EDITORIAL: Pick new coach for heart, spirit, not star power

Editorial Board

Remember a couple weeks ago when we said everyone should try out for the ISU men’s basketball team?

You know, because people were leaving the team left and right?

Well … it got worse.

Ever since late Sunday night, it has been reported that Greg McDermott was leaving town to take the same position at Creighton. He, and the rest of the ISU and Creighton athletic departments, confirmed this Monday.

McDermott’s departure does many things to the state of ISU basketball, and few of them can be seen as immediately positive.

First, it leaves the program in limbo, since it is the end of April and the program doesn’t have a head coach.

With most major colleges swiping up the successful mid-major coaches that are out there already, the hiring process becomes more and more difficult for ISU Athletic Director Jaime Pollard as each day goes by. Does he go the “Paul Rhoads” route and hire a guy who grew up here and will appreciate this for the opportunity it is? Or, will he go the “Big Name” route and try to make a splash right away?

Speaking of Pollard: How hard is this move to take? For just the third time in the last two years, a high-profile coach of one of the school’s marquee programs has jumped ship with almost no notice. We’re not necessarily comparing this situation to that of Cael Sanderson’s or Gene Chizik’s, but think about Pollard’s situation: He’s been burned more than once, by those who said they were here to stay.

McDermott’s departure leaves the state of the roster in question. With the recent — and not so recent — defections from the program, it’s not too hard to conceive that several of the players we have left might take off just as their coach has.

If players were so willing to leave when he was here, who’s to say they won’t fly away now that he’s gone?

And what about his recruits? With a class of three coming in, the immediate depth of the 2010-11 squad must be questioned if they — understandably — back out of their commitment to the man who’s no longer here.

Many ISU fans called for McDermott to lose his job immediately after the season was over — if not before — but Pollard swooped in and gave the coach his seal of approval. Now, McDermott is “disappointed to leave,” but couldn’t pass up a contract that was reportedly for 10 years and worth $9 million.

More than a few people said “good riddance” after hearing of his departure Sunday night.

Maybe he said the same thing.

He struggled to keep his players, he struggled to win games and he struggled to win over the hearts of ISU basketball fans in his four-year tenure in Ames.

He told The Associated Press on Monday: “The thing I’m most disappointed with is that we just haven’t won as many games as I’d like.”

That might be what disappointed him the most — and we’re sure that ISU fans are disappointed in that, too — but what he’ll most be remembered for is leaving before his time was due. Just like Sanderson, just like Chizik.

Whoever replaces him will come into a tough spot and will need all the help he can get. This time we’re not calling for a try out. We’re searching for our Rhoads into the future.