The Duquesne Basketball community was shocked late Tuesday night with the news that star guard T.J. McConnell was planning to transfer. Two of his teammates, Mike Talley and Danny Herrera, also said that they will be leaving.
This is very bad news for the Dukes, as McConnell was figuring to be the face of the program for the next two seasons, while Talley and Herrera were to provide key depth on 2012-2013 squad. This news does not bode well for head coach Ron Everhart, who is quickly sliding out of favor with fans who would like to see more progress. Could this debacle cost Everhart his job? Let's take a look to see why he will or won't be back with the team next season.
Why he will return
His contract. Prior to the 2008-2009 season, Everhart was granted a contract extension that locked him up through the 2013-2014 season. While many thought that it was enough to keep him from leaving to another school, it would also make it very tough for Duquesne to fire him before it is up. The school would owe him in the ballpark of $900,000 on those remaining two years, making it a very tough call for Duquesne, considering their athletics have been hurting financially as of late.
Other options. If Duquesne were to fire Everhart, the big question is who the Dukes might hire to replace him. Duquesne can't get a big name to coach there, and will more than likely have to rely on an unproven commodity. Andy Toole, the head coach of Robert Morris, is a name that has been thrown around, but he doesn't appear ready to leave. Additionally, anyone who has seen what Pitt football has gone through the past two years can vouch that just firing a coach doesn't solve your problems.
What he has done for the program. When Ron Everhart arrived at Duquesne, he inherited a program coming off a 3-23 season and with two players on the roster. He led Duquesne to its first winning season in 14 years and their first NIT appearance in nearly two decades. Throwing him out after all he has done for the school doesn't seem like the best PR move in the world, and could be a potential turn-off for those looking at the job.
Why he will be fired
Has Everhart peaked? While the program has improved tremendously under Everhart's watch, it appears as if the program has reached its peak of development. The Dukes have won an average of 17 games the past five seasons. That is a respectable number, but it's far from being an NCAA Tournament-caliber team. Since the Dukes haven't been to the tourney since 1977, the fan base is eager more than ever for a return. Unfortunately, Everhart hasn't been able to produce one under his tenure.
Same old, same old. There have been some constants under Everhart's tenure that have not been pretty. For example, Duquesne has notoriously faded in the months of February and March, totaling to a record of 26-42 in those months. It is nearly impossible to win the Atlantic 10 and/or reach the NCAA Tournament when your teams constantly regress late in the year. Everhart has also had a lot of trouble retaining players. An average of three players have transfered from Duquesne each season under Everhart's tenure. It's nearly impossible to build a program with such constant turnover. He has also constantly fielded undersized lineups in his six years with Duquesne. Many feel that he lacks the ability to adapt his system toward big men and will never bring a forward that will put the Dukes over the top.
Another job? Everhart has gained a reputation as a "master rebuilder" during his tenures with McNeese State, Northeastern and Duquesne. His ability to take downtrodden programs and bring them back to respectability has turned heads. He has been connected to a couple of job openings, and he could even consider making a lateral move to a different school if he had suspicions of Duquesne dumping him, just so he could avoid the stigma on his resume.
All in all, this is a critical juncture for both Duquesne Athletics and Ron Everhart. Will he finally be able to give the Dukes an NCAA berth that they have been chasing for over three decades, or will the school bring in someone else to get to that goal? It's certainly a storyline worth keeping an eye on in the coming weeks and months, as a once-proud basketball program finds themselves at yet another crossroads.
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