Tag Archives: Cleveland State Vikings

Cleveland State’s Slow, Steady Social Media Burn

In years past, the Cleveland State men’s basketball team has been up and down in terms of its social media presence. The most glaring example of this shortcoming was the disappearance of former coach Gary Waters from Twitter, which oddly coincided with a number of coaching departures in 2015.

In fact, the only thing that made that situation worse for Waters was the emergence of the Evil Gary Waters parody account in summer 2016. And like all good parody accounts, this one went to work quickly on all things Cleveland State. To the detriment of CSU, Evil Gary’s popularity only grew as the Vikings slogged through a 9-22 campaign.

So when Dennis Felton took over for the retiring Waters in late March, the bar was set pretty low on the social media front. But even with the low bar, you could tell there was going to be some pressure to get up to speed, especially with fellow Horizon League coaches getting a big jump ahead of him.

But an interesting thing started happening in the middle of the summer. Social media with CSU athletics, which has been marked by highs (like lacrosse coach Dylan Sheridan’s Twitter feed) and lows (the aforementioned Waters disappearance) started getting on the same page.

And while coaches like Sheridan and women’s basketball coach Kate Peterson Abiad have always been active, it has been men’s basketball that has always seemed to lag behind them.

Felton and his staff, it appears, are looking to change that in a big way. And Cleveland State is naturally on board.

The change has never been more striking than on Felton’s Twitter feed. Previously, many of his posts have included quotations from coaching greats or thoughts on the NBA, of which he spent three years as the Director of Player Personnel with the San Antonio Spurs.

Now, he’s leaned into CSU, lending support to not only men’s basketball, but all Vikings sports, as well as various Viking-centric ventures that have included contributing a jersey to Bryan Black’s 351 Jerseys for Hope campaign to raise awareness for epilepsy.

For athletics as a whole, CSU has made a huge push to get votes for Magnus during Mid-Major Madness’ Mascot Melee, which has pushed the Viking mascot to the Elite Eight, at last count.

Video has been playing a huge role in the summer social media blitz as well. For its part, Cleveland State has made Felton the star of a weekly video series, aptly titled Fridays with Felton.

And then there was the Drive-By Dunk Challenge.

With the sounds of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, who Felton is a huge fan of, he and three players, senior Anthony Wright, sophomore Evan Clayborne and freshman Tyree Appleby (a Twitter must-follow in his own right) chronicled their journey to Westlake to take part in the dunking on driveway hoops.

Felton has even been spotted on the live-video platform Periscope, setting up a feed during his autograph-signing session at a Lake County Captains game.

Since his hire, Felton has made multiple overtures that he wants to shake things up and perhaps surprise some people with his team’s performance on the court. While we won’t know about how Felton’s influence will translate in the win-loss column until the season starts, the recent social media efforts have indeed been a pleasant surprise.

At the very least, Felton, along with the rest Cleveland State athletics, have recognized that a change was sorely needed to find some footing in an already-crowded Cleveland sports landscape for its signature program.

E-mail Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via Cleveland State Athletics

To the Cleveland State Class of 2021: Follow Athletics (If You’re Not Too Distracted)

Dear incoming Cleveland State freshmen:

As I’ve made it a general practice of doing over the last three years, I’d like to welcome you to my alma mater. No doubt the college experience…

Oh, I’m sorry. I see some of you were stuck at the Parking department’s Web site fighting for parking passes like it was Thunderdome. That feeling is never going away. But take heart in the fact you didn’t have only three dirt lots to park in like I did.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. I’m usually the guy who tries to remind you in vain that Athletics is part of the money you pay to CSU every semester.

Oh, wait. I see we’re still on the parking thing. I’m seeing a lot of you out there are tweeting like mad about this whole situation. Maybe now isn’t the best time to mention that Cleveland State is looking at private companies to run the parking operation.

I’m very sorry. I didn’t mean to throw another log on the fire there. I wanted to talk about athletics, especially the men’s basketball program. For the first time in a long time, you will be joined in your first year by Dennis Felton, who is also beginning his tenure as head coach.

And of course he’s brought in some new students as well. A few of them, Shawn Christian, Stefan Kenic and Tyree Appleby, are freshmen like yourself.

Plus, since it appears that some of you are into Twitter, you probably want to follow Christian and Appleby, especially Appleby, who’s already said the Vikings will make the NCAA Tournament this season.

But I see another Twitter discussion is going on. What’s this about? A new fee for career services? Well, maybe they can finally hire me, then. Or not.

I’m off track again. What I wanted to say is that since you paid into athletics already, the big advantage of that is you get into all sporting events for free. That’s not a bad deal in the fall, seeing as how CSU has the defending Horizon League volleyball team starting up again, not to mention men’s and women’s soccer.

