Ball State has a new basketball coach. You may not know this because the athletic department made the mistake of announcing this move on the Saturday afternoon of Final Four weekend. The news of James Whitford coming to Muncie was buried on local stations and pushed to page three of the Indianapolis Star.
Even worse it will take four days from the announcement for the welcoming press conference and by then no one will care anymore. I guess making a splash was not what the athletic department and Bill Scholl was looking for. Let’s face it, the last time Ball State landed a big name and created buzz was Ronny Thompson. The welcoming press conference became the pinnacle of his coaching stay as the program nosedived into a volcano over the next year.
Given that flashback maybe it’s a good thing there is not much hype about Whitford. There was little hype about Pete Lembo and Brady Sallee and that has not been much of a problem.
However, there are two concerns that can be seen from quick observation.
1. Hiring a man who has never been a head coach before is a risk as NCAA regulations may not be verbatim quite yet. Minor things such as what dates a coach can talk to a recruit can be easier to mess up the first time around. There were candidates out there with head coaching experience making the selection of Whitford interesting.
2. The second concern being the fact Whitford could have taken other head coaching jobs in the past but chose not to. The most alarming being Miami University. In terms of the college basketball landscape there is little difference between Miami U and your Ball State Cardinals. Whitford was an assistant for Miami making it strange he would shoot down a job that would appear to be a good fit only to take a position at the school’s rival. Both schools have relatively the same tradition and the same recruiting bases. It just does not make any sense.
So for now I’m excited about the hire as it’s a clean slate for Ball State basketball. Whitford will face more pressure in his first year than Billy Taylor did but the program will start from a better place too.
A big press conference Wednesday can be a good start. Because right now, no one outside Delaware County seems to know Ball State basketball exists.