Column: It’s not a perfect world, Everhart moves on to Duquesne

Column: It’s not a perfect world, Everhart moves on to Duquesne

Let’s face it; it was inevitable. Ron Everhart leaving Northeastern was about as unexpected as Terrell Owens getting released by the Philadelphia Eagles.

I hoped he would stay for at least one more season, but I had a feeling this offseason would present too many opportunities for him to pass up. And while taking over at Du-quesne has many, people scratching their heads, when it comes down to it, it is a match made in heaven.

As he demonstrated here and at McNeese State, Everhart has the ability to rebuild basketball programs, and that’s exactly what the Dukes are in desperate need of. The program hasn’t had much success in the last 30 years, and this past season it reached an all-time low, with a 2-24 overall record and a 1-15 record in the Atlantic-10 (A-10).

And that’s probably the most important factor; they play in the A-10 – largely considered the best mid-major conference in all of college basketball.

Sure, George Mason’s unbelievable success in the NCAA tournament brings instant national prominence to the rapidly rising Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), but winning a CAA title at NU is going to be extremely difficult due to the travel, and who is to say the CAA won’t stumble over the next few years and fall back into the lower echelon of mid-major conferences?

With Duquesne in the Atlantic-10, Everhart has the chance to turn around a once proud program in an already established conference. Basically that means he won’t have to worry about at-large bids anymore because the A-10 has sent an average of three teams to the big dance over the last 12 years, while this year was the first time since the late ’80s the CAA sent more than one.

In a perfect world, Everhart would have stayed at Northeastern forever and built the Huskies into a Gonzaga-like mid-major power. However, that’s hard to sustain, and I think Ron has higher aspirations than that. Not unlike former NU head coach Jim Calhoun, Ron has national power aspirations and I don’t think his move to Pittsburgh-based Duquesne will be much different than his time on Huntington Avenue.

When he took over at Northeastern, a lot of people called it a lateral move from McNeese State and I’ve heard the same said about this move, but I don’t believe this.

Duquesne has been one of the worst teams in one of the top seven basketball conferences for a long time.

If – no when – he turns them into a contender, major conference athletic directors will certainly take notice.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see him spend less than five years at Duquesne, depending on how quickly he turns things around. In just his second season at NU he improved the Huskies’ win total by more than 10 wins, and kept improving until this past season, Northeastern’s first in the CAA, when they won 19.

You can expect the trend to continue, as improving on three wins shouldn’t be too hard to do, and his recruiting capabilities should have Duquesne back on track within three years.

As for Northeastern, let’s just say Dave O’Brien is going to have to do his homework, as losing Everhart could see the Dark Ages return if he doesn’t find the right coach to replace him. I’ve said it before, and I truly believe the players that remain on the roster are by no means a bad team, they have all the ingredients to contend for a CAA title next year. Shawn James and Bennet Davis will form one of the best frontcourts in the entire league, and with Jose Juan Barea gone, guard Adrian Martinez will get a chance to step in and play a more traditional style of point guard.

That said, the new head coach will have some big shoes to fill as Ron Everhart wasn’t just a great coach, but a great guy as well. Despite only four years of experience, I’ve come across a large enough sample of coaches to know just how classy Everhart is. The guy is honest and extremely personable. Four years ago, I went into his office with the task of writing a preview story for a team I knew nothing about. He spent the time telling me about his squad (I think he mentioned something about an incoming freshman from Puerto Rico) and made me feel more like a tenured writer for the Globe than a clueless freshman in his third month of college.

It’s going to be strange seeing someone else on the sideline, but college basketball is a business and the beat must go on.

– Max Lederman can be reached at [email protected]

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