Column: Coen’s new contract a slam dunk for many reasons

By: Alex Faust, News Staff

Hello Husky Nation!

Your new Huntington News sports columnist here. You probably know me as one of the many voices on WRBB radio, but I’m not here to be an objective play-by-play man. Let’s make this clear up front: This is a newspaper column, and will be treated as such. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s dive right into it.

Northeastern men’s basketball head coach Bill Coen inked a significant contract extension two weeks ago. You know the details by now: Signed through 2016, he and his assistants got raises, and the program got a boost in recruiting resources. But the news meant so much more than a simple extension or more money.

For too long, the easy excuse for lack of athletic success at Northeastern has been the lack of adequate resources. To a certain extent, this is still true. However, this contract extension sent several clear messages.

First, Northeastern is slowly making the commitment to compete. So many times in our school’s humble athletics history, a team has experienced short bursts of success. When it came time to pay up, the school declined, sending coaches to look elsewhere for a higher salary. This contract extension, especially for a period of six years, shows the Athletics Department is no longer content with Northeastern being a stepping stone to other, more prestigious coaching jobs.

Secondly, results are now being rewarded at Northeastern. Coen resurrected a basketball program that had virtually nothing after the departure of Ron Everhart, into a Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) championship contender. Nevermind the contract extension, the increased financial commitment shows a new way of thinking. Previously, success with inadequate funding earned you nothing more, since so much was achieved already without increased resources. Now, a team’s success has the potential for increased funding, a dramatic shift in philosophy.

Also, the economics in the CAA are rapidly changing. As shown by Hofstra’s hire of head coach Tim Welsh (set aside Welsh’s arrest for driving while intoxicated), UNC Wilmington’s recent hire of head coach Buzz Peterson and contract extension for George Mason’s head coach Jim Larranaga, schools at this level are willing to pay more for successful basketball head coaches. Bill’s demand was simple: Bring his salary and those of assistants more in line with the rest of the conference.

Despite Peter Roby’s assurances that no “arm-twisting” was involved in the contract restructuring process, as purely a third-party observer (nevermind that I hosted the official announcement/webcast), I can say that it was probably nowhere near as simple as we are to believe.

Coen had a great deal of leverage at the end of the season, taking the Huskies to their first CAA semifinal game in his tenure and to the National Invitational Tournament for the first time in five years. Though he had already signed an extension last summer, it was time to cash in after a big year. Coen reasonably expected that after four years of progress (including a better win-loss record in each season to date), that he should be rewarded.

The elimination of the football program likely helped. Thousands of dollars in coaching salaries and thousands more in recruiting resources were freed for use elsewhere after the team was cut last November. While we still do not know the details of future reallocation, it’s safe to say that the extra funding probably helped get this deal done.

Peter Roby heard the howl from alumni and fans, begging to keep Bill Coen at the helm of Northeastern’s men’s basketball team, and he has done just that. The pressure is off his shoulders. Now, the responsibility falls back to Coen to build on this year’s successes to make Northeastern a perennial contender in the CAA.

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