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2 posts from April 16, 2013

April 16, 2013

A few things from Anthony Evans introduction

Amidst the fumes from The Beach at The Branch, FIU introduced Anthony Evans as its new men's basketball coach. Packing the suite were coaches (including Ron Turner, Rita Buck-Crockett and Cindy Russo), some of last season's FIU team and a plethora of folks connected with the athletic department, past and present. More people there than at the start of the FIU-FAMU game.

"For the recruits in the South Florida area, we're going to recruit you extremely hard," Evans said. "We want to build this program on local talent, so we can get this community energized and behind this basketball program."

Evans said he thought he was close last year to getting the FIU job that went to Richard Pitino. "Obviously, Richard has a great reputation as a recruiter. I know that's something (FIU athletic director) Pete (Garcia) was huge on." Garcia said Evans lost to Pitino "by a nose."

Evans thanked Pitino "for saying great things about me. For being an advocate for me getting this position and for building a solid foundation moving forward for years to come." He also thanked South Carolina (and former Miami High) coach Frank Martin and Marquette coach Buzz Williams, whom he called "great friends," for recommending him to Garcia.

Evans said he liked The Beach at The Branch: "I love it. Naw, it's unique. if Pete had anything to do with it, I knew it would be unique...I think it sets us apart from other schools and I think that's what you want."

Garcia said FIU would tour Spain for two weeks in August.

Evans explained afterwards that the APR bouncing during his time as Norfolk's head coach was the result of players not adhering to the structures and rules in place and not being made to do so by the coaching staff. And by "coaching staff" he made clear he meant himself, not any assistant.

The team's leading three-point shooter, guard Malik Smith, might not be transferring as he indicated on Twitter and via Instagram the night Minnesota announced Pitino's hiring.

Evans hadn't made any decisions yet on how many of his Norfolk assistants he's bringing with him.

On Evans & golf

About eight seconds after I started my Monday with a car crash, I thought, this FIU men's basketball coach thing will break today.

Now that I've returned from the emergency room (my daughter, an earring, an embedded second back...sigh. I really need a drink), let's take a quick look at Anthony Evans. And if you're going to read a Herald story on Evans, read the one online now. I didn't get much of a chance to update the quickie early online version before we had to go to print.

Norfolk State went Division I in basketball in 1997. An annual 20-win team at the Division II level, Norfolk put up a winning season in its second D-I season, the only season Mel Coleman coached. After that, the program lived at the same just-under-mediocrity neighborhood that FIU's lived in most of its time in Division I. They didn't have another winning season until Evans' first year, 16-15 in 2007-08.

Though Norfolk put up losing records each of the next three seasons, the conference record never got worse than 8-8. That says Evans never let his program fall into being the least among its peers. He was considered one of the great bargains in coaching. He made only $125,000 per season before last year's contract extension.

In basketball, so much more than football, sometimes, all it takes is one player to turn a program in the right direction for a little while. Kyle O'Quinn, a 6-10 forward who slipped through the cracks and down to Norfolk, and 6-6 guard Pendarvis Williams were those guys for Norfolk in 2011-12 and 2012-13. O'Quinn became the first player to be named Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the seame season.

Norfolk did have more than those two players. In fact, O'Quinn was gone last year and Norfolk still put up impressive defensive numbers and slipped only a little (40th to 49th) in the national blocked shot rankings.

The Academic Progress Rate situation at Norfolk over the years might give a little pause. Progress has looked more like the charting of a Wall Street rumble between bulls and bears.

Norfolk's 888 multi-year APR in 2006-07 was enough to draw a public notice finger wag from the NCAA. It slipped to 885 next year, but the Four-Letter Organization noted that the basketball team still was outperforming Norfolk State's regular students in this regard.

A 2008-09 APR of 962 bumped the multiyear to 904. But an 840 the following year dragged the multiyear APR down to 894. Scholardhips were reduced to 11 and basketball time was cut to only five days a week and 16 hours total. Another year of 962 in 2010-11 brought the multi-year back up to an acceptable 926.

Unless I'm missing my count, that means Evans coached a 26-win team while under some pretty serious NCAA restrictions. That's an attractive accomplishment to a program that's looking at some NCAA sanctions.

At least FIU got this done before the signing period starts for men's basketball. Between seniors, a couple of transfers and probably a signee getting out of his letter of intent, the Panthers should be back on the player hunt.


FIU leads the pack after the first round of the Sun Belt Women's Golf Championships. The Panthers leads Middle Tennessee by two and Troy by 3. Freshman Meghan MacLaren is on her way to a possbile medalist award, tied atop the leaderboard with Arkansas-Little Rock sophomore Sofia Berglund.



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