What’s that? There’s another Cavs ticket giveaway going on across all of Cleveland State’s social media platforms? And everybody is falling over themselves to get them? It’s not for a game on the same night as a CSU basketball game, is it? That would be rather awkward.

But enough about that. The important thing is that for years, Cleveland State has dedicated a section of the Wolstein Center to students. Currently dubbed Viking Village, you can go and cheer on both men’s and women’s teams for absolutely free. In fact, I’m sure that student leaders as we speak are devising ways to get more students involved.

And I have the utmost confidence that student leaders a totally not be worried about who’s coming in to replace Ronald Berkman as CSU’s president; not even a little bit.

Look, I get it. It’s a whole new world out there for a lot of you. And I’d be lying if I said there weren’t going to be times where Cleveland State makes you completely nuts, because there will be. Believe me. I’ve been exactly where you are.

And it’s because I’ve been where you are, I can say this. Even though you will probably curse CSU to the high heavens no less than a half-dozen times (and I’m being very conservative here), at the end of the day, this will still be your alma mater. You will always be connected to Cleveland State, as a student and as an alumni, whether you like it or not. Make the most of it.

E-mail Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @bobmcdonald.

Image via Cleveland State University

There Is No Cleveland State-Youngstown State Rivalry. And There May Never Be.

It’s almost like that scene in the movie “Mean Girls” where Regina George snaps at Gretchen Weiners tell her to stop trying to make the word fetch a thing.

Ever since Youngstown State entered the Horizon League in 2001, much to the consternation of literally every fan in the conference, there was always the hope that somehow, some way, the Penguins, perennial underachievers in basketball, would finally right the ship.

Meanwhile, Cleveland State, after toiling in sub-mediocrity, did turn things around during the height of the Gary Waters era.

Had YSU gotten its act together during the tenure of Jerry Slocum, the battle between the two schools would have been rife for a natural rivalry. It made sense. Cleveland and Youngstown’s geographic proximity could have made it a cinch.

But it never happened. That heated feud between the two schools has failed to present itself.

Now, Slocum and Waters, who consistently butted heads when they roamed their respective sidelines, are gone. And at least one of their replacements seems to be making a concerted effort to goad the other into action.

And still, no luck in getting a rivalry going.

YSU tabbed Division II runner-up coach Jerrod Calhoun as Slocum’s successor, while CSU opted for ex-Western Kentucky and Georgia coach Dennis Felton. Calhoun built a success at Fairmont State, while Felton opted to spend time with the San Antonio Spurs after his departure from Georgia, then returned to the college ranks as part of the Tulsa coaching staff.

Despite their resumes, Calhoun has a sizable advantage in terms of his connections to Northeast Ohio, particularly as a former Cleveland State player under Rollie Massimino. Theoretically, that should have given Calhoun an edge in the CSU coaching search.

Cleveland State athletic director Mike Thomas, however, seemed to think otherwise and hired Felton.

With Calhoun chosen to lead YSU, it seems that he has been focusing a great deal on what should be Cleveland State’s backyard.

And Thursday, Calhoun hit closer to CSU’s home than ever.

This time, it was Waters himself, along with noted Viking alum D’Aundray Brown, who came to the Youngstown State campus and speak with Calhoun’s players.

And it is in this instance that we may all now lay to rest any silly notion that a rivalry between Cleveland State and YSU exists or, more to the point, will ever exist.

Give Calhoun credit, of course, for trying the jumpstart things a little. But it’s clear that Felton isn’t biting.

But more than that, rivalry discussion can be dismissed by the mere reaction, or rather lack thereof, from the remaining CSU fans. If Youngstown State were such bitter rivals, conventional wisdom would tell you that the Viking faithful would be incensed.

No such reaction really came. For some, in fact, the entire event was dismissed outright, as if it was much ado about nothing.

Perhaps that indifference really speaks to the long-festering root of Cleveland State’s issues with apathy and complacency. And this massive problem may be the primary reason why this potential rivalry never really gotten off the ground.

That’s not to say that YSU has been just as apathetic over the years, as the long drag of subpar basketball has certainly a contributing factor. What’s been CSU’s excuse? And while Calhoun appears to have recognized the hills he will have to climb to sell his program, what will Felton come up with to address the same issue?

While it’s early to determine whether Calhoun’s sprint out the gate or Felton’s marathon-like pace will produce results on the court, off the court, the feud that should be clamored for has not really materialized.

And at this point, the prospects remain dim that it ever will.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via CSUVikings.com

Will Lacrosse Pass Basketball as Cleveland State’s Premier Sport? Maybe.

Perhaps John Parry was right after all.

The now-retired athletic director at Cleveland State had, for years, indicated a desire to bring his most-cherished sport, lacrosse, to campus. And he made that dream a reality in 2015, when he announced that CSU would start up a men’s team.

