Inexperience and lack of depth have been the reasons given for yet another poor season by the University of Maine men’s basketball team of just 11 wins, a 278th team power rating by realtimerpi.com and a 6-11 conference record in a league that was ranked 22nd out of 32 Division I conferences.
It’s the same old excuses every season for this program.
It’s a program that has been 111-155 and has not won a conference tournament game for eight consecutive seasons, but Maine athletic director Steve Abbott has said head coach Ted Woodward’s job is safe.
This says that the Maine administration is OK with not having a successful program in the win column.
So as long as the players have good GPA’s, graduate on schedule and are good citizens, then Woodward’s job appears safe. Those three things should be expected along with winning seasons.
This is a evaluation philosophy more like a Division III school than Division I, where players are more heavily recruited and given scholarships.
If Maine is going to continue with the philosophy of winning being secondary, then it’s time for the men’s basketball program to recruit Maine players and have the scholarship money stay with the state’s taxpayers.
Only two players on the season-ending roster were from Maine and only one got any playing time.
So let’s recruit the best we have here in Maine and forget about recruiting outside of Maine unless necessary for certain position players.
This cannot be done until after the next two years because Woodward is still under contract. However, this is what should be done after those two years.
1. Hire a Mainer as the head coach who is not interested in using the job as a stepping stone. The head coach should hire assistants from the state and would only need two instead of three. Also, this would cut the current staff’s salaries, which is more than $200,OOO.
2. Have the coaches recruit the best we have here in Maine.
3. Have open campus tryouts, as there has always been one or two gym rats playing in the field house or the rec center who are as good as some of the current starters.
4. Tell the Maine players that you want them, and it would be in their best interest — if they are interested in becoming an impact Division I player — to attend prep school after high school. Let them know that if they don’t choose UMaine, then there is always a scholarship available if they want to come home.
5. Only issue 10 scholarships a year and keep four in reserve for walk-ons and transfers, and limit the roster to 14 players.
6. Fill out the roster with position players that the Maine players do not fill, usually this will be players in the 6-foot-10 category. They may not be being heavily recruited by other D1 schools, but with some individual coaching they could well develop to help the program and become top players as was the case with Jeff Cross, who went on to play in the NBA.
These recommendations could increase attendance as Maine fans do not identify with the current United Nations approach and will only attend games if the team is successful. The team did appear to have some talent as it beat Florida Gulf Coast in Orono and that team has advanced to the Sweet 16.
However, Maine ended up winning only 11 games and winning doesn’t seem to be an important part in evaluating the coach’s performance. That accountability for the program goes back to Abbott, who is not using the right evaluation tool of placing an emphasis on winning.
If the emphasis is on GPA’s, graduating on time and being good college citizens, then give the scholarships to players from Maine.
They can certainly win 11 games, too.