Commentary: Changes need to be made to KSU basketball team
by John Bednarowski
sportseditor@mdjonline.com
January 29, 2014 04:50 PM | 3677 views | 9 9 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On Tuesday, Kennesaw State athletic director Vaughn Williams sent out a press release, saying that men’s basketball coach Lewis Preston, who took a leave of absence Jan. 2 for health and personal reasons, would return to his post at the end of the season.

“I feel that it is in the best interest of Kennesaw State men’s basketball that Lewis returns to coaching the team at the conclusion of this season,” Williams said in the release. “I have the utmost confidence in this program, and that the current student-athletes, assistant coaches and coach Preston will take this program in the right direction.”

Williams has the utmost confidence in Preston and the coaching staff.

Why? To this point, they haven’t given the fan base much to cheer about.

In the nearly three seasons since Preston was hired, Kennesaw State is 10-73 overall and 3-42 in Atlantic Sun play. Forty-seven times, the Owls have lost by double digits, by at least 18 points 23 times and by 30 or more six times.

In that same time, Kennesaw State is 6-28 at home, with only three wins against Division I opponents.

The Owls, 4-18 this year, with a 1-8 record in A-Sun play, are on a five-game losing streak heading into Friday’s game at USC Upstate. They have six losing streaks of seven games or longer under Preston’s watch, and that includes skids of 19 and 13 games.

Talking with a number of coaches in the area, they are convinced that KSU’s basketball program could be successful again.

One local high school coach took it a step further. He said the goal for the Owls should be to win the Atlantic Sun and make the NCAA tournament. He also said that, to do that, he wouldn’t have to recruit outside the metro-Atlanta area.

That would be a great move for a fan base that is predominantly from Cobb, Cherokee and Paulding counties, but it almost seems as if the current coaches have ignored the talent available in their backyard. Last year, Cobb County became the first county in state history to send three teams — Hillgrove, North Cobb, Wheeler — to the semifinals in the state’s highest classification.

Yet, over the last three seasons, KSU has signed more players from St. Edward High School in Cleveland — Delbert Love and Myles Hamilton — than Cobb, Cherokee and Paulding combined (zero).

According to Owl Howl, a blog dedicated to KSU sports and recruiting information, the current staff has offered more scholarships for the high school class of 2014 to players in Ohio and Indiana (nine) than Georgia (seven).

With local students attending a local university, it would seem to make sense that local players would help draw more interest to the program.

When Florida Gulf Coast came to campus last weekend, the KSU Convocation Center should have been near its capacity of 4,700 fans. Instead, when last year’s NCAA tournament darling came to campus, the athletic department had to use the gimmick of a Sci-fi Day with Darth Vader and Stormtroopers to draw a reported crowd of just over 1,600 fans.

A Sweet 16 team nicknamed “Dunk City” was in the building and the student section was less than half full.

We are only 10 years removed from Kennesaw State posting a 35-4 record and winning a Division II national championship. With the exception of a banner that seems to blend in with the background at the Convocation Center, that team has become an afterthought. There isn’t a single mention of it in the KSU basketball team’s media guide.

With the Owls’ new football program scheduled to kick off in the fall of 2015, it has already become the dominant topic of conversation on campus. That was no more evident than the last two weeks, when the athletic department entered into sponsorship agreements worth a combined $4.25 million with WellStar and Superior Plumbing.

While all the money will go into the general athletic fund, it’s no coincidence that the business leaders of both companies took photos with Williams and university president Dan Papp holding a Kennesaw State football helmet.

The football team is about to sign its first recruiting class, which means that, as the basketball team begins its 2014-15 schedule, the football team will be finishing its first fall practice.

That suggests the men’s basketball team will have one more chance to capture a fan base ready to win again.

It should start with a new basketball coach, some local players and a few more wins. Without it, football will completely take over, and men’s basketball, as a whole, will become an afterthought, too.

John Bednarowski is sports editor of the Marietta Daily Journal. He can be reached at sportseditor@mdjonline.com or on Twitter @jbednarowski.
Comments
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Cobb Visitor
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January 31, 2014
Something is simply wrong ? No coach with that kind of record needs to be the head coach - President Papp knows basketball and selection of BB coaches - he must step in and fix this program now !
Not A Fan
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January 30, 2014
Just to add a little more info to this debate. Dalton State College is in their very first year as a basketball program. They have one of the best records in NAIA.....21-3. They are a first year program, which means they are not eligible for rankings or post season tournaments. The team was formed in less than a year and the man who put the team together and is the Head Coach............Tony Ingle.

I don't care what level of basketball you coach or what type of players you have. If you can only coach your team to 10 combined victories in three full seasons, you have no business being the head coach.

