Hudson Valley Sports Report

RICH THOMASELLI COMMENTARY: DID MARIST HIT A HOME RUN?

After 30+ Years Of Strikeouts, Dunne Hiring Could Finally Bring Stability To Basketball Program

POUGHKEEPSIE – Did Marist College and Director of Athletics Tim Murray just hit a home run?

After 30-plus years of mostly strikeouts?

The hiring of St. Peter’s coach John Dunne on Tuesday – a rarity at any level for a coach to leave one school and take another job in the same conference – has brought a level of optimism and enthusiasm to the Marist community, perhaps more so than any other hire.

Dunne is an established coach who emphasizes defense, conditioning and has great recruiting chops, among the highest priorities on Marist’s checklist for a new coach.

People might scoff at his 153-225 mark over the last 12 years with the Peacocks, but he has a MAAC championship, an NCAA Tournament berth and a bid to the College Insider Tournament during that time. Which is one more MAAC title, NCAA tourney berth and CIT invitation than Marist has over the last decade, in which the Red Foxes have emerged – submerged? – as the second-worst program out of 351 schools in Division I.

Part of the problem has been Marist’s awful hiring history, and this pre-dates Murray and goes back all the way to the early 1980s, when the school turned DI and then-coach Ron Petro was all but forced out as Marist tried to make a splash entering new territory with its basketball program.

Rich Thomaselli Commentary

Some 30+ years ago, Marist interviewed such up-and-coming names as Jim Larranaga, Bob McKillop, Paul Cormier and Al Skinner to take over. Google their names to learn of their success since. Instead, Marist decided to hire Kingston native and former Ulster County Community College coach Mike Perry.

That was in March of 1984.

Perry never coached a game.

He was gone by September of 1984, committing a number of NCAA violations. Strikeout.

His replacement, Matt Furjanic, took the Red Foxes to the 1986 NCAA Tournament with Rik Smits.

Furjanic was gone after two seasons after also committing NCAA violations and a personal indiscretion. Strikeout.

Prior to the 1986-87 season, Marist lured Iona assistant Dave Magarity to Poughkeepsie. Although he returned the Red Foxes to the NCAA Tournament again in 1987, that was the last time Marist has been to the Big Dance. But Magarity was a hit over his 18 seasons and has found success as the current Army women’s basketball coach.

Next up was Matt Brady, who went 73-50 over four seasons. But he won with Magarity’s players, and when he left for James Madison he took a bunch of recruits with him, resulting in an unprecedented lawsuit by Marist. Strikeout, just for that alone.

Brady’s departure started the downward trend of the last decade. Chuck Martin, Jeff Bower – who stayed for just one season – and Mike Maker. Ten years that produced a grand total of 81 victories.

Strikeout.

Strikeout.

Strikeout.

Now, let’s be clear. All of this is in retrospect. The difference here is, Dunne is a proven commodity who comes well-respected.

I don’t necessarily take a whole lot of stock in his 153-225 record. Not when you factor in that St. Peter’s is an extraordinarily difficult place to win, with some of the worst facilities in the MAAC, an assistant salary pool even worse than Marist, and not a lot of money being pumped into the program (also, even worse than Marist).

And yet, Dunne won enough.

Did Marist hit a home run? We really won’t know that until his third or fourth year.

One thing we can say now, though – the hire is not a strikeout.

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