Dougherty's Letter

by Dave Morus

After reading the comment thread on the PG story about Everhart's firing, I think some things need to be cleared up. Most of those people who are commenting there will never read this, but that's OK. I think that it's time to parse Dr. Dougherty's letter and see what he was - and wasn't - saying. Granted, this is my interpretation,  though even points that I feel are obvious are being overlooked or generalized.

Before we even begin, I think it is worth pointing out that this e-mail and all of its contents were intended solely as a means for Dr. Dougherty to communicate to the people that are his bosses why he signed off on the decision to fire Coach Everhart. This was not intended for public consumption and was leaked to the press. Finally, I will be skipping the introductory section of the letter. We'll get started after the jump.

We are very grateful to Ron for bringing our program out of a long moribund period, a skill he demonstrated at two previous universities and the very reason we hired him. 

It must be noted here - everyone should be grateful for what he did for the program. Some called it impossible. Clearly Ron was the right man to rebuild the program...

However, as was the case in his two previous posts, he has stalled at a modest plateau with our program. It is clear that we will not be capable of moving to the next level of excellence with Ron at the helm. 

First, recall that Ron has coached more games without an NCAA appearance than anyone else. He's put his stake on being a master rebuilder, though, so that's not exactly a big deal when resurrecting a program from the ashes. When you believe it is time to move beyond the resurrection phase, Coach Everhart has not been a person to call on. One need look no further than his performance at previous stops to know this. All of his jobs have been rebuilding jobs. He literally has no experience with moving forward after that.

By next level, I mean annual contention for the top of the A10 conference, regular appearances in the NIT and periodic appearances in the NCAA tournaments. 

This seems to be the most misunderstood point in the letter. Dr. D calls this the next level. Not the pinnacle, not the ultimate achievement, but the next level. I think that is a reasonable assertion when discussing a program that has been qualified for a third-tier tournament consistently and made the tier two tourney once on the back of Aaron Jackson. There is nothing here that says Dougherty feels that Duquesne Basketball is capable of nothing more than consistent NIT berths and occasional NCAAs. This is simply the next step forward. We learned to walk with Everhart. We need to learn to run. Then we can start taking on marathons.

We reached the conclusion that this kind of performance was impossible under his leadership due to uneven recruiting, large turnovers among his student athletes and coaching staff, an overall average win-loss record and a losing record in the A10, poor performance in close games, the predictable collapse of our teams late in the season, and a general disorganization and lack of communication that is clear to those close to the program. The recent loss of TJ McConnell and other players from the team is part of an unfortunate pattern and an indication of the current decline in our program.

These are the reasons, clearly stated, why Everhart was not the right person to lead the Dukes beyond the rebuilding phase. None of the elements that Dr. Dougherty says here can be in dispute. They are evident from trends during seasons, from win-loss records, from news stories outlining transfer after transfer. Note that the recent defections are listed last on this list and not as the primary reason. Instead, they are referred to as the continuation of a trend, a pattern. We all know the names that have left over the years and we all know the varying reasons.

It is true that transfers are more common these days in college basketball, but based on news articles from the last year, Duquesne is well above average in players leaving before fulfilling their eligibility. A high rate of turnover creates instability, and it has been a factor for something like 50% of his recruits.

The University has invested a great deal in our men's program. Since Ron has been with us, the Palumbo Center has been nearly totally renovated at a cost of over $5m. We have increased the program's operating budget by over 75%. On critical occasions, I have aided Ron directly by meeting personally with leading student prospects and their families to talk about Duquesne and our support of the basketball program. It is reasonable to expect a higher level of excellence for this kind of University commitment.

Let's talk about Duquesne's basketball budget. In fiscal 2011, a report posted to the Atlantic 10 message board shows that the university spent a lot more than St. Bonaventure. They spent only $20k less than SLU, and were only $100k (or roughly 3-4%) lower than Temple. These three teams, in addition to Xavier, represented the Atlantic 10 in the NCAA tournament this season. Duquesne is clearly on competitive financial footing. 

Moreover, Duquesne's recruiting budget is now third in the Atlantic 10. This is in addition to the millions of dollars spent on upgrading the Palumbo Center, not to mention the costs incurred when firing a coach with two years on his contract and then having to pay the next guy on top of that.

We are confident that we can find a new coach who will build on what Ron has accomplished. We have a great tradition, a virtually new home facility, the proximity and close relationship with the Consol Center, an effective AD, a core fan base that is hungry for a better product, and a strong University commitment to the program. While not a regular contender for leadership in our conference, Duquesne is no longer the doormat. 

Some have noted that the terminology "effective" in reference to Amodio doesn't exactly ring with praise. As Steve mentioned in another entry, I believe it's just a message - Amodio had better get this next hire right. For now, I'll also make the point that Steve made on the message board. Steve's a good guy and won't mind (I hope!):

"In his last search, his top three were John Groce, who nearly beat UNC tonight at Ohio, Jim Christian who seems like he has the TCU program coming around slowly and of course Ron.  Ron was exactly what we needed at the time. Now, our needs have changed. He also grabbed McConnell - Serio to coach the women. His track record has proven to be a good one and in my opinion, there is little reason to think he is more likely to make a bad hire than a good one."

I don't have any love for Amodio. I find him to be curt and dismissive of others. Everhart is a far more likable guy, which explains some of the loyalties of those who know him. Still, Amodio does deserve praise for his two most significant hires in Everhart and McConnell-Serio. Nothing about Everhart's tenure can be called a failure - he did exactly what he was hired to do. His skill set simply no longer matched the needs of the program. Certainly McConnell-Serio has the women's program moving in the right direction. I believe he also deserves credit for Jerry Schmidt, who has the football team playing competitive ball in the NEC despite being a newcomer to scholarship football.

The A10 conference itself is on the verge of a major improvement with the addition of new high quality university programs. All of this amounts to an exciting professional opportunity for a new coach.

Hints of an addition or two to the conference. Butler has been called "all but a done deal" by some sources. Interesting to see what happens here, and hopefully we can discuss it once the dust settles a little. The loss of Temple is significant, though for all their success, Temple has not been to consecutive national championship games and hasn't been to the Sweet 16 since 2001. But I digress.

The immediate future will be a bit bumpy; difficult personnel decisions always are. Ron has his supporters and he is well-liked as a person. But long term success in our men's basketball program is best served by acting decisively now and making clear that we are committed to greater excellence here—as we are throughout Duquesne University.

Don't be surprised when it takes the next guy a year or so to get things straight as he integrates new people with whatever players are here. Duquesne has shown itself to be viable now, and that will be a boon. Some saw potential in Herrera - maybe he would fit the new coach better and be convinced to return. Perhaps Martin and Abele are suddenly viable options with a new coach. Obviously we will all pick at decisions, we'll wonder about moves, criticize, but that's our job as fans. Just remember that everything takes time. I guarantee that we'll all forget it as soon as the first game tips off. It's still worth saying.

This is my interpretation. Feel free to disagree!