Bradley is a great basketball school.
Looking at the last few years, roughly 20, one might not see it. Sure, there were some good years. There was the 2005-06 Sweet 16 run. The next year we made it to the second round of the NIT.
However, those seasons have overwhelmingly been the exception. Not the rule.
So mix that with the lackluster feelings for the team both among current students and recent alums, and there’s no doubt in our mind that terminating Jim Les as head coach was the right move.
The point here isn’t to harp on Les. It’s not to harp on the teams he led.
It’s to remind the Athletics Department what we, as students, need in our next coach.
We say our coach because that’s what the basketball coach here should be: an actual figure on campus. We shouldn’t be looking for another coach who is perfectly content to be seen only on the court.
We should be looking for a Joanne Glasser of the coaching world. By that, we mean a personality. The coach should be willing to make an appearance at student functions. Senate meetings, Late Night BUs and, God forbid, even just a walk through campus.
The coach should basically be an accessible celebrity on campus.
His main goal will be success on the court, but that doesn’t mean students shouldn’t know and care about him.
Les never accomplished that, and it’s a shame. That’s because there is a generations of Bradley alums who care very little about the team. The ones who live in Peoria aren’t buying season tickets. The others aren’t coming to Peoria for Friday and Saturday night games.
The older alums who are actually buying season tickets won’t be around in 20 or 30 years, which means a decent chunk of the university’s donor pool is going to be dry for a while.
That’s why we need a coach who will reach out to the students here today.
We need a coach that can not only lead his team to victory, but a coach who can build a student movement behind him.
We’re talking about a Coach K-like scenario, where his Cameron Crazies are rooting for the team and the coach.
Some may say that’s too ambitious to hope for at Bradley. But it used to be like that here.
Picking the right coach very well may be one of the most – if not the most – decision Bradley has made in years.
And here’s why: it’s not just about sports.
The year Bradley went to the NCAA Tournament, applications skyrocketed. We were the darling of the country. People wanted to know about Bradley, and they wanted to go to Bradley.
But that was one year. One year out of Les’ nine.
Bradley’s a storied program. To this day, it’s one of the traditionally top-rated programs in the history of college basketball.
To say we aren’t living up to our reputation would be putting it lightly.
But we’re not out of the game just yet.
We just need the right coach.
The point of this editorial isn’t to offer advice on who should get the job. We don’t have any names in mind.
The point is to publicize the expectations we have – which are the same expectations Athletics Director Michael Cross needs to have – of our next coach.
Because making the wrong hire isn’t an option.