Column: A price worth paying

By Jonathan Raymond, News staff

To take some artistic liberties with The Clash: Will he stay or will he go?

Bill Coen, the men’s basketball coach, has become something of a hot item as college basketball goes through its annual coaching changes carousel.

It’s no small feat taking a program like Northeastern’s, at a time when it was a tad talent-deficient and transitioning into the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), and essentially resuscitating it.

It’s an impressive accomplishment, putting the Huskies in the upper echelon of the CAA on a shoestring budget. And more importantly, it makes Coen a valuable commodity, which is why his name has popped up as coaching searches are on at schools like Siena and Boston College.

Which brings us to our small dilemma on Huntington Avenue. Will the coach that breathed some life into our program head for greener pastures? Or can our athletic department establish these pastures right here as plenty green?

It was reported some time back, around a month ago, that Coen had received a contract extension. However, nobody actually really knew if an extension had ever been signed, or if it had, for how much money and how long. Information for some reason had been kept under wraps.

WRBB was finally able to get a little clarification from Athletics Director Peter Roby yesterday, who said new terms were still in the negotiation process.

Hopefully, that means people are working hard to keep Coen at Northeastern. Granted, not everything works out how you always hope it will.

If Coen winds up at BC, where he was an assistant under the recently fired Al Skinner, it’s hard to blame anyone involved. A move to the Atlantic Coast Conference is, admittedly, a huge step up. That’s what happens to mid-majors, sometimes. They lose good coaches to bigger, more powerful, profitable conferences. That’s the nature of the beast, no use crying over spilled milk, it is what it is, and whatever other convenient cliches you could apply to the situation.

But it’d be a shame for our basketball program, and a mark against our athletics department, to lose Coen to a smaller school in a lesser conference like Siena. That’s not a dig at Siena, a program with a fantastic backing and the kind of success we should be enviable of, but it’s the reality if we want NU to be taken seriously as a basketball school.

Hofstra just hired its own new coach, Tim Welsh, and will pay him $600,000 a year according to CAA hoops blogger Mike Litos. The same Hofstra that also just cut its football program, and is apparently making a pretty clear statement about how it intends to reinvest some of those funds.

I hope Northeastern has an intention to make a similar statement. That doesn’t mean the athletics department and Roby need to go shelling out $600,000 or even $500,000 to ensure Coen stays at NU. But it does mean making an earnest, competitive offer.

It means being willing to get in the ballpark and make a significant investment toward a resurgent basketball program, or concede that all this talk about “sustained excellence” we’ve heard for so long is just hot air.

Because if we can’t pony up some real money for something like this, what was the point of cutting football after all?

– Jonathan Raymond can be reached
at [email protected]

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