Cottle dismissal doesn't sit well with area coaches
More than just being a sympathetic ear, Tony Seaman may understand what Dave Cottle is enduring.
After the 1998 season, Seaman was forced to resign by Johns Hopkins despite a 77-33 record (.700), four seasons of 10 wins or more and four Final Four appearances in eight seasons.
So when Seaman heard on Sunday from Cottle himself that he had decided to take himself out of consideration after Maryland told him it was unlikely to sign him to a new contract, Seaman felt like he was thrown into a time warp.
"I was fortunate enough to start that trend in 1998 when my resume at Hopkins looked very similar to Dave’s," Seaman, the coach at Towson, said with tongue firmly planted in cheek. "When I wasn’t renewed, we were 10-4 and we had gone to the Final Four four out of eight years. You wonder sometimes. And they went seven more years before winning a championship. So sometimes it’s not about changing the program or the leadership. You’ve just got to have a bunch of kids and have a little luck and be good and do a good job of recruiting and it’s all got to mesh and the chemistry has to come together. That’s why only five [active coaches] have ever done it."
The debate over the Terps’ decision to part ways with Cottle has raged since news broke on Sunday, one day after Maryland, as the No. 3 seed, fell to Notre Dame, 7-5, in a NCAA Tournament quarterfinal.
Critics point out that the team never advanced to the national title game despite three trips to the Final Four, that the team compiled dubious records against arch-rivals like Johns Hopkins (2-7), Virginia (5-12) and Navy (4-5), and that the Terps had fallen behind Atlantic Coast Conference foes Virginia, Duke and North Carolina in appeal to high school recruits.
Backers argue that the Terps qualified for eight straight NCAA Tournaments – the second-longest active streak behind Johns Hopkins’ 39-year streak – posted seven consecutive years of 10 wins or more, and captured two ACC regular-season and two tournament championships.
The school’s treatment of Cottle has made waves in the coaching community, sending the message that no national titles means no long-term security.
"There’s any number of things that a coach can be judged on: graduation rates, conduct of the team, anything that you can focus on if you’re not pleased with someone for some reason," Navy coach Richie Meade said. "I think it’s very easy to say you’re going to replace somebody. I think it’s lost on a lot of people just how hard it is to win. Every program goes through peaks and valleys. This is just my opinion, but I think this is going to set their program back several years now."
Cottle’s fate seemed sealed after the loss to Notre Dame, but since 1990, only 17 teams have advanced to the national semifinals. And Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said one game should not determine a future.
"They had a bad last game," he said. "But give Notre Dame some credit. We’re all quick to pull the trigger and say, ‘What a bad job they did.’ How about what a good job Notre Dame did in turning things around and getting things back on track? … Dave Cottle, I can tell you right now, put plenty of pressure on himself. His goals are to get to the Final Four and win a national championship, too – every bit as much, if not more than, as the University of Maryland."
The national title argument doesn’t hold much water with Seaman, who pointed out that only five active coaches – UMBC’s Don Zimmerman (with Johns Hopkins), Denver’s Bill Tierney (with Princeton), Virginia’s Dom Starsia, Syracuse’s John Desko and Pietramala – have guided teams to NCAA crowns.
Cottle has not said what he plans to do in the immediate future, but Seaman said that any program with a coaching vacancy (ahem, Penn State) should interview Cottle immediately.
"There’s a lot of good teams out there that could certainly use his services," Seaman said. "If I was any one of these guys who doesn’t have a coach right now, I think I would hired Dave Cottle yesterday."