Who Is Jim Ferry?

by Dave Morus

We've been talking about this guy a lot, and Rogabee did a great entry on what there was to like about Jim Ferry. I'll take a different approach here than in my other recent profiles. I'm going to compare Jim Ferry's history to the items cited in Dr. Dougherty's letter to the board as holding Duquesne basketball back. Perhaps after that, we'll have a clearer picture of what we are looking at if he is indeed the coach - and it looks more and more like that will be the case. I've identified the following elements from the letter:

- Annual contention for the top of the conference
- Regular appearances in postseason play other than CBI/CIT
- Stability
- Late-season performance
- Performance in close games
- Increase in win/loss record overall

Without further ado, let's delve into the life and times of Jim Ferry.

1) Annual contention for the top of the conference.

We all know that LIU has been the class of the NEC during the last two seasons. They won the postseason tournament and earned the right to represent the league in the NCAAs. The story of LIU's success in the NEC, however, goes back a few seasons. In fact, the team's combined conference record over the past four years is 55-17. The success of the past two years was no fluke and was foreshadowed as early as 2008-09. 

Don't count the early failures against Jim Ferry either. The program was in need of a complete overhaul when they hired him, and then shortly after early success (including the 11-9 conference record that led to his coach of the year selection in 04-05), injuries to starters hurt the team

Verdict: Check.

2) Regular appearances in postseason play other than CBI/CIT

Jim Ferry has done just about all that can be done in this way in the NEC. 

You're only going to make it to the NCAAs if you win the conference tournament. You're not going to make the NIT unless you win the regular season but lost the conference tournament. And, generally, teams in conferences like the NEC don't get picked for the NIT at all without the auto-bid coming into play for the regular season winner. Two years dancing in a row is pretty good.

Verdict: Check.

3) Stability.

I'm going to look at this in terms of coaches and players.

Coaches: The three assistants on Ferry's staff this season were in their seventh, seventh, and fourth seasons with the school. No qualms there.

Players: I'm going to look at this based on class balance and I'm going to look at the middle of his tenure. That means that the early culling from the previous regime has been completed and there should be minimal upheaval. I'll also say that I'm a little less certain here.


This is a bit more troubling to me. The balance in the first two years on this table was so good. The only thing that I knew about the latter two years is that two of the freshmen from 08-09 were redshirted. So I decided to look a little deeper.

One answer was injuries. Forbes, who was the "missing" senior in 08-09, lost two full seasons to injury, including a torn labrum, and ultimately never returned. Another freshman  from 07-08 transferred mid-year to a community college in Kansas; I couldn't find any information there, though connecting the dots may point to academic issues. Finally, another of those freshmen transferred mid-season in 08-09 and thus was removed from the roster. Little could be found as to the reason for the transfer, but he ended up at Wayne State, located in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan, so that could have entered into the equation.

Next up is the 2009 offseason, which I suppose could be characterized as a spate of bad luck. Of the disappearing seniors, one was a walk-on. Two foreign players (one of which was the other senior) had to leave for their homes of Argentina and Lithuania for family health emergencies, as reported in New York media. Of the freshmen who did not move forward with their class, several were actually redshirted and another had a heart ailment.

I don't know how to judge this part. Certainly there were elements of stability and no player appeared to be forced to leave as we saw here. This will require further research and discussion with LIU fans.

Coaches: Check
Players: ???

4) Late-Season Performance

The last two years, the Blackbirds are a combined 21-1 in the months of February and March. That may not be surprising. 

However, they were 6-4 during the prior year despite a middling record overall, and 6-3 before that. Over four years, the team was 33-8 in the late season, certainly far better than what we are used to. Even in the years dedicated to rebuilding, the team has generally been .500 or better in that part of the season.

Verdict: Check.

5) Performance in close games

Ferry carries a 48-38 record in close games at LIU, and a 10-9 record in overtime.

Verdict: Check

6) Increase in win/loss record overall.

This is the big one, right? 

The records at Adelphi and Plymouth State speak for themselves. The 150-149 record appears less than impressive at a glance. I choose to look at the last two years here, however. First, two years in a row is no accident. Second, his records at the previous schools, although they were in a lower division, prove that he knows how to find success. Third, the effort needed to right the LIU ship was tremendous.

In an "All-Access" video, Ferry states that when he arrived, no one in New York wanted to come to LIU. It's no wonder. The team fell dramatically after the tournament appearances in the late 90s (1997 NCAA, 1998 NIT). And then there's the fact that the team played in a 1000 seat gym built into the former Brooklyn Paramount Theatre. The school's athletic site characterizes it as "cozy."

LIU was 5-21 the year before he stepped on campus. It has the same challenges that are present when talking about any New York City school, perhaps more. His tenure involved several injuries including, according to his bio, a portion of a season where three starters missed multiple games at the same time. At least two players had their entire LIU careers effected by injury.

Finally, it should also be noted that when you're in a conference like the NEC, the out of conference games are less important. The low-major schools expect to get hit hard in those games because, ultimately, they're meaningless. The goal is to win the conference. Nothing else matters because you won't get a bid any other way.

Nonetheless, the win/loss record is something that's going to stand out.

Verdict: Push

Overall, he seems to meet or exceed the criteria that the administration has stated. Number six depends on your view of the rebuilding years. I try to take an optimistic view of that. Number three depends on those players - bad luck or was it worse? That's something we'll have to look into another day.