Friday, August 20, 2010

Courtney Begins to Build Upon Donahue's Legacy

By Matt Norlander

The boxes have still yet to be fully unpacked at Bill Courtney’s new house in Ithaca.

Cornell’s rookie head coach barely had a chance to see his wife and children from April 22 (the day he took the job, replacing Boston College coach Steve Donahue) until Aug. 2, when his family moved to central New York for good.

With all the recruiting, relocating and rebuilding of a place to live and a team to piece together, the former Virginia Tech assistant didn’t get a chance to close on a house or say his goodbyes to a lot of people in Blacksburg.

But that’s what comes with a new job - especially at a school that’s undergoing a massive overhaul for many spots on the roster.

Courtney returned earlier this week from a brief vacation in Florida, the only one he’ll give himself until well until 2011, and now, with freshman orientation underway, his term begins in earnest.

Courtney and his three assistants—all new to the program—are hunkering down to try and keep the Big Red’s reputation atop the suddenly competitive Ivy League.

“There’s so much excitement around the program,” he said. “People in the Ithaca community are so excited about basketball now.”

But Cornell’s not going to be recognizable in 2010-11.

New coach, new starters, nearly new everything.

Reliable net-burner Ryan Wittman was brought into camp with the Celtics. Big man Jeff Foote—an aberration of a player at the Ivy League level—graduated and is now playing in Israel along with former senior leader and 3-point specialist Jon Jaques. Shifty point guard Louis Dale is playing in Germany.

Few can expect Courtney to immediately replace that kind of core.

“As we move forward, we’re losing seven seniors and three of the best players in school history,” Courtney said. ‘So, yes, we’re starting over. All new guys, a new philosophy and players in new roles. We planned a lot in the last month, though, I can tell you that.”

The Big Red will have four freshmen and a junior college transfer. Despite the success from last March, this team may not find itself to be the target it built itself into the past three seasons. Courtney said his greatest challenge in the first four months is identifying and actively seeking out the breed of player he needs to chase at Cornell.

“We need to accurately identify the pool of candidates we can recruit from,” he said. “They have to fit in several different ways. That’s been the big thing for us: identifying that pool. We have to get some of the most brilliant high school students around, they have to match athletically, and more particularly, financially. We don’t give athletic scholarships here. Yes, we want to know if they can play—but the financial component is a big factor also.”


Anonymous said...

Financial concerns are no longer an issue at Cornell starting last year - it's a bad sign that Courtney doesn't realize that. Skorton introduced it last year for all Cornell applicants - after receiving financial aid and determining how much the parents can pay, Cornell pays the difference. Anyone can attend Cornell comfortably (based on what their family can afford) when it comes to finances and any high school student who doesn't apply to Cornell, simply because of the full tuition cost, doesn't realize this and is doing themselves a huge injustice. I encourage Courtney to figure this out before turning away recruits. I'm quite shocked to hear him say finances are an issue, in public. Reconsider your pool, coach, quickly!

Anonymous said...

We have nevertheless had episodes where someone didn't like their financial aid. I.e. even though the aid was based on what their parents could pay, they'd still rather save money and get a full ride scholarship, so they choose somewhere else.

The Cornell Basketball Blog said...

Justin Cecil was a financial aid issue (as an example).

The most common reason why we lose kids is academics. We couldn't get Chris Fitzgerald (committed to George Washington-A-10) or Brylle Kamen (committed to San Jose State-WAC) through admissions.

Kevin Thomas wanted to stay in the south (not admissions or money issue), Albrecht wanted a staff that recruited him.

These examples show some of the reasons why some of our top targets don't land at Cornell.

Cornell really didn't lose any kids to fellow Ivies. There are two kids at Harvard that Cornell wanted-- Kyle Casey and Laurent Rivard.

Anonymous said...

If smart, they would have wanted Keith Wright and Brandon Curry too.

Anonymous said...

ANON 9:19PM-
I'm going to side with Coach on this one.

From the parents' perspective, there is frequently a significant difference in what a college thinks they can afford and what they can really afford. And it does not usually favor the families.

Often, when parents see the proposed financial aid package, the ones who have saved diligently for their kids' college expenses end up very disappointed with what they are still expected to cover from ongoing earnings. It is tempting to believe that it is better to save nothing.