Is Now When Western Michigan Gets Serious About Men’s Basketball?
I know the question in the headline sounds a bit harsh. Western Michigan University has probably been serious about men's basketball all along; however, their won-lost record leaves a lot to be desired and has for the better part of at least four decades.
With the "mutual agreement" for Clayton Bates to step down, new athletic director Dan Bartholomae has an opportunity to put his stamp on the basketball program. There are a handful of "mid-major" schools that consistently do well. And you have to remember that Duke and Gonzaga are essentially very small schools. Yet, basketball, with its smaller roster, it's maybe easier to build a winning program as opposed to football.
The question is always how important is winning versus graduating. At some schools, it's win at all costs and there's a long string of coaches' carcasses strewn along that road when things went bad. But with all the attention directed at the retiring Mike Krzyzewski, you also realized you can recruit great student-athletes, and not have to sacrifice on the student portion of that. Western Michigan is not Duke.
This stat is from a hundred years ago, but WMU was at one time a powerhouse in basketball, under coaches Bill Spaulding and Buck Read. Read was so good they named the building after him. Since then, with the exception of Eldon Miller in the early '70s, it's been mostly meh at best. The winningest coach since that time was Steve Hawkins, whose winning percentage was .526, with one trip to "The Big Dance" in 2014, but let's be honest, has there been any excitement attached to the basketball team in a long long time?
Western and Bartholomae are hiring a search firm to find the next coach.
"Glenn Sugiyama, Managing Partner of the DHR Global Sports Practice, will assist in the Western Michigan coaching search and is described by Forbes magazine as "one of the most influential men in college athletics". Based out of Chicago, Sugiyama has developed one of the largest Sports Practice Groups in the world identifying and placing top coaching and administrative talent for professional, collegiate, and international sports organizations in the United States and abroad. Sugiyama is a former Division 1 college basketball coach and a former member of the Board of Directors of the Chicago Bulls." - WMU Athletic Dept.
Picking a winning coach maybe involves an element of luck. When P.J. Fleck was introduced, did you know on the spot that this was "the man"? Krzyzewski was a nobody when he hired on at Duke. (And sometimes it's getting that one player or two that makes a program begin to grow. For Duke it was first Johnnie Dawkins followed by Danny Ferry.) Kalamazoo Central won a couple of state titles, but for whatever reason, it wasn't in the stars to get some of that talent to stay home and do something special here. Too bad.