Update: Thursday 10:00 a.m.: Officially or not, Racer great Popeye Jones has thrown his hat in the ring as a candidate for the head coaching position. I remember Popeye Jones, although I was a young child when he played at Murray, and I remember seeing some highlights from time of time of his time in the NBA.
Many people think it would be great to have a lifer like Loos at Peay. And sometimes, that’s a great thing. But one of the things I think that has made Murray great is that it has always been a great destination for great coaches. 3 of the previous 4 Racer coaches are at a BCS Conference school. Those kind of coaches have made Murray a destination spot for the great, motivated coaches, and they have made the Racers an OVC power year after year. Am I saying they wouldn’t be with Jones? Not necessarily, he has been an assistant coach in the NBA for the past 4 seasons.
But I do have two concerns if Jones were to take over the team: Jones doesn’t have any experience with the recruiting process, and that Jones doesn’t have many college coaching connections. It’s already been said that is Prohm doesn’t receive the head coaching position, he will join Kennedy at A&M. That means that every coach from Kennedy’s staff that coached these players and recruited this year’s class will be gone, which means there’s an increased likelihood that one or more players will leave. Jones will be tasked will filling out a COMPLETE coaching staff, and would have to hit the ground running on the recruiting trail late in the recruiting season, something he’s inexperienced at.
As much as Racer fans like the idea of Jones, I still think that Steve Prohm is the right pick for the Racers moving forward.
Original Commentary: With a late exit by Billy Kennedy to Texas A&M, (a move he had to make, by the way) the Racers are left scratching their heads late in the recruiting season as to who to choose to keep the Racers heading in the right direction.
There are fans out there who think the Racers should have done better, that Kennedy didn’t bring the Racers back to the glory of the 90’s despite having the talent. But the OVC used to be a 2-team conference; with a few exceptions, it was either Murray or Austin Peay at the top of the standings. But since Kennedy took the reigns at Murray, both UT Martin and Morehead State have had NBA quality players, and both Morehead and Murray won the conference’s first, second, and third NCAA tournament games since the field was expanded to 64 (or more) teams. The OVC is a better basketball conference now than it used to be.
That really puts Murray in a tough spot. With the field of teams becoming more and more competitive, and with the addition of Belmont to the conference in just one season, the Racers need to find that coach that can keep the Racers playing at the top level of the conference.
I just hope they realize that they already have him.
Kennedy’s 5-year term at Murray is more like a decade to a school that’s used to seeing coaches leave sometimes after just 3 years. Most Murray coaches bring in Juco transfers to fit their system quick, and only get one or two solid years recruiting for their system, then it’s rinse and repeat for the next coach that takes the reigns. But in Kennedy’s 5 years, he’s actually had the time to build a team to fit his tough-nosed defensive system. It wasn’t flashy, but it worked, and this team got stronger year-to-year.
And that’s why current assistant coach Steve Prohm is a great fit. Prohm has been with Kennedy for 12 of his 13 years as an assistant, including of course all 5 years at Murray. He knows these players, and this system, that’s produced two straight OVC titles, and the Racers first OVC Tournament win since 1984.
Another reason to choose Prohm: most of the serious candidates for the position are other assistant coaches without head coaching experience. While other names have come up (John Pelphrey for instance) the ones getting the most buzz, relative buzz at least, are assistants at Georgia (Pearson), Vandy (Muller), Louisville (Pitino), and Kentucky (Anitigua). I can understand passing up an assistant for an established coach in Division I, but another assistant? All assistants are risks, but with Prohm, you have a smaller chance of losing players and recruits this year, and a coach that already knows the teams and players he’ll be going up against.
Murray State has always been a great launching pad for coaches, and Kennedy is just the latest example. They understand how to win, and quite possibly more important, want to win year in and year out. But that doesn’t always mean you have to reach out and pick the coach with the flashiest teams on his resume. Prohm is a solid assistant, and given how he’s been with Kennedy for 12 years, probably isn’t the type of coach that will bolt the first time a larger school calls his name. If I’m Allen Ward (Murray State’s Athletic Director) I’m holding interviews, I’m talking to everyone, but I pick Prohm to keep the Racers exactly where the fan base wants them, on top of the OVC.