Women's basketball: This time, Daniel says yes to Herd
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Matt Daniel's first dalliance with Marshall came long before the school opened its search for a new women's basketball coach last month.
Daniel, 35, was introduced as the Thundering Herd's new women's hoops coach Tuesday afternoon, but in 1994 the Mr. Basketball of Arkansas received the full-court press from then-Marshall men's Coach Billy Donovan.
Daniel passed as a player then, but jumped at the opportunity to sign a four-year contract worth $160,000 annually to revive the Marshall women's program.
"I've actually been on campus before," Daniel said Tuesday in the Henderson Center's Hartley Room. "I was Coach Billy Donovan's first scholarship offer at Marshall. I took an official visit here.
"I chose Colorado and if you ask Coach Donovan he would probably say I got bad information. I don't know that I would disagree."
Daniel played two years with the Buffaloes before transferring to Harding (Ark.) University.
With Daniel out, Donovan settled on former DuPont High School star Jason Williams.
"Worked out well for both of them," Daniel said with a smile.
Daniel comes to Marshall from Central Arkansas, where he compiled a 72-50 record over the past four seasons. That includes a 6-23 mark in 2008-09.
The Sugar Bears went 21-8, 21-12 and 24-7 the last three seasons, and Daniel won Southland Coach of the Year honors in 2010 and '12.
"I feel like he's going to come in and change some things and put us where we need to be," Marshall rising senior Alyse Poindexter said.
Marshall is coming off a 16-14 season. Royce Chadwick resigned as head coach April 10 to accept the same position at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
Herd Athletic Director Mike Hamrick interviewed three candidates: Daniel, Drury University Coach Steve Harold and Oregon assistant Keila Whittington.
"It's a new day, a new era," Hamrick said before introducing Daniel. "It's time to take Marshall University women's basketball to a new and different direction.
"We need to take this program to a little bit higher level. I think the search that we undertook made that possible and I think we found the right person."
Daniel, who is a native of Jonesboro, Ark., shared his 25-page guide to basketball philosophy. It is titled "Home of Higher Hoops," and it features rules, daily objectives and a glimpse of the Herd's future style of play.
"If we play too slow I sit down because I get bored," Daniel said. "We want to play fast. We do not play full-court basketball; we play full-tilt basketball.
"We want to tilt the basketball floor, we want to run downhill on offense and make them run uphill on offense."
The cover of the guide is a house with his favorite sayings. He referenced them throughout the press conference.
When Daniel and his wife arrived in Huntington last week, their luggage was lost. He referenced a box on the cover of his guide that reads: "adapt & overcome."
A window to the left of the door of the house says: "Everyone is always watching." Daniel connected that to his first interaction with his new players at Marshall.
"Sunday morning we were out driving around looking at the area," Daniel of he and his wife, Jennifer. "We see two women's basketball players running around Huntington on the trail.
"I rolled down my window and I said 'Hey, what sport do y'all play?' They said 'women's basketball' and I said 'I'll see you soon.'"
The players - Shay Weaver and Chukwuka Ezeigbo - didn't know it was their new coach in the car.
"We thought he was a fan," Weaver said through laughter. "We thought he was going to chase us down or something, but then we found out and it all made sense."
In telling the story, Daniel circled back to his handy basketball guide.
"On the 'Home of Higher Hoops' there is a window and it doesn't say someone is always watching," Daniel said. "Everyone is always watching, so the things you do at 8:30 on a Sunday morning on a Memorial Day weekend are definitely noticed."
Daniel's wife is a dentist and they are expecting their first child - a daughter named Steele - in October. He is still in the process of forming his coaching staff.
Marshall's last 20-win season came in 1990-91.
"It's similar to what we just did, putting a program over the hump," Daniel said. "This will not be an overnight fix, but it could also get real fun, real fast."
Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-7949.