For the first time in a long time, there is a new head men’s basketball coach at Drexel. Weeks after the contract of Bruiser Flint was bought out by the university, current Army head coach Zach Spiker was hired by the Dragons on Thursday. While the United States Military Academy may not seem like a basketball coaching hotbed, it has produced the likes of Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzewski. Spiker’s tenure in West Point has earned him the distinction of being named in the same breathe as those coaches as all three earned fifty wins in their first four seasons on campus, something only one other coach in program history, George Hunter, can claim.
On the surface, his tenure at Army isn’t overly inspiring. In his seven years at the helm, the team posted an overall record of 102-112 overall with just a 45-65 record in the Patriot League. That includes four seasons under .500, one at .500, and two over .500. This year’s Black Knights team posted a 19-14 overall record and a posted a 9-9 conference mark. The team’s most notable win this year was a seven point victory over should-have-been-in-the-tourney-but-Mid-Majors-get-no-respect Monmouth just after Christmas. After a fourth place league finish, Army topped Colgate in the first round of the conference tourney before being blown out by eventual champion (and 9th seed) Holy Cross. The team’s performance earned them a trip to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament where their season ended in a first round loss to NJIT.
So, where’s the good news? Well, for starters, Spiker certainly seems like a coach on the rise. He took a program that is notoriously difficult to recruit to (hello service requirement) and propelled the team to its first four year 15 win streak in a century. Spiker was named the 2013 Patriot League Coach of the Year after leading his team to the program’s first winning record in 28 years. Along with the prestige and the academic integrity that comes along with coaching at the USMA, the Dragons are getting a coach that has turned a historically bad program into a relevant low-major program.
Recruiting at Army is obviously a very unique situation and it will be interesting to see how the new coach fares in that regard. He was instrumental in the recruiting of some impressive players for Cornell, ones that propelled them to those tournament wins alluded to earlier. Dragon fans should expect Spiker’s recruits to be high character and academically proficient. Which sounds like exactly what the school was looking for. Spiker is no stranger to the area as he attended the Hill School (who’s famous alumni include hopefully not soon to be first child of the US Eric Trump and, perhaps more impressively, this guy’s brother) before playing at Ithaca from 1996-2000. Bruiser Flint’s teams always graduated every player (that didn’t transfer) and recent years have only increased the team’s academic offerings. Spiker’s squads should continue that forward movement and Drexel fans should be proud of that.
A few familiar names were linked to the Drexel opening in recent days. Former point guard and current Wagner coach Bashir Mason and former DU assistant coach Geoff Arnold were said to have interviewed for the position. The Dragons were interested in the services of current Lehigh coach Dr. Brett Reed, but he pulled his name from the running earlier this week. Which is fine, this is a Leopard household, and I think John Fry will back me up on that. Martin Inglesby, a Philly native and current assistant at Notre Dame also interviewed. His team is in town for the Sweet 16 this weekend. Inglesby has also been tied to the open UDel position due to the Mike Brey connection. Let’s hope they make the not-smart move and go with somebody else.
No rumors have surfaced on what’s next for Bruiser Flint. The former coach has appeared on Comcast Sports Net in recent days to talk about the NCAA Tournament. You’d have to imagine his future will play a large role in that of his assistants at well, at the very least his associate head coach Mike Connors. A few of the other Dragons coaches have still been at the DAC in recent days overseeing the program until a successor is named. If Flint elects to sit the upcoming season out you have to wonder if there may be interest in getting back on the Drexel bench for them, depending on availability with the staff Spiker brings with him from Army.
This is as good time to once again thank Bruiser and his staff for their service to the program and the school. Flint and his staff always represented the university well and they’re leaving big shoes to fill in that regard for Spiker and his coaches. We’ll keep you posted on where Bruiser and his assistants end up. Until then, go Dragons, and welcome Coach Spiker!