Of course, that announcement will be mostly remembered for Parry’s faux pas in attempting to defund the wrestling program, which, thanks to an outpouring of community support, didn’t happen.

While the two-year ramp-up to the launch of the men’s lacrosse program was going on, men’s basketball was heading in a far different direction. Head coach Gary Waters watched as his team, which had won 20 games in the 2014-15 season, slowly disintegrate.

Many have pointed to the departure of Waters’ key stars, Trey Lewis and Anton Grady, who became graduate transfers and left for the brighter lights and bigger crowds of more prominent programs. But the graduate transfers were only part of the slow decline.

Waters also found himself losing other key players, including Kaza Keane and Andre Yates. And his recruiting classes, from 2014 on, couldn’t pick up the slack as well as some of Waters’ previous classes had. As a result, the Vikings lost more than 20 games two years in a row, and whatever fan enthusiasm and media attention was left was stamped out.

Lacrosse, on the other hand, went into full guerilla marketing mode both prior to the start of the season and throughout the year. While Parry was certainly a visible figure, the heavy lifting was done by Dylan Sheridan. The first-year head coach leveraged his network (both social media and otherwise) to get the word out about his new squad.

And while the men’s basketball team continued to sputter during the 2016-17 campaign, the lacrosse squad, which was filled almost entirely with freshmen, seemed to grow stronger.

Of course, the lacrosse team didn’t have much of a choice, given that Sheridan loaded the schedule with some of the toughest competition in the country, including Duke, Denver (Sheridan’s former school) and Ohio State, the national runner-up.

Even the off-seasons for both teams seemed to split off. Waters opted for retirement and his replacement, former Western Kentucky and Georgia coach Dennis Felton, hit the recruiting trail. Sheridan spent his early off-season barnstorming, even making an appearance on the NCAA lacrosse tournament’s broadcast.

Going into next season, it appears that on the surface, lacrosse is much better positioned for a leap in the ranks, given its core of underclassmen with a year under their belt. Basketball, in spite of having six seniors on the team, look more and more like a program that is back in rebuilding mode, thanks to transfer of its top scorer, Rob Edwards, along with a half-dozen other players.

With its considerably lower overhead and a big head-start in bridging the enthusiasm gap, it’s a safe bet that Sheridan and his squad will continue to build program momentum and take advantage of the niche men’s lacrosse has in the national collegiate landscape. And local media has even started to take notice, as evidenced by the team’s appearance on WJW’s morning show in the spring.

As Sheridan continues his sales pitch, Felton, on the other hand, already has an uphill climb. Basketball’s fan base has dwindled to practically nothing, thanks to consecutive losing seasons and the draw of the Cavaliers. Exacerbating this is CSU’s long-standing problem of trying to appeal to target audiences (students, in particular) that clearly don’t seem interested.

Strange as it sounds, the dynamics between the two teams seems to favor the upstart efforts of lacrosse. And as a result, Sheridan and his crew could very well surpass Felton and his squad as the most prominent Cleveland State sport.

That may not have been Parry’s intention when he drew up the plans to bring lacrosse to CSU, but it may very well end up that way.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via CSUVikings.com

The Disgruntled Cleveland State Fan’s Guide to Finding a New Team to Root For

When you take over a program that already had trouble with transfers, not to mention a serious problem with visibility, perhaps it’s not the best plan to, I don’t know, disappear off the planet?

But that appears to be what new Cleveland State basketball coach Dennis Felton has done, though to be fair, it’s not like he exactly had a choice. Without a coaching staff officially in place, Felton has had to scramble around the country trying to secure recruits for the spring signing period.

Of course, Felton may already have former Northern Illinois assistant Lou Dawkins hired. But it’s really hard to know if that’s official, given that the only indication the hire has happened is from a few tweets, most notably from Garfield Heights High School coach Sonny Johnson.

It may not be fair to Felton, but back-to-back 20-loss seasons, a non-existent fan base and a media landscape with the attention span of a newt should have sparked some sense of urgency. The wait-and-see approach was probably not going to be the best plan.

Instead, Cleveland State decided to do what it does every single off-season, as if somebody didn’t get the memo that Gary Waters retired.

So, in effect, the institution that incentivized the heck out of Felton with six figures worth of bonuses if he performs well saddled him with the same game plan that really didn’t excite anybody inside or outside campus. This basically guarantees that nobody will care what happens to the Vikings this season, unless Felton somehow goes rogue and starts promoting out of the circle of apathy he currently finds himself in.

And with Rob Edwards officially deciding to transfer to Arizona State, the glimmer of a true star has faded away, leaving Felton with a gaggle of role players (save for Kash Thomas and, potentially, Shawn Christian), as well as unknown spring signees.

