Contract up, Towson's Pat Kennedy steps down

Next men's basketball coach will be expected to 'compete for CAA championships'

March 07, 2011|By Ken Murray, The Baltimore Sun

Towson University gave Pat Kennedy seven seasons — as many as predecessors Mike Jaskulski and Michael Hunt had combined — to build a winning Division I basketball program.

He didn't come close.

So Towson pulled the plug on "Pat's Cats" on Monday, sending Kennedy, 59, into his next career and the Tigers' basketball program into another coaching era.

Although it was officially announced as a resignation, Kennedy's contract was up and new athletic director Mike Waddell made it clear he was going to make a change.

Three days after Towson finished a 4-26 season with a first-round loss in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, Waddell, on the job since October, met with Kennedy on Monday morning and the parting became official.

"You don't make a judgment on this based on a game or a season or a month or any other intangible," Waddell said in a phone interview. "You look at the body of work, where you've been and where you want to go, and make a judgment.

"In this case, I made a judgment we were going to move in a different direction, and Pat resigned."

The search for Kennedy's successor will begin immediately, Waddell said, and should culminate soon after the Final Four in Houston, where he plans to conduct interviews.

Waddell said he had hired Fogler Enterprises — a national search firm run by former coach Eddie Fogler — to sift through a list of candidates that could be both lengthy and eye-catching. Towson's big attractions are a new, $68 million arena to be completed by spring 2013 and its inclusion in one of the best mid-major basketball conferences in the country.

In a release issued by the university, Waddell said he was looking for the "best fit" for a program that has endured 15 consecutive losing seasons going back through three leagues to the Terry Truax era in 1995-96.

The best fit will be a teacher and communicator with a track record for recruiting "high caliber" players on the East Coast. Waddell indicated Towson will look at current and former head coaches, along with current college and pro assistants.

"Being able to build a coaching staff is a very important element towards building a winning program," Waddell said in the release.

On the telephone, Waddell said he hopes the men's and women's basketball teams will lead a wave of athletic resurgence for the Tigers

"The new coach will be expected to win games and compete for CAA championships," he said.

In that regard, Towson has nowhere to go but up.

Hampered by the loss of 6-foot-8 forward Rob Nwankwo (academic credit issue), point guard Troy Franklin (the Mount Carmel alum left the team) and junior college transfer Cephas Oglesby (knee injury), the Tigers went 0-18 in the CAA's regular season, finishing the year with a 19-game losing streak. They won only one game after Franklin's departure.

They were often competitive (they lost eight games by four points or fewer), but were not deep enough to beat better CAA programs.

"The level of the three kids we lost was not just average," Kennedy said. "Troy was becoming one of the best lead guards in the league. Oglesby was probably one of the top two or three players that I had recruited here. And Rob was first-team All-Defense [last season]."

Kennedy estimated — perhaps unrealistically — that the Tigers could have won "17 or 18" games if he had those three players. He acknowledged his mistake was trying to rebuild with junior college players soon after arriving on campus in 2004.

It was a costly mistake. Kennedy went 71-144 in seven years. His 26 losses this season were the most in school history, as was the 19-game losing streak.

Monday, he said he underestimated the program he inherited in 2004 and likened Towson athletics at that time to a "Division III-type level." The Tigers have played Division I basketball for the past 31 years.

Hired by university president Robert Caret, Kennedy said his legacy will be the new arena. He said he, David Nevins and Michael Gill, the latter two of the Board of Regents, were able to persuade Caret that a $10 million renovation of Towson Center wasn't enough, that the university needed a basketball arena.

"If they didn't hire Pat Kennedy, they wouldn't be building a new arena," Kennedy said. "And I'm not saying that egotistically. I think that's my greatest accomplishment here."

With his new coach, Waddell wants an up-tempo offense, a physical presence, intense defense and solid fundamentals.

In addition to the arena, Waddell said, his selling points include improvements in academic support, a new dedicated practice facility, and a strength and conditioning coach for basketball.

Towson will also look to upgrade the schedule to increase television appearances.

"Every year, a team comes out of nowhere," Waddell said. "There's no reason why it can't be us."

ken.murray@baltsun.com

Pat Kennedy at a glance

•Career record of 488-454 in 31 Division I seasons

•Appeared eight times in the NCAA tournament, twice with Iona, five times with Florida State and once with DePaul

•Reached the Elite Eight in 1993 with Florida State

•Sent 17 players into NBA, including former Aberdeen and Calvert Hall star Gary Neal

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