Kennedy to become coach at Towson

Ex-Florida State leader will be introduced today

College Basketball

May 10, 2004|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

A coach looking for a change of scenery and some job security and a men's college basketball program in search of a much-needed boost have apparently found each other, with Pat Kennedy coming to Towson today from the University of Montana.

Barring a change of heart last night by either the 52-year-old coach or the school, Kennedy will be introduced at a campus news conference this morning, sources close to Kennedy and the search process said yesterday.

"I'm 99.9 percent sure he's on his way," an associate of Kennedy's in Missoula, Mont., said yesterday.

Neither Kennedy nor Towson athletic director Wayne Edwards were available for comment last night.

This will be Kennedy's fifth head coaching job, and next season will mark his 25th year as a Division I head coach. His overall record of 416-311 includes eight NCAA tournament appearances.

Kennedy once took Florida State to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, but he has seen his success dwindle with eight losing seasons at three schools in the past 11 years.

Towson hasn't had a winning season since 1995-96 and hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 1991, the second of two straight appearances the Tigers made under Terry Truax.

Neither Mike Jaskulski nor Michael Hunt came close to duplicating what Truax did at Towson. Hunt resigned last month after compiling a 23-63 record in three seasons.

Kennedy was among three candidates with head coaching experience brought in to interview by Towson president Robert Caret and Edwards.

The others were Larry Hunter, the associate head coach at North Carolina State and a former head coach at Ohio University, and Clemson associate head coach Ron Bradley, a former head coach at Radford and assistant at Maryland.

What set Kennedy apart from the other two candidates, according to someone familiar with the search, was his personality, which Towson officials hope will translate in his ability to recruit and sell the program locally.

"They wanted someone who could get out in the community and get people interested," a source said.

Jim Haney, executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, said Kennedy, the organization's new president, would be a good choice for Towson.

"He's got a recognizable name. He knows a lot of people," Haney said yesterday from his home in Kansas City, Mo. "He's very articulate, has a rich history of basketball and has been at all levels of basketball. He understands the depth and breadth of Division I."

The job will also represent a chance for Kennedy to get back to the East Coast, where he hasn't coached since leaving Iona for Florida State back in 1986.

Kennedy, a New Jersey native who worked as an assistant for the late Jim Valvano at Iona, was known as one of the better recruiters in the country while at Florida State and DePaul.

At Montana, Kennedy was seen as an outsider nearly from the day that former AD Wayne Hogan, who knew Kennedy when they both worked at Florida State, hired him to replace Don Holst in 2002. The Grizzlies had gone to the NCAA tournament that year and had two losing seasons under Kennedy.

Hogan was forced to resign in March, setting in motion the process that reportedly had Kennedy looking into an opening at San Francisco, then at Towson.

Along with Hogan's ouster, Kennedy's future seemed uncertain because he was on a year-to-year contract and the athletic department was $1 million in debt.

University president George Dennison said he hadn't heard from Kennedy.

"He has not said a word to me," Dennison said yesterday afternoon from Missoula. "There are a lot of rumors flying around. That information [of a coach resigning] is usually conveyed before a person leaves."

Kennedy took part in a university golf function Friday but told friends back East that he was negotiating with Towson officials about his contract. Kennedy's package at Montana is believed to be about $150,000 a year, and he would likely make more than that at Towson.

"He'll bring a great deal of enthusiasm to the job," said former Iona AD Rich Petriccione. "He'll go out and steal a couple of kids out of Baltimore who can play. It will probably be a lot like his days in the old MAAC."

Haney, the NABC's executive director, said he left a message for Kennedy two weeks ago when he first was mentioned for the Towson job. As of yesterday, he had not heard back.

"Tell him," Haney said, "that we have a meeting Wednesday in St. Louis."

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