The paper also reported that Crider spent that morning taking the SAT exam.
“Coach Rodell will be making contacts with them, if not (yesterday) then (today),” Driscoll said. “Obviously they signed a letter-of-intent, so they committed to coming to the institution. My assumption is that they’ll continue to come.”
Driscoll was asked about the makeup of the Friar team left behind by Davis. It’s a group that has some promising pieces and one that also had great trouble in playing at a consistent level for 40 minutes.
“There’s some young kids with talent. Certainly Gerard Coleman is a talented young man. You saw Kadeem Batts really grow. Vincent Council is one of the more talented guards in the (Big East) and as a junior hopefully he’ll get better. Bilal Dixon has potential,” Driscoll said. “Like any team every year, you get bigger, stronger and hopefully better. Since a lot of young guys got a lot of playing time, you hope that they mature. Time will tell.”
One Providence player Driscoll left out was Duke Mondy. The sophomore guard sat out the final four games with no reason being given by Davis or the school other than “coach’s decision.”
“I have nothing to add about that,” was Driscoll’s response when asked to clarify Mondy’s status. “That might become clearer in the near future.”
That a coaching change unfolded two days before a record 11 Big East teams received NCAA Tournament invites didn’t go unnoticed by Driscoll. Such a high number reveals what kind of uphill climb Providence faces. By the same token it demonstrates the heights that the program can aspire to – providing that the right people are in place.
“It makes it even clearer to me that Providence can get to the (Big Dance),” said Driscoll. “I always thought (teams were safe) if they finished in the top half of the league. I think it makes it even better to attract a great coach and also student-athletes when they see 11 Big East teams get in. I think that bodes well for us in terms of recruiting.”