With new coaches in place, Towson eyes talent search

Recruiting is strength for Hunt and Mathews

College Basketball

April 28, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

It's tough to imagine recruiting not being a factor for Towson athletic director Wayne Edwards when choosing Michael Hunt and Joe Mathews, the two men announced as the school's men's and women's basketball coaches yesterday.

Hunt, a former Georgia assistant, takes over a men's team thin on talent, one that could lose a few potential transfers after Mike Jaskulski was fired March 19 after a 12-17 season. The women's team went 3-25 in Ellen Fitzkee's final season, crystallizing the need for the former Virginia Tech assistant Mathews to add a few good players.

For the men's team to recover from possible losses and the women's team to bolster its roster with the recruiting period coming to a close, each program needed a coach who could recruit fast and recruit smart.

Both Hunt, 40, and Mathews, 35, have track records that provided Edwards - who gave each a multi-year contract - with hope that the programs could survive these turbulent times.

Edwards talked with Hunt's and Mathews' respective former employers - Georgia coach Jim Harrick and Virginia Tech coach Bonnie Henrickson - and "they told me their recruiting skills were tremendous and the success of the programs were due to the players recruited by Joe Mathews and Michael Hunt."

Hunt once served as a Towson assistant, helping the Tigers to two NCAA appearances over four years. But he made a name for himself during the past five years. At Tennessee, he brought in players vital to the program's rise to top 20 status. At Georgia, his recruiting classes were a major reason the Bulldogs made the NCAA tournament last season after a 10-20 season in 1999-2000.

Edwards noticed that at both places, Hunt did this under two coaches - Kevin O'Neill and Jerry Green at Tennessee and Ron Jirsa and Harrick at Georgia.

"That says a lot when you're the only guy returning on previous staffs and it happens twice," said Edwards.

Like Hunt, Mathews has had a strong effect on the talent level in the places he'd worked before taking the Towson job. After assisting at an already strong Radford program through several NCAA tournament appearances, he worked his way through rebuilding projects at both Butler and Virginia Tech.

He came to Virginia Tech at the same time as Henrickson in 1997, trying to improve teams that had never had two winning seasons in a row. Since then, the Hokies have averaged 23 wins a season. "What happened at Virginia Tech since 1997 has been truly phenomenal," Edwards said.

Both Hunt and Mathews met with their new teams early yesterday morning, and both were pleased with the response from their players, who were simply relieved to finally have coaches.

After losing their first 12 games of the season, the women suspected the possibility of a coaching change.

"You hear all sorts of different things, so we were anxious to see who our new coach would be," said Mia Chapman, the team's top player in 2000-2001. "We're just excited about our new coach and ready to start winning some games."

Hunt, who could lose as many as three of the starters returning from last year, said he was encouraged by the way his team's meeting went.

Freshman guard Tamir Goodman gave no indication as to his plans for next season, but had good things to say about Hunt.

"There's a good balance between being a tough coach and a people person," Goodman said.

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