The MAC Report, Presented by SportsTime Ohio

By Dave DeNatale

Take a deep breath, Kent State fans; you’ve been here before.

For the fourth time in a decade, the Golden Flashes must replace a successful head men’s basketball coach on the heels of a tremendous season.  First it was Gary Waters’ departure in 2001, which set the stage for Stan Heath to come in and take Kent State to the Elite 8 in 2002.  Heath then left for Arkansas, Jim Christian entered the picture and had six outstanding seasons.  He left in 2008, and Geno Ford continued the legacy of success, which included back-to-back MAC regular season titles and a trip to the NIT Quarterfinals this year.

When I first heard that Ford was leaving Kent State to go to Bradley, I was a little puzzled.  Bradley?  Really? Are the Braves that much of a step up from the Golden Flashes?  Is the Missouri Valley Conference that much of a step up from the MAC?

Sadly, the answer to both questions is….yes.

Ford will likely see his pay doubled (if not more) when he goes to Bradley, and the RPI of the Missouri Valley Conference is 12th in the nation, while the MAC is 20th.  So from a financial and competitive standpoint, you can’t blame Geno at all for making this move.

Could he have held out for a potentially better job, such as Dayton?  Perhaps.  I actually had thought that with so much talent coming back to the Flashes next season (Justin Greene, Michael Porrini, Carlton Guyton, etc.) that perhaps another MAC title and a trip to the NCAA tournament could have Ford on the fast track to a major conference school a year from now.  And if he does well at Bradley, that could still be the case in the not-too-distant future.

But now Kent State must go back to that all-too-familiar process of interviewing and hiring a basketball coach.  And unlike the previous three times, it won’t be Laing Kennedy making the call, as Kent Athletic Director Joel Nielsen will be charged with finding the replacement for Ford.  And there’s no shortage of candidates, both in-house and in state.

Rob Senderoff, who has been an assistant under both Ford and Christian was named interim head coach on Monday and would make a ton of sense for the Flashes.  You keep the guy who has helped to recruit and mold the current core of talent.  You keep the guy who the players want.  Elton Alexander of the Plain Dealer also speculated that Kent might also talk to former assistants Rob Murphy, who is now with Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, and Eric Haut, now at TCU with Christian. Haut played at KSU on two teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament, including the 2002 Elite Eight team.

Keep one more name on your radar:  Jeff Boals

Boals is a MAC guy.  He played at Ohio University and has been an assistant coach with the Bobcats, with Marshall when they were in the conference, as well as a successful run with Keith Dambrot on the staff of the Akron Zips.  For the last two years, Boals has been an assistant at Ohio State, helping Thad Matta guide the Buckeyes to back-to-back Big Ten titles.  You’d have to think that Boals would be a guy to talk to if you’re Nielsen.

And also consider one other thing:  the Dayton job is now open.  Don’t be surprised if Akron’s Keith Dambrot is a hot candidate for that vacancy.  That could start a chain reaction of coaching positions to open up as well.

Stay tuned!

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