Rutgers and college basketball success have not exactly gone hand in hand.
They have appeared in the NCAA Tournament just six times in the history of their program and their combined record is 5-7. They have not had a win in the NCAA Tournament since 1983. The school announced last Thursday that it had fired Eddie Jordan as head coach after three seasons.
Jordan was 29-68 overall with Rutgers and went 7-25 this past season withjust one victory in the Big 10 Conference. This year turned into a disaster and Jordan was brought in after the Mike Rice debacle.
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Jordan was a safe pick. He was a star guard for the program in the 1970’s and came in to help clean up a mess and to provide a stabilizing force as the basketball program was being ridiculed, and rightfully so, across the country.
So now what do you do?
Rutgers needs someone that is going to come in and win games again. It has long been thought that Rutgers is a "sleeping giant" in college football and basketball. New Jersey certainly churns out enough Division I talent every year that if either program was able to keep a percentage of those players in-state, that would bring consistent winning days with them. Now they need to bring in a coach that would help realize that goal.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if they now turned to an individual that spurned the program as a player to help resurrect the program as a coach? As reports circulated over the weekend that former Duke star and current ESPN analyst Jay Williams was interested in the job, it certainly peeked my interest. He is a Jersey product that was a star on the high-school level at St. Joseph High School in Metuchen,New Jersey, where he graduated in 1999. So he is certainly one of the more sexier names that has already popped up as this process for athletic director Pat Hobbs.
Should Hobbs be interested? Absolutely. Why? Because you need a little vision with your next hire. You need to grab some headlines and need someone that will more importantly grab the attention of the high-school players across the country and in the state of New Jersey.
Now with this next hire, it is about trying to build this program from the bottom up. Rutgers should take notice of the rise of the Seton Hall program as they just won the Big East Conference tournament at Madison Square Garden.
The Pirates now represent competition for the Jersey basketball recruit. Rutgers needs to swing for the fences and look to try and hit a homer. Williams is an attractive candidate because he has been on ESPN the past few years and has already built up a relationship with the young basketball fans who watch. He was a brilliant high school and college player that serves as instant credibility when he walks into a living room. He was a high draft pick by the Chicago Bulls, coming out of Duke where he was a two-time All-American. He knows what it takes to make it to the NBA.
Did he have the success on the NBA level that many expected? No, but that has more to do with a motorcycle accident in June 2003, where the injuries robbed him of his playing career. That is a life lesson that many should hear and that he can teach if given the opportunity, plus I am sure he still has connections to the high-school basketball community in Jersey which is also extremely important in order to be able to recruit.
The fact that Williams played in the NBA is an attraction because that is a selling point to recruits. If Williams is interested in the job and is willing to put in the necessary grunt work to get Rutgers basketball on track, he should be the next Scarlet Knights head coach.