Three Candidates Emerge to Replace Hurley at URI

Tuesday, April 03, 2018


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L-R Cox, Becker, and Dooley

As GoLocal reported Monday night, URI President David Dooley has vetoed Rick Pitino as the potential successor to Dan Hurley.

Now, three candidates have separated from the rest of the crowd. For URI and Athletic Director Thorr Bjorn the reality is setting in that few big names or emerging coaching stars are looking to land in Kingston. 

A 2016 review of the performance of the URI Athletic programs found that the school offers among the fewest sports to students of any Division I school and the academic performance was at the time of the review one of the weakest in its conference. The 2016 review found:

A GoLocal review of the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate performance for URI men’s and women’s teams unveils that the Rams were consistently among the lowest-ranked programs compared to their peer conference schools, according to the most recent year as published by the NCAA.

How does the NCAA measure academic performance and what is the Academic Progress Rate (APR)?

“The APR holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term,” as defined by the NCAA.

Of the 16 men’s and women’s varsity sports, URI teams rank at the bottom, or second to last, in their respective conferences for nine of 16 teams. By far, URI is the worst in the NCAA's "academic progress" rankings of any athletic program in the school’s conferences. (URI counts indoor track and outdoor track as two separate sports for a total of 18 programs, but starting in 2015, the NCAA began listing the Academic Progress Rate of both winter and spring track programs as one score.)

While URI basketball fans want to cheer in a vacuum, one of the reasons why successful coaches leave is the overall condition and performance of the program.

Here are the three leading candidates:


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Joe Dooley, FGC

1) Joe Dooley of Florida Gulf Coast may be the front-runner. He has taken the program from nowhere to highly competitive mid-major status. “Dooley in at a base salary of just $225,000. This year it's $350,000, which is by far the biggest ASUN salary but still is quite small, even by mid-major standards,” reported the Naples Daily News. The is good news for URI. They can pay him $500,000 to $600,000 and save money versus Hurley's pay structure.

Overall, Dooley is 114–58 (.663) and has proven recruiting experience as an assistant at Kansas (2003-2013). Took FGC to the NCAA in 2015-16, 2016-17, and to the NIT last year.


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David Cox, URI Assistant

2) David Cox. The top assistant to Hurley has a provision in his contract -- a water-downed successor clause that if he is not selected URI must pay him a fee.

A proven recruiter at Georgetown, Pitt, and Rutgers.  But, he has no head coaching experience except high school and three fill-in games at Rutgers.

In the past thirty plus years, URI has elevated three assistant coaches:

Claude English was elevated when coaching legend Jack Kraft was forced to retire due to health issues. That did not go well and a winning URI program went spiraling for a few years.

Assistant Al Skinner took over when Tom Penders left for Texas. Skinner led URI for nine-season and had two NCAA and two NIT trips. He was 128-126 at Rhode Island. Then, went to BC and was 247 and 165, but was fired in 2010.

Remember Jerry DeGregorio? He was the elevated assistant and good recruiter who was promoted when Jim Harrick left for the University of Georgia. How did that work out? A record of 12-48.

There is a growing sentiment that if Bjorn was comfortable with Cox, he would have been hired by now.

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John Becker, UVM

3) John Becker has been very successful at the University of Vermont and has been a winner in Burlington.

In six seasons he has guided the Catamounts to six 20-win seasons, six straight postseason berths (NCAA twice, NIT, CBI – three times). 

There are two worries about selecting Becker -- can he recruit at this level and will he create excitement amongst alums, sponsors, and students. According to one Vermont paper, Becker plans to return next season. "When asked where he will coach next season, Becker said, 'Hopefully here. Hopefully here. I don't, I haven't taken any calls or been called, and my plan is to be here and I'm excited to push this program forward.'" 


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