Well, that escalated quickly.
The men’s basketball program had a potentially bright future as of last Thursday morning, but that afternoon left the program in relative shambles as five-year Head Coach Ray Harper resigned shortly after a University Disciplinary Committee hearing concluded with the suspension of three players.
What exactly happened to create this predicament is obviously very serious in nature.
However, I will try to look forward to what’s next for the program in a pure basketball sense during this time of distress.
First and foremost, this program needs to find itself a savior as soon as possible, and that savior is none other than a new head coach.
There is no way of knowing at the present time just how serious or devastating this situation really is. Therefore, the program must hire a natural leader to guide the team through potentially tough times.
When asked for comment on the coaching search, President Gary Ransdell said, “It is Todd’s [Stewart] search. But we are in close communications, and I’ll be involved in final interviews.”
Ransdell added that head-coaching experience is preferred in a new head coach. The candidate, a proven winner with impeccable character, must be seasoned; the person must be someone who makes no compromises in recruiting and who can be a leader of men to mentor players.
This candidate could come in the form of someone who previously coached the team and is familiar with the program here. That experience would persuade Athletic Director Todd Stewart and Ransdell that the hire could be trusted during these tough times.
Obviously names like Dennis Felton and Darrin Horn come to mind as both spent time coaching the team within the last 15 years and are commodities in college basketball.
While both those names would be great options for the program to pursue, it is my opinion that this program should start completely fresh with someone who still meets the criteria new would be the most beneficial for the program.
What the team needs right now is a fresh step forward.
While a number of head coaches in Division I basketball meet Ransdell’s criteria, what is most important is that a man is hired who has the leadership and morality to lead the young men on the team out of this mess.
Also, the head coach must be able to recruit players who turn out to be absolute steals on the college level. Take for example WKU great Courtney Lee, who is tied for the all-time lead in scoring in men’s basketball at this school.
Lee was just an overlooked three-star prospect according rivals.com, and he turned out to be a first-round draft pick in the 2008 NBA draft.
A number of other players who were recruited by Felton and Horn also made great transitions to the college game and became stars.
That is one area in which Harper seemed to struggle. While he was a great defensive coach, there were never any home runs in recruiting besides George Fant, who is a Bowling Green native, and T.J. Price.
Considering that these current suspensions have no timetable, the team has no guards currently under scholarship.
This means that whoever is named head coach will be fighting an uphill battle with a significant rebuilding effort. It makes everything a lot easier if the coach is a very talented recruiter.
While the program will most likely be faced with a number of troubling decisions in the coming days, no decision will be more important to the future of the program than the hiring of a new head coach.
The stakes have never been higher; this decision is one the university simply cannot afford to miss.
Ed. note: A previous version of this column wrongly stated that federal law prevented the author from speculating about the nature of the suspensions. That error has been corrected. The Herald regrets the error.