Don Juan
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January 30, 2014
A roster full of no D-1 talent? You got to be kidding me. The total number of win the year before Coach P took over the helms was 7 D-1 wins. He inherited a team with 3 all-conference type players and one of them was a player of the year candidate. So to say the he inherited a team with no D-1 talent is insane. Seven D-1 wins is more that Coach P won in the time he have been coach at KSU. Coach P only has 6 D-1 wins since arriving at KSU. Was Coach P facing challenges- Yes! But the lack of recruits and development of the players is a clear indicator where the program is heading. Coach P had Spencer Dixon, Aaron Anderson, Makeith Cummings and he was only won 2 D-1 games- Delbert Love was even on the roster and he could have been freshman of the year. The next year he won 3 D-1 games and this year 1 D-1 game. Did the previous coaching staff recruit Cole Hobbs, Tanner Wozniak, Jordan Montgomery, Jordan Jones (for a team desperate for wins why would he recruit a kid to redshirt – doesn’t make a whole lot of sense). When I read the post sometimes I wonder if the coaching staff is posting on this site. I never hear any of the coaches take responsibility for not developing their players. Does Coach P now have a roster full of D-1 players? If so why is he only capable of earning one D-1 win? What is the excuse now? Who has developed under Coach P guidance? Where is the improvement? He even lost 6 assistant coaches in 2 and ½ years. What personality does this team have? Usually a team takes on the persona of the head coach. You guys must stop acting like the Atlantic Sun Conference is a major. The Atlantic Sun is a lower Mid-Major Conference. So what type of athletes you think you are going to land? In this league you have to know how to develop athletes.
Baseball Fan
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January 30, 2014
Unfortunately for KSU, they should have never left the Div II level. They were winning conference championships and several national titles in different sports. Now they are trying to become a factor in the 'mid-level' Div I program and it is becoming harder for them to compete. Football is not the answer and may become the problem. Who will come to see KSU play Gardner-Webb. Most people in the Cobb County area have never heard of the schools in the Big South. One thing the athletic department continues to push aside is the need for a new baseball facility. That has been the most successful and consistent major sport on campus for years and they continue to be pushed back on a new facility. The coaching staff continues to excel and achieve success against opponents in their conference and against major Div I programs in the Southeast. Before you continue to spend money on a football program that has not held their first practice, the athletic department should reward the baseball coaches and players with a solid plan to have a new facility in place for the 2015 season.
Owl Nation
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January 30, 2014
Typical "drive-by" reporting by Mr. Bednarowski. He rarely attends any games and does not follow the program closely at all. He never names sources in his articles....this time an unnamed high school basketball coach, in others "sources close to the program." He has no sources close to the program because he fails to cover KSU closely. If he did, he might know that the basketball program recently received a verbal commitment from a very good player in Cherokee County.

While I am sure no one is happy with the won-loss record, in his three years, Coach Preston has brought in student-athletes KSU can be proud of in terms of their academics and comportment. He had a big hole to dig out of, and has done it admirably. He deserves a chance to succeed on the court also.
Sports Editor
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February 03, 2014
Owl,

I don't get to attend nearly as many games as I would like, but I do follow the team closely. I also knew that Nick Masterson from River Ridge committed. The KSU coaching staff has also offered a trio of players from Pebblebrook. But the program has yet to sign anybody from the area. And if Masterson signs its one in three years. Not exactly a sterling track record.

Hope you will come down and talk to me the next on Jan. 15. That's the next game I'll attend.
KSU Nate
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January 30, 2014
Just read your article. Coming from being on campus during the days of the previous coach to coach Preston you are missing alot of facts from your article. There has never been a real fan base for basketball at KSU even when they one National Championship in D2. Most of the students don't wear KSU apparel even on campus. Prestons first 2 seasons where played in Division 1 using Division 2 players. The tallest person he had on his roster was 6'6". They have played against more real name oopponents like Notre Dame, Indiana, Ga Tech and others that the school has never faced before with points guard almost as tall as our center was. This year is really the first year they have a few big men but we all know big men need more time than smaller players. KSU is not the desired location for local Athletes to be attracted in Basketball at this point for lack of real exposure for them. Which is why Preston is taking on a schedule that is brutal to show others that they will get to compete against the best. Then kids will consider staying close to home. Lastly I watched a GA Tech game last night against one of the most Historic programs in basketball history and the arena was half full. In fact their place is hardly ever packed as well. They haven't done so well in the wins column either and they don't have a roster full of GA players either. Hmmmmmm can we get some real reporting please. A new Division 1 program will take its bumps and bruises but if you stay the course and be consistent good things will happen. Now before you reply back let me give you just a little more history. Duke University fires Coach Mike Kryswezki after only 3 and a half seasons in because they were losing most of their games and frankly he wasn't a good coach. Well we know that final headline didn't happen. The writers all inappropriately called for him to be fired and the AD and the school stuck by him and now look at Duke. National Champions all over the place and arguably the second most Historic Basketball Program ever. Imagine where Duke could be without him. Well we don't have to because they didn't jump the gun.

Signed Patience is a Virtue that most Americans have lost because of the Microwave
Not A Fan
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January 30, 2014
Come on KSU Nate, stop making excuses. The current coach is obviously not the right man for the job. As long as he's coach, I don't see the Owls doing anything different than they do right now.

North Florida, FGCU, USC Upstate, Northern Kentucky.......they all joined the Atlantic Sun and transitioned to Division I at the same time or a couple years after Kennesaw State. Where are they in the standings? I don't even need to get into FGCU's success.

This coach has been in charge for three seasons and the Owls have 10 wins........10 wins in three seasons. FGCU has made it to the Sweet 16 in less time. I don't see an upside to him staying. If you were a recruit and were approached by a coach that has been in charge for three years and has a total of ten wins, would you sign? We'll see what happens. The only time the Convocation Center sells out is for graduations!
Sports Editor
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February 03, 2014
Nate,

The team played a difficult schedule because the Atlantic Sun asked teams to beef up their non-conference slate.

Preston's first two seasons were two years after KSU came out of their transition period. They had a full slate of Division I players including Markeith Cummings -- the school's all-time leading scorer and Aaron Anderson -- the school's all-time leading rebounder.

Winning makes the local university a destination for local players.

If I'm not mistaken, Georgia Tech's game against North Carolina was during a snow/ice storm that completely shut the entire region down. I think I am going to give the fan base a pass on that one. But I give you props, if you saw the game you must have walked downtown because wasn't that one taken off the television schedule?

You are right about Coach K, the writers did want to get rid of him early. Do you know his records the first three years at Duke were 17-13, 10-17 and 11-17. That's 38-47. If his record would have been 10-73 there wouldn't have been a Coach K.

All I know is only Binghamton and Grambling have a worse record in the country over the last three years than KSU.
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