The UMaine men’s basketball program is in a unique, tough situation as it searches for a new basketball coach.
Orono is isolated. Here, it is all about location.
If you draw a circle 500 miles in circumference from it, much of that area is woods, the Atlantic Ocean or the Canadian provinces.
What basketball recruit from outside the state (who is not an international player) with major-college or mid-major potential is going to want to come to Maine?
The winters are cold and it is almost 200 miles from Orono to Maine’s southern border with New Hampshire.
Also, the program has not been successful the past three seasons as they have gone 29-59, a .330 winning percentage.
Maine needs to hire an experienced and successful head coach. In the past four hires since 1971, only Dr. John Giannini had successful head coaching experience and he was the most successful. He was the only one with a winning percentage over 50.
Hire a young assistant coach, and he usually uses the job as a stepping stone and leaves as soon as he can.
Maine has not gotten the top Maine high school players lately because they have not been recruited wisely.
Only two of the last six starter transfers have gone higher than a “low major”-rated team. So why did the other four transfer, and why did other players and three assistant coaches leave?
The coach who can solve these problems immediately is associate head coach Doug Leichner. He has nine years of successful head coaching experience at different levels and has been at Maine for nine years, five as associate head coach. He also has been successful as a head coach of some European teams.
Maine’s recruiting success during the past few seasons has come mostly from the international players brought in by Leichner. There are eight international players on the roster. He has many recruiting contacts in Europe and Canada.
Leichner knows the program, knows the problems, knows the players and they know him. He can immediately stabilize the program with the talent on hand and make them competitive next year.
There will be no wasted time in getting to know the program, the players and the conference, as there would be if an outsider is hired, regardless of his credentials.
All Maine administrators have to do is read the Leichner’s resume on page 15 of the 2013-14 Maine Basketball Yearbook. That should be enough for him to be hired.
The first thing an athletic administrator should do when filling a head coaching position is look in-house. If an assistant coach is qualified, has paid his dues, has successful head coaching experience and knows the conference, he should be hired.
If Leichner is not hired or kept on as the associate head coach, it will take at least two or three years before the program becomes successful. It will take a new coach at least that long to understand what must done to correct the problems that have hindered the program.
It took women’s head coach Richard Barron, who had previous successful head coaching experience, three years to get that program turned around.
If Leichner leaves, Maine loses most of its international recruiting ties.
This would be a very easy transition for the players. Aren’t they the most important people involved?
To get this program back on track immediately, Maine should give Leichner an interview and, at minimum, hire him as interim head coach. He has paid his dues, has been a successful recruiter, has won as a head coach, knows the players, and is familiar with the conference.
This should be a no-brainer.