Still reeling form the surprise announcement that former head coach Rick Boyages would accept an associate coach position with Ohio State, the William and Mary Men’s Basketball team are left to assess their current status and plan for the future. Boyages’ absence still hangs over the squad, and likely will until a replacement is named, but the players and coaching staff are eager to not miss a beat in their continuing efforts towards improvement.
Initial reaction to Boyages’ exit ranged from shock and surprise to disappointment and understanding.
“I think that Rick Boyages did a great job here,” said Tim Cohane, associate head coach of Tribe Men’s basketball. “I think he’s made some positive improvements to the program in a lot of areas. I was disappointed for the players, because I think players like continuity, but in the coaching profession this is commonplace, and coaches have to think of their families and careers.”
“My feelings were for the players because I think that they’ve been making progress in the program and been really involved in what was going on. And the next question is where do you go from here? I have a lot of confidence in Terry Driscoll; he’s a great Athletic Director and he will make the decision that’s best for William and Mary,” Coach Cohane said.
“We were really shocked,” said junior forward Adam Hess. “I mean he had the recruits in just last weekend; there were more planning on coming in this weekend. We were pretty confident he was coming back. It was the month after year [ended]; he was talking about next year so we were confident he was coming back.”
While Boyages’ exit does throw a wrench in the original four year rebuilding plan he instituted upon his hiring, and while the team feels a loss in Boyages not finishing the journey with them, they understand his motivation.
For Boyages, “the opportunity is here now,” said the captain Hess. “For him he can’t pass something like that up, but as a team we have to realize that we are close. It was a four year plan for coach to get his own players and get his own system and we are one year from [completing that plan].”
Indeed, the Tribe anticipate continuing their steady progress despite Boyages’ departure.
“I think this past year we were one injury or one player away form really turning the corner, winning 16 or 17 games or getting up to the top half [of the CAA] and further along in the [CAA] Tournament,” said Coach Cohane. “I believe that the team next year will be better and don’t see any reason why it can’t be better regardless of Rick leaving, although he’ll be missed just like [seniors] Sherman Rivers and Adam Duggins will be missed. I’m sure that Mr. Driscoll [William and Mary Athletic Director Terry Driscoll] is going to put in a person who can keep it going.”
Coach Cohane said, “There’s very good leadership on the team. We have one of the greatest players in the history of the College [Adam Hess] coming back next year, and I think you have to look at it from the standpoint that it’s just a temporary disappointment and the program will go on.”
All-Conference Hess agreed.
“It can never be seamless; there’s going to be a little bit of a hole left. But I think that if, with most of the guys staying, as long as we can keep the recruits in the program, it’s going to be basically the same team with a different leader. The coach does not shoot the ball for us, he doesn’t make the shots, he doesn’t pass, he’s not on the court. He’s our main leader; he’s the guy who organizes us, we have to play. So we can’t blame the coach and I don’t want this next year to be one of those years where [we think] `Oh were going to do horrible; it’s a first year coach.’ That’s garbage. I’m tired of that mentality; we’re not going to go into it that way. I don’t want us to use this as an excuse; it will be tough as a new coach no matter who it is.”
One thorny question that remains is how the vacancy in the head coach’s position will affect recruiting.
“I think that any time there’s a coaching change it can effect recruiting,” Coach Cohane said. “But it doesn’t have to, particularly at a place like the College of William and Mary, where I think that the students and the families are looking more to the idea that basketball is not everlasting and this is a place where they can really build a future. I’m sure that Terry will convince these families he’s going to get a good replacement in there.”
“With regards to recruiting,” Hess said, who himself transferred from Eastern Michigan after a coaching change, “hopefully the new coach gets hired soon enough that he can get acquainted with the recruits that we have, and Corey Cofield is already signed, so that we can try to keep those recruits. Because my mistake the first time was going just for the coach and I think players also need to realize you’ve got to go for the school and the team because coaches don’t last. I’m the greatest indicator of that; I’m going to have my fourth head coach now in five years. You got to go to a good place, and if this is the right fit for you don’t change your decision just because the coach has left, it’s still the right place.”
“It’s challenging,” Coach Cohane said, reflecting on the difficulties a coach faces in an academic program such as that at the College, “because the pool of recruits is smaller and that’s what it comes down to. So the other schools have more potential players to come in. That exists no matter who the coach is. But there have been many challenging situations at the mid-major level that have made it. Wilmington made it. Gonzaga made it. Stanford for years and years was a place where no one thought they could win. There’s academic schools that have done real well in basketball and there’s no reason William and Mary can’t get to that point, and I think we’re close. I think the players coming back have tremendous dedication; they’re able to balance the rigors of the academic life here with the basketball and still stay dedicated to it.”
“There’s an old saying in some of the Ivy League schools, “Coach Cohane added, “that some of the players become `Harvardized’ --they get to an academic school and they lose it; they’re unable to balance. And so where Princeton was very successful, and Penn is, is they were able to find the type of players that can stay passionate about their basketball but still take care of their priorities. And I think that’s the key, to find those few kids who meet that criteria, and I think that Rick has done a good job of starting process.”
Despite the turmoil, the team remains focused on winning.
“I know I want to finish strong and I know that the freshmen hated losing this year so I think that’s going to come together. I think the young guys just being frustrated with losing and the older guys, especially me, just saying, `This is it, I got to do something.’ We really have most of the core team back for next year. And with a couple recruits it could really help us out,” Hess said.
Tomorrow, the DSJ will examine some of the potential candidates to fill the opening.