Mar 5 / Rob

JMU Retains Coach Brady

Coach stays.

By now you’ve probably heard that Matt Brady will be retained as JMU’s head basketball coach. This morning we published a post stating that it’s probably time for Brady to move on and then hours later Jeff Bourne says he’s retaining him for next year. It’s like some sort of JMUSB reverse jinx. Or maybe it’s a regular jinx if you were in the camp that wanted Brady fired. To be blunt, this news is rather shocking. I had been sitting squarely on the fence when it came down to deciding if Brady should be fired or not. My indecisiveness aside, I was pretty sure he was going to get canned. Todd thought agreed and seemed to think it was the right move. To be fair, that put Todd squarely with the majority of the fanbase. A seemingly shrinking and increasingly apathetic fanbase if we want to get technical about it.

The Extension (or lack thereof)

Just because Brady is not getting fired, it doesn’t mean there is great stability in the world of JMU basketball. Based on what we’ve read, Jeff Bourne mentioned nothing about offering Brady a contract extension. Brady’s current contract has one more year on it. That means that he’ll enter next season as a lame duck coach. In many people’s eyes (including mine) this is not an ideal situation. At best it’s a distraction that hangs over the program all year. At worst, it’s a severe hindrance to Brady’s recruiting efforts due to the fact that some players might be less likely to commit to a coach who might not even be there to coach them. I certainly hope that some sort of extension is in the works and it very well may be. Without one, we could be in for another long season of speculation and uncertainty.

What It All Means

Honestly, I have no idea. Todd and I have never claimed to have any sort of special access or insight into the JMU athletic program and we’re playing the same guessing games as everyone else right now. It might mean that JMU thinks Brady caught a bad break with the injuries and they want to give him another year to try to prove himself. It might mean that they are simply too cheap to cough up the nearly $300K to the buy him out. They might have put their feelers out for coaches and determined that they couldn’t get (or afford) a better option right now. Again, we just don’t know.

Why I’m OK With It 

Even though I’m not sure where this is all going, I’m alright with Brady being brought back next year. The fact is that he’s been a .500 coach at JMU. He’s 67-67 with 2 winning seasons, and 2 losing seasons. And his 2 losing seasons came with injury depleted rosters. I don’t think the injuries are an excuse for losing, but I think they make it tough to really judge Brady at this time. I’d rather JMU be a little more prudent and give Brady a chance to prove himself with a healthy squad than fire him and have to start from scratch again.

The Dirty Little Secret

JMU has a historically awful basketball program. Nobody wants to admit this, but it’s true. Sure, JMU used to have a very good basketball program. That was almost 20 years ago though. Well, Holy Cross and NYU both have won NCAA tournaments and nobody considers them elite programs. JMU’s success in the 80’s and early 90’s doesn’t matter any more than that. It takes a while to rebuild something from ground level. It takes more than 4 years, when you inherit a program that was virtually underground. Brady took over a program that had 8 straight losing seasons. He has 2 winning seasons in 4 years. A lot of the wins have come against relatively week out of conference opponents, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

At the risk of offending any of you who are nostalgic for the “glory years” of Lefty Driessel, please help yourself to a dose of reality. I was at JMU during Lefty’s “glory years”. They weren’t that glorious. Lefty’s teams routinely underperformed come CAA tournament time. So if you equate 1 NCAA tourney appearance in 9 years, to a program’s “glory years”, then I guess we just need to agree to disagree. JMU is not an easy program to win at. It hasn’t been for years and it’s only getting harder as the CAA gets stronger. And the CAA is a clear case of the haves and the have nots. JMU last made the big dance in 1994. Since then, only 5 other teams have won the CAA tournament, and one of them (Richmond) isn’t even in the league any more. Go back and check for yourself. Drexel has a chance tonight to be the first CAA team other than ODU, VCU, Mason, or UNCW to win the tourney in 17 years. To me, it’s worth giving Brady a full contract to try to elevate JMU’s program to that level.

What Needs to Happen Now

Brady needs to recruit better. I can’t overstate that. I know lots of folks disagree with me here, but there is a talent gap between JMU and the top teams in the CAA. This is particularly evident in the paint. JMU needs big men and it needs them badly. I’m optimistic about this kid Ron Curry that Brady signed out of New Jersey. He’s a guard though. And so are the 2 other recruits Brady has locked up. Brady absolutely needs to bring in a big man to go with them.

Brady also has to fix this A.J. Davis situation. Davis is very talented. He also appears to ignore practically everything Brady and the coaches tell him. Brady took a lot of heat for failing to motivate Denzel Bowles. I’d argue that if Denzel couldn’t motivate himself to play defense even though every NBA talent evaluator and draft pundit said he absolutely had to improve defensively, then nothing Brady or any coach was going to say was going to matter. That’s in the past though and Brady can’t let another Davis, another ulta-talented player, buck the system. If Davis doesn’t buy into what Brady is selling next season, then they should let him go and move on without him.

