UNF’s Basketball Program Lands a Slam Dunk
The University of North Florida men’s basketball program has been given a kick to the bee-hind.
In mid-March, UNF’s newly-appointed Athletic Director (AD) Lee Moon fired men’s head coach Matt Kilcullen who had coached ten seasons at UNF.
During his tenure, Kilcullen was 98-186. Last season, the team finished 8-22 while placing second to last in the Atlantic Sun Conference with a 6-14 record.
Kilcullen helped the program make a somewhat smooth transition from Division II to Division I. A few weeks after being fired, Kilcullen accepted a position with the UNF Athletics Department. It was a smart move and an act of loyalty by Moon to keep a twenty-year head coaching veteran close to the program.
There is no doubt that the UNF men’s basketball team needed an alteration. Over the last five regular seasons, the Ospreys went 36-113. That’s a .242 winning percentage. That’s almost as bad as the NBA’s cellar-dwelling Los Angeles Clippers.
AD Lee Moon quickly made his presence known.
Within a month of removing Kilcullen, Moon hired former Baylor assistant Matthew Driscoll. A well-known former assistant coach within the ranks of college basketball, Driscoll had been an assistant at the Division I level for twelve years.
When Moon announced Driscoll as the UNF men’s basketball head coach, Moon talked about building a basketball family that includes the athletes, students and the university.
A basketball family is attainable at UNF.
Immediately, the hiring of Driscoll received national media attention. Considered one of the highly-respected recruiters in the nation, Driscoll has national connections, including at Clemson and Wyoming where he served as assistant coach. The national recognition began with Yahoo! Sports and that four-letter sports network noticing the hiring decisions at UNF. The university is now on the men’s basketball map.
Driscoll, the fourth head coach in the program’s history, has a chance to place his mark on UNF. He can create an admirable and unforgettable tradition for the Ospreys.
It will be a difficult hurdle since Jacksonville isn’t a basketball town, but Driscoll could eventually bring the program on par with UNF’s baseball program led by the legendary Dusty Rhodes.
Like building any athletic program, it will take time and an endless devotion to strategic recruiting, funding and creative marketing. And, media attention always helps. As a UNF graduate and well-wisher, media coverage will be my job.
For an up-start D-I program, UNF has above-average basketball facilities. The 5,800-seat UNF Arena is the Ospreys’ nest. During games against the cross-town rival JU Dolphins, the student sections produce near-deafening cheers. I know because I led my fair share of them.
And, with John Delaney, former Jacksonville Mayor, as President of the university, look for UNF’s facilities to improve each year.
President Delaney has an unmatched ability to raise the necessary money and also a talent for spreading the word. That word is “growth.”
NCAA titles cannot be expected. Hope and struggle are part of the process. However, in five years, Atlantic Sun championships and NCAA Tournament berths aren’t out of the question. Like Driscoll said in his first press conference as head coach, “we are going to win championships.”
On April 17, Driscoll began molding UNF’s basketball program with his first recruiting signee: power forward David Jeune from Okeechobee High. After bringing Jeune on board, within one month, Driscoll added three other recruits and hired three assistant coaches. The rest of Driscoll’s signing class includes: Brad Haugabrook, a one-year starter from Hillsborough Community College; Jerron Granberry, the 6-foot-5 do-it-all player who led Coral Reef High School (Miami, Florida) to the 6A state title last season; and, Andy Diaz, also a Miami native who specializes in defending multiple positions.
That’s not too shabby for a first-year head coach. Of course, a player’s hype means nothing if he can’t produce on the court. Keeping the hype and egos at bay won’t be a problem for Driscoll, especially with the aid of his experienced assistants: Bruce Evans, Bobby Kennen and Jeremy Shyatt.
Prior to becoming head coach at Division II Lander (Greenwood, South Carolina), Bruce Evans was an assistant coach at Garner-Webb, which plays in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Evans coached the Lander Bearcats for five seasons. He led the team to the 2007 Peach Belt Conference Tournament title while clinching a spot in the NCAA Division II Tournament.
While Evan’s resume glaringly stands out, Bobby Kennen’s catches the eye like an alley-oop dunk. Previously the assistant at Campbell University and Jacksonville University, Kennen also was an assistant at Central Florida Community College and Wichita State. Having spent five years under former JU head coach Hugh Durham and four seasons with Campbell, Kennen too is familiar with the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Yesterday, Driscoll completed his staff with the addition of Jeremy Shyatt. Shyatt, 28, is the oldest son of current men’s assistant at the University of Florda, Larry Shyatt. For two years, Jeremy Shyatt was the Director of Men’s Basketball Operations at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). While working there, Shyatt worked with former VCU head coach Anthony Grant, a product of Billy Donovan’s University of Florida staff.
While Driscoll was an assistant at Clemson, Shyatt played one season under his tutelage and coached beside him as a student assistant coach.
As you read this, Matthew Driscoll is slowly laying the foundation for the UNF men’s basketball program. When November rolls around, Driscoll and the Ospreys will be receiving comparisons to the JU Dolphins’ turnaround under men’s head coach Cliff Warren.
Finally, the Ospreys men’s basketball program has a face. And, that’s the face of Matthew Driscoll. He has a long way to the top, but he possesses the tools to make the trek.
Sooner or later, at UNF, wins won’t be a pleasant treat. They’ll become expected.