The other day I received a very nice “thank you” letter from the folks at the Monmouth University Athletics Department for a recent donation I sent to the college. I noted that the college should direct the funds towards the Monmouth University men’s basketball team and both that donation and the nice “thank you” letter got me to thinking that I haven’t really written anything about the Hawks in quite a while.
In fact, towards the end of the last season I actually stopped posting pictures up on the blog because the entire atmosphere around the program was dull, lethargic, and all-around crappy. Frankly, going to the games became a bit of a bummer because who wants to see their team fight to win a game and then wind up losing in the fourth quarter? I mean those players were fighting their asses off and something just wasn’t clicking. I can’t imagine how it must have felt for the guys in the uniforms, but for the fans in the stands (at least those of us who continued to go to the games until the dire end) it was pretty miserable. Blech.
But if any team in the Northeast Conference has managed to turn the “excitement tide” during this off-season, it has got to be the Hawks. Not only did the Hawks welcome a brand new head coach a few months ago, but there is an entirely brand new coaching staff. Plus, Monmouth sophomore Marcus Ware was named to the All-NEC Rookie Team during this off-season – very impressive!
However, I really think the change that has most fans excited is the change in the head coach position. At the end of March, Monmouth hired King David Rice to replace Dave Calloway (who is now working with a consulting firm). There is a lot of hope pinned to Coach Rice and I’m sure he understands the job that lies ahead of him. As was expected, one of his first steps in making this program his own was hiring an entirely brand new coaching staff. I think it was a great move and one that has the potential to pay dividends, but I understand that some long-time fans were annoyed at seeing the previous Assistant Coach let go (his name escapes me – I’m talking about Coach K) because of his long tenure at the university. I mean, I get that he had a long time to work within the Monmouth University system, but sometimes you have to move on, I guess.
The guys who were on the old coaching staff are talented in their own ways and I’m sure that they’ll land on their feet wherever it is that they decide to go.
Back to the point – Coach Rice has a big job ahead of him. Not only does he have to rebuild a broken program (let’s face it folks, the program is broken), but he has to do that while filling up that still-brand new arena, igniting a fire under the asses of the student population and the fan base, and developing relationships with existing supporters of the program (more on this momentarily). Most importantly, though, Coach Rice has to ensure that the young men on his team are getting the education that they are in college to receive. I blogged on here many times during the last season that it was totally unacceptable that freshmen – FRESHMEN – were suspended at the beginning of the season because of poor academic performance. Absolutely, without a doubt unacceptable. Talk about a student athlete support system not keeping their eye on the ball. Good grief!
Sorry, I get mad about that every time I think about it… because it’s ridiculous.
But back to the point about developing existing supporters of the program – I’ve been a supporter of the program for the past several years (three, I think). And I tried to attend all of the post-game mingle sessions after each of the home games. Sure, I’d hear the previous head coach talk about the game and how the team performed, but other than that – I didn’t see much development going on. When I write “development” I’m talking about fundraising. I don’t think anyone expects the head coach or the coaching staff to do fundraising, but I think everyone expects them to do the friendraising part of the equation. I didn’t see the previous coaching staff doing much friendraising after the games ended and the team’s supporters were in the Varsity Club. Hopefully, Coach Rice and his staff will completely engage the folks upstairs because the more support that can be generated for the team, the better off the program will be in the long run.
Anyway, that’s about all that I’ve been thinking about for the team during the off-season. I’m waiting for Monmouth to announce that season tickets are on-sale so I can renew both of my tickets. I’m a little bit of a salesman for the university for those tickets, by the way. During the first season in the new arena, I bought two season tickets. Then because of being invited to sit in my extra seat for a few games, my buddy down the street bought two tickets during the second season in the new arena to go along with my two seats (that’s four season tickets in total). And for this coming year, both of my roommates are going to buy season tickets so that’s a total of six season tickets that I’m somewhat responsible for helping the university sell. I mean as a fan I’m doing my part, I think!
Here’s hoping that Coach Rice and his new staff do their part. I think it’s going to be a great season!