Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
GALLOWAY, N.J. — Nobody would’ve blamed Tommy Dempsey if he said thanks, but no thanks when offered the Binghamton job.
After all, the Bearcats finished 344th out of 344 teams in the RPI last year.
They went 2-29 a year ago under former coach Mark Macon, who compiled a 23-70 record in this three years at the school.
Macon himself replaced fired head coach Kevin Broadus, who was let go in 2009 after the New York Times helped expose academic and drug scandals inherent in the program after its NCAA Tournament appearance that year.
So why exactly did Dempsey leave a Rider program that had a chance to contend for a MAAC championship for a team in total rebuilding mode?
“I think the biggest reason why was the opportunity that I thought lied ahead,” Dempsey told SNY.tv last week at Stockton College while he recruited the “Live in AC” event. “You’re taking over a program at a time where they need a lot of direction, and that’s exciting as a coach.”
Still, there wasn’t much left in the cupboards at the New York state school.
“When I walked in the door, their leading scorer, [sophomore guard] Rob Mansell tore his ACL late in the year so he hasn’t been working out,” Dempsey said. “And what everyone told me were the next three most promising players were all freshmen last year and decided to transfer.”
When Dempsey took over in May, he learned that five of the eight players left over were former walk-ons.
Still, Dempsey, 38, believes he can get it going there over time because the school boasts “a lot of resources, great facilites, a great arena, a great practice facility and very attractive student housing.”
Oh, and Dempsey can coach, too.
He went 119-105 (.531) at Rider after becoming coach before the 2005 postseason.
“The goal in Year One to establish our culture, establish our style of play,” Dempsey said. “We’re going to get up and down, we’re going to spread the court, we’re going to use the 3-pointer as a weapon. We play a style that I believe is very fan friendly, very recruit friendly and I believe it’s a style of play that gets good kids excited about coming to play for you.”
One of Dempsey’s prime targets in the Class of 2013 is 6-foot-2 point guard Amar Stukes of La Salle (Pa.) College High.
Stukes said he’s being recruited by George Mason, La Salle, St. Bonaventure, Rider and Binghamton, but likes the idea of helping to rebuild Binghamton.
“I really like Binghamton and it gives us a good chance to go in there and start something new, try to rebuild from the bottom up so that’s a good idea,” Stukes told SNY.tv.
Asked what type of player he will be in college, Stukes added: “I try my best to be a pure point guard. That’s what I strive to be, a good passer and a kid who knocks down shots and makes free throw at the end of the game.”
Sounds like exactly the type of player Dempsey needs to convince to follow his lead.
“I need to convince a couple guys to get in that foxhole with me and know that they’re going to immediately be impact guys,” Dempsey, speaking generally because he cannot comment on specific recruitable student-athletes, said.
If he can do that, Dempsey added, “There’s no reason why [Binghamton] shouldn’t be a legitimate mid-major program.”
Photos: AmericaEast.com / Montgomery News
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.