Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Dooley to the Desert? Univ of New Mexico May Be Next Stop for FGCU Coach

fgcu head coach joe dooley speaks with reporters

“naplesThe name of FGCU men’s basketball coach Joe Dooley is, once again, circulating within the rumor mill in connection with a position other than the one that he currently occupies.

For fans of the Dunk City crew, Dooley’s coaching status has been a dizzying roller coaster ride that refuses to end.

This time it’s at the University of New Mexico, who fired coach Craig Neal on Friday.

New Mexico athletic director Paul Krebs apparently met with Dooley over the weekend while both were in Glendale for the Final Four, reports Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal.

But on Tuesday, Krebs said no formal interviews have taken place.

“One of the advantages of being in Phoenix this past weekend at the Final Four is practically every coach in the basketball world outside of the NBA are there,” Krebs said. “I had an opportunity to meet and have conversations with a number of people, whether that was vetting candidates or whether that was talking to agents or talking to particular coaches who might have interest in the job.”

Neal was fired after going 76-52 in four seasons after replacing Steve Alford, who left for UCLA after the 2013 season. The Lobos went to the NCAA Tournament in 2014, losing to No. 10 seed Stanford in the first round, but have not been back since.

New Mexico went 17-14 this season, and appear to have been in a bit of a funk. For the first time since WisePies Arena — known in Albuquerque as “The Pit” — opened in 1966, the Lobos fell outside of the top 25 in attendance, and four players announced their intent to transfer after the season ended. Among them, leading scorer Elijah Brown, who scored 18.8 points per game.

Those close to the program say Dooley and UT-Arlington coach Scott Cross are the leading candidates for the job. FGCU beat the UT-Arlington Mavericks 85-72 at Alico Arena this season in their home opener.

Krebs wouldn’t talk specifics on Tuesday.

“I’m not going to comment on any candidates. You don’t want to lose candidates who may have current jobs to pull themselves out of availability because it compromises their positions if their name gets out,” Krebs said. “What I can tell you is the interest is real. There are a number of sitting Division I coaches who have expressed interest.”

Dooley had a base salary of $275,000 this season, that’s after a pay raise of $35,000 from a year ago and is under contract through 2020. Neal made $950,000 last season at New Mexico, and the university is on the hook for a $1 million buyout.

Last season, Dooley was a popular name in coaching circles, with rumors linking him to openings at Saint Louis and Rutgers. Another rumor had him leaving FGCU for an assistant job at N.C. State, joining the staff of former coach Mark Gottfried.

Gottfried was fired this season after going 15-17.

The Eagles are coming off their best record in program history, 26-8, and went to the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row this season. And with only two players – forwards Demetris Morant and Marc-Eddy Norelia graduating, FGCU is emerging as an early pick to be one of the nation’s best mid-major teams next season.

It had appeared that all was going to be quiet on the coaching front after UNC-Wilmington hired longtime North Carolina assistant C.B. McGrath on Monday. Dooley had interviewed for the job, but all indications as far as a week ago were that the Seahawks were making McGrath their man.

But that’s how the roller coaster goes. Up and down and up and down.

Make sure the belts are secured and keep all hands, legs, arms, and feet inside the vehicle at all times.


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