Finally, JMU needs to extend Brady’s contract. There are 6 seniors coming back next year. That means Brady is going to have to fill 6 slots with recruits for 2013-2014. That’s going to be a near impossible task if he doesn’t have a contract in place. Give him the extension Bourne.



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  1. Tamara / Mar 5 2012

    You know I am happy…and agree with every word!

  2. s.dubs / Mar 5 2012

    Didn’t even read the article yet. The picture at the top made me laugh too hard to focus on reading.

  3. JMU_95 / Mar 5 2012

    Just to play devil’s advocate….JMU gives Brady a 3-4 year extension (which is a must with the decision to bring him back) and the team rolls to another sub .500 season next year then what? We are stuck with Brady, if they won’t buy out a single season they sure won’t buy out 3 years. There is zero excitement around the program. Something has to be done to get student excitement and attendance up. Finally why is Mickey Matthews held to a different standard than Brady (they make pretty much the same base salary), but it is a collasal failure if football does not make the playoffs and I like that….with basketball what is considered a failure, sub .500 season? If Mickey can recruit for football at JMU (much more players) then there is no excuse why Brady cannot recruit for basketball. Hopefully, Charles Pittman will be good since they red-shirted him this season, he at least brings some bulk to the inside.

  4. Rob / Mar 5 2012

    Valid point about an extension possibly backing JMU into a corner. While I don’t know much (anything really) about coaching contracts, I’d imagine that JMU could negotiate an extension with a much lower buyout than Brady has now. That way they could extend him, but create a reasonably priced out for themselves if things don’t improve.

    As far as the Matthews comparison, I think it comes down to a few things. One, Mickey is a victim of his own success in some ways. He’s won it all, so the bar is set higher for JMU football than for JMU hoops. Also, the school has invested a ton of $$ in football which has given JMU a real competitive edge with facilities, exposure, etc. Finally, I’d argue that making the FCS playoffs is a lot easier than finishing in the top 4 of CAA hoops. I mean, JMU finished squarely in the middle of the pack this year in football. They were essentially a mediocre team and they still got a playoff bid. Save a last second FG to win a playoff game, I think this past football season was a lot like last year’s hoops season, where JMU finished 6th.

  5. JMU_95 / Mar 5 2012

    JMU Hoops – All we can do is hope for a better season next winter now. Like the Brady decision or not lets support this team. If they can play consistenly hard for 40 minutes and run a real offense I think they can be better.

    2 bids for CAA – Drexel deserves an at-large.

  6. LD / Mar 6 2012

    You don’t think injuries are an excuse for losing? Tell that to every football fan rooting in Indy this year.

    I don’t know that I care about keeping Brady or not but I would be interested in seeing some stats on how other teams fared after losing the amount of floor time that JMU lost out of it’s starters.

  7. Rob / Mar 6 2012

    No. I do not think injuries completely excuse losing by themselves. They are a contributing factor, which is why I am in favor of giving Brady another year to prove himself. At a certain point, you just need to adjust for injuries and move on. Drexel played the entire tournament w/o one of its starting guards for instance.

  8. Matt / Mar 6 2012

    This is probably the only decision that could have been made. As you said, I’m sure they scanned the horizon for better options, but they either aren’t interested, or we can’t afford them.

    The simple truth, however, is that Brady (or any other coach) has zero chance of building a sustainable program or a tradition of success by bringing in the castoffs and malcontents from other programs. There’s a reason Texas A&M let Denzel go. There’s a reason Davis was looking to transfer out of Wyoming (and why the coaches were willing to let him go).

    As you said, recruiting HAS to improve big time. And in basketball, recruiting is all about coaches who know how the game works. Brady has given zero indication he’s that kind of coach.

    We are still living through the fallout of Dillard. It’s amazing how badly and how thoroughly he effed this program up.

  9. 2004 Duke / Mar 7 2012

    I actually don’t mind this decision.

    1. We’re not going to get any worse.
    2. Our University has proven that if they did fire him, they’d hire an equally horrible coach.
    3. We are not going to waste another $300k on our crappy basketball program buy buying him out.

    Dump the program, turn the Convo into a dorm, and take the football, baseball and women’s teams to the ACC.

  10. old duke / Mar 15 2012

    The Dukes are advertising for a new Mens Asst Basketball Coach. Any idea who’s leaving or if this is part of some agreed upon changes?

  11. Houston / Apr 27 2012

    The Dukes certainly have the talent to be a top notch basketball team in the CAA. Honestly the only thing holding them back is probably coaching and possibly a lack of work ethic on the players, which can also be thrown on Brady. They just don’t seem to have the conditioning to hold a game together in the last 5 minutes. Give Brady another season to pick it up some with a lot of healthy “Bigs” in the paint and hopefully a wrist for Semenov that can remain 100 percent. If Brady fails to improve or be a contender in the CAA send him on his way. There are plenty of assistants in top programs that want to start somewhere.

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