TAMPA, Fla. — There was silence in the crowd as they waited for the announcement from University of South Florida Athletic Director Mark Harlan, that the Bulls have successfully concluded the search for their new men’s basketball coach.
Harlan stepped up to the microphone and introduced Brain Gregory as the 10th basketball coach in the school’s history.
“When I set out to find a new leader for our basketball program, I had very specific characteristics at the top of my list,” Harlan said. “An experienced head coach, high integrity, championship background, a program builder and a coach who develops and graduates players. (Brian) Gregory checks all these boxes and so much more.”
To say, that Gregory has his work cut out for him is a tremendous under statement because this basketball program is a mess.
Players deciding to leave school for greener pastures, possible NCAA violation about enrollment and then there is pitiful season that concluded with a 7-22 record.
Can he save this program?
Gregory arrives with an impressive history coaching at the University of Dayton, Georgia Tech and last season spending time at the side of Tom Izzo at Michigan State University.
Coaching the Flyers, Gregory spent a total of 172 games leading the University of Dayton to the NCAA Tournament in his first year and was named the Atlantic-10 Conference Coach of the Year. He is not a stranger to success, in 2010 he led the Flyers to the NIT title.
Gregory continued his success at Georgia Tech, he won 76 games with the Yellow Jackets including getting Georgia Tech to the quarterfinals of the NIT in 2010.
Last season, he worked as a consultant at Michigan State University, the school that gave him the chance to work the sideline as an assistant coach.
“He has worked with a Hall of Fame coaches,” Harlan said about Gregory. “He has built the program at two universities and that will be an incredible asset as we move forward.”
Gregory says changing the culture at the University of South Florida, is all about getting the right player to come this school and student-athletes who want to graduate from this institution.
His first plan, is to commit and to the recruit hard around the Bay Area, the state of Florida and by doing that he is opening up his practice to all of the area’s high school coaches.
“That’s a way to get guys to understand who you are as a coach, so they feel comfortable and hopefully one day sending players down that can make an impact here,” Gregory said. “There’s too many good players, recruits, coming out of this area. We have to do a much better job of that and we’re going to do it.”
Gregory does arrive with a pedigree by coaching some of the best NCAA basketball programs in the history of the NCAA.
USF basketball fans have heard this old song before. When former USF coach, Orlando Antigua was hired as the men’s coach coming from the University of Kentucky. Bulls fans might remember that there was a big deal made about Antigua being under the guidance of Wildcats’ coach John Calipari.
With Antigua running the program, 14 players wanted out of the program at the University of South Florida and go somewhere else to get an education and play basketball.
Gregory said all the right things after his introduction. He is going to want players to stay at the school and earn that degree, by making the experience of playing basketball for the Bulls a life-changing experience.
“I firmly believe that the University of South Florida has so many characteristics you need to have in order to build a successful program,” Gregory said. “The experience of playing here, coupled with putting that diploma in your back pocket, you’re in whole different area than if you go anywhere else.”
It sure sounds good and it is truly believable!
Changing the culture out on the court will be a large task for Gregory, there are just so many issues to tackle.
Not only keep players in school but he needs to find true basketball talent, players that can shoot the basketball and score points. Players that understand the value of keeping possession of the ball. Players that understand the concept of playing defense.
Gregory will be starting from scratch because the cupboard at the University of South Florida is close to being empty.
“If we all take ownership and get together, we can get this thing done,” Gregory said. “I’m excited about getting done with all of you.”
Leaving the room with a buzz, Gregory waved to the crowd and then disappeared into the Sun Dome, USF basketball fans are hoping that this is not a foreshowing scene by leaving many Bulls fans silent in despair.
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.