By BRENDAN McGAIR
A little of this, a little of that …
The leaders currently in place at the University of Rhode Island did not hire Jim Baron, who on Sunday was relieved of his head coaching duties with two years left on his contract. School president David Dooley and athletic director Thorr Bjorn were years away from taking their respective jobs at Rhody when Baron was lured away from St. Bonaventure in 2001.
We know some of the facts surrounding Baron’s dismissal. He never once took the Rams to the NCAA Tournament in his 11 seasons in Kingston. He endured a miserable 2011-12 season that featured plenty of losses on the court and a number of distractions away from it.
Still, there’s one reason that for the most part has been swept under the rug, one that probably contributed to the conclusion Dooley and Bjorn ultimately drew: Baron was not their guy.
Had Baron been hired by Dooley and Bjorn and endured the nightmarish season he just went through, maybe the powers-that-be would have considered bringing the coach back for the 2012-13 season. Alas, Baron’s dismissal demonstrates that Dooley and Bjorn feel the time has come to head in a new direction, one completely devoid of ties to those people in place when Baron took over at URI.
(As an aside, Robert L. Carothers was the president at Rhode Island with Ron Petro holding the AD title when the university in 2001 decided to end the charade that was Jerry DeGregorio’s embarrassing two-year tenure.)
Now Bjorn and Dooley get the chance to hire “their” guy and place “their” stamp on the school’s most visible coaching position. If recent history tells us anything, such importance cannot be underscored.
Providence College athletic director Bob Driscoll stood by Tim Welsh for five seasons before Welsh was fired in March 2008. In a similar case at Rhody with Bjorn and Baron, Driscoll inherited Welsh. With Welsh out the of picture, Driscoll at long last could go after a head coach in which he would have a strong say in just who that person was.
Granted Driscoll’s decision to hire Keno Davis didn’t pan out. His redo, however, has been a lesson in forgiving and forgetting with Ed Cooley seeking to take the Friar program places that it hasn’t been in quite a number of years.
The athletic director/head coach partnership is not all that different than what happens along the political scene. There’s bound to be turnover in personnel whenever a new politician takes office. People with definite ties to the previous administration see the handwriting on the wall, knowing their days are numbered due to the outgoing politician they’re affiliated with.
Baron and Bjorn were able to co-exist for five seasons. With Baron now gone, Bjorn is officially on the clock with the search to find the next Rhody head coach – his guy – now in front of him.
Sunday saw Pawtucket’s Rakim Sanders come through in a major way. All the senior did in Fairfield’s 85-75 win against top-seed Iona in the semifinals of the MAAC Tournament was score 26 points and grab 12 rebounds. Fairfield will now face Loyola (Md.) Monday night in Springfield, Mass. with a spot in the NCAA Tournament hanging in the balance. The 7 p.m. game will be shown on ESPN2.
Woonsocket native Mike Akinrola saw his career at Rhode Island College come to an end Saturday night in the second round of the NCAA Div. III Men’s Basketball Tournament with the Anchormen bowing to the College of Staten Island, 77-67. Akrinola finished with 23 points and six rebounds, a performance that head coach Bob Walsh grew to expect from his player, especially during his last two seasons.
Akrinola attended Sunday’s Woonsocket-Westerly girls’ basketball playoff game at RIC in support of head coach Goerge Coderre with whom he has a close relationship.