Chuck McGill: UC president optimistic about hoops future
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In the wake of Mark Downey's resignation as the University of Charleston men's basketball coach last month, Dr. Ed Welch had a conundrum.
The UC president, who is entering his 25th year at the school, briefly considered the virtues of an interim head hoops coach who could steady the program through one season and into calm waters. Then, with ample time next offseason, Welch could conduct a national search for Downey's successor.
"I had ethical qualms about asking someone to switch jobs this late in the year because of what that does to the other school," said Welch, who was left with a premium coaching vacancy to fill when Downey departed July 19.
"It puts them through what we're experiencing, but on the other hand my compensation is to do what's best for the University of Charleston and our student-athletes."
Welch said he was "pleased at this late date to have the quality and quantity of candidates" vying for the men's basketball gig. Dwaine Osborne, a West Virginia native and former Glenville coach, was introduced Aug. 5 -- two weeks ago today.
The choppy waters haven't necessarily ceased, although at no fault of Osborne, who has been busy finding players to fill what Welch said is "quite of bit of aid available."
Questions were raised about Downey, who took the West Alabama job less than three months after three of his top four returning scorers were arrested and booted from the program.
Could Downey, who went 60-29 in three seasons at UC, have been coerced into staying with more job security?
"It never came up," Welch said. "In the three conversations we had, there was only one request he made and that was a very modest request and I said 'that's fine.' There were no issues or any 'I wish you would do this' or 'I wish you would do that.'"
All UC coaches are on year-to-year contracts and there were rumblings that Downey didn't feel secure in his position after his recruits shined a negative light on UC in the spring.
That ordeal was challenging for Welch, a man who cringes at technical fouls on the court and red cards on the pitch. And even though the three jettisoned players were transfers, Welch isn't going to insist his coaches only recruit first-time college entrants.
Primarily, yes. Exclusively, no.
"We're an educational institution and I want people to come here because they want to come to the University of Charleston," Welch said. "People who are here for a long period of time, they set the culture for the team. If you have a team that's entirely made up of transfer players, then you don't have that culture. You don't have that sense of who we are, this is who are university is.
"It can be hard to coach."
No matter the roster makeup, this season will be a challenge for Osborne, who had overall losing records at Glenville State and the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. That has been a focal point for critics, but Welch viewed Osborne's achievements relative to the coaching stops.
Osborne led Glenville State to a 20-win season in 2008-09, a program first in 14 seasons since joining Division II. Glenville State won 20 games combined the three seasons after Osborne left for UTPB.
Texas-Permian Basin hadn't won a conference title since beginning its hoops program in 2002, but Osborne's team went 16-12 in 2010-11, won the Heartland Conference regular season title and Osborne took home conference Coach of the Year honors. He had one more winning season (two) in his four seasons there than the program had before his arrival.
Texas-Permian Basin was 10-15 last season, but Welch pointed to the injuries and adversity the program faced.
"Folks look at last year's record, which was 10-15," the UC president said. "If you go through a season without your top three players and you only have four scholarships and you win 10 games, you probably have done a heck of a coaching job.
"But that doesn't show up on the scoreboard and I understand folks can look at that and say 'Geez, you hired somebody who went 10-15.' But looking in the context of what he had done, he moved that program forward and did things that they had never done before."
Osborne may not have been delivering knockouts, but Welch saw a coach who went the distance time and time again with one armed tied behind his back. The 37-year-old had the equivalent of four scholarships at UTPB. He'll have 2 1/2 times that at UC.
Osborne's record might haunt him at UC until the wins come consistently, which should be the expectation now that he has both hands free.
Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-7949. Follow him on Twitter @chuckmcgill.