With yet another year’s worth of unknowns concerning the basketball program and a university that has proven itself completely incapable of drawing and sustaining the attention of anybody to its crown jewel, fans may very well be at their wit’s end with Cleveland State.

And that might mean finding another college hoops team to root for, if you’ve gotten to that breaking point. So, as always, I’m here to help. Here are some potential new schools.

Ohio State

I start with the obvious one, mostly because if you’re a Cleveland State student, you’re already paying way more attention to OSU than the school you actually attend. As far as basketball is concerned, though, this may be a trap. The Buckeyes have been pretty mediocre the last few seasons, to the extent that there’s a legitimate debate as to how much longer Thad Matta will remain as coach. That said, you probably own all kinds of Ohio State gear, so you do you.

Youngstown State

Don’t look now, but Youngstown State has decided it cares about men’s basketball. That much was clear when the Penguins tapped Fairmont State’s Jerrod Calhoun as its new head coach. Calhoun, of course, was widely thought to be a favorite for the CSU gig. But since that didn’t happen, Calhoun is making it his mission to convince Northeast Ohio prep stars to forgo downtown Cleveland and make the trek to the Mahoning Valley. And let’s not forget YSU still has All-Horizon League star Cameron Morse, who scores in bunches.

Kent State

Last year was supposed to be a down year for Kent State, and the Golden Flashes still won 20 games and made it to the NCAA Tournament. Coach Rob Senderoff will be looking to expound on his success from this past season. And even better news, if you’re an active reader of Cleveland.com, Kent State will actually get coverage! The only down side is that the MAC Center is kind of a hike and parking is a nightmare.

Akron

Like Kent State, Akron benefits from Cleveland.com caring about what the Zips do. And it may be quite a bit, seeing as how longtime head coach Keith Dambrot has left for Duquesne. Replacing him was another name that was tossed about during the Cleveland State coaching search, John Groce. It’s probably going to be a rebuilding year for Akron, but at least it will get people’s attention.

John Carroll

If you’ve had it with Division I basketball, you might as well take a look at one of the most successful Division III schools in the area, John Carroll University. Ask Kentucky’s John Calipari about the Blue Streaks, whose player rotation he emulated a few years back. And while legendary head coach Mike Moran has retired, he is being replaced by assistant coach Pete Moran. As a former player (not to mention Mike’s son), the younger Moran will carry his father’s work forward into the future.

If putting together a list of teams to follow instead of Cleveland State is harsh, particularly to those who continue to preach patience, this is where we’re at. It’s almost as if athletics has decided it’s not worth the work to actively seek out new fans, even though the additional revenue would make it look like the program isn’t cool with sponging off of students.

And you’re not off the hook, either, students. In fact, with every passing year, you look more like suckers. Why? Because you spend more money per year on average on something you don’t care about (athletics) than something you go out of your way to complain about everyday (parking)!

The off-season doesn’t mean CSU get to take April through October off promoting men’s basketball, but from an outsider’s point of view, that’s exactly what it looks like.

Listen to the angry fans, for once. And maybe you can start to right the ship.

Email bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via Cleveland State University

Rob Edwards Should Stay at Cleveland State

Typically when a player requests a release from his scholarship to seek out possible transfer opportunities, it’s usually the last a school will ever see of him. Cleveland State has lived through this all too many times, not just with recent graduate transfers, but with others who felt the grass was greener on the other side.

In fact, transfers are, for the most part, a way of life in college basketball these days. But if you believe the narrative, this phenomena has affected the Vikings far more than other mid-major programs.

So, you can understand the apprehension associated with the recent announcement that Rob Edwards asked to be released from his scholarship at CSU. The second-team All-Horizon League guard and Cleveland State’s leading scorer is looking for the right fit. And with the recent hire of Dennis Felton as head coach, Edwards may be of the opinion that he would be better served playing elsewhere.

And while he hasn’t made his decision final, Viking fans have all but resided themselves to life without Edwards. Naturally, the more pessimistic members of the fanbase don’t like CSU’s prospects next year, even with seven seniors on the roster.

But there is a possibility, albeit remote, that Edwards could see what’s out there and believe that Cleveland State is, in fact, where he should stay. And there are plenty of reasons out that could serve to bolster a compelling argument that would convince Edwards to remain a Viking.

First, and most importantly, is that by rule, transfers must sit out a year before playing a minute with a new team. That could rule out a lateral move to another mid-major. Marcus Keene switching from Youngstown State to Central Michigan might be a case study on mid-major transfers, the Chippewas, in spite of his prolific scoring, still finished in the bottom of the MAC standings. Plus Keene has declared for the NBA Draft.

If the NBA is Edwards’ primary goal, then perhaps this is an option. But team performance is likely to be a consideration, and no matter the level of pro aspirations, it seems highly unlikely that Edwards would opt for a middling program.

Where does Cleveland State stand, then? Well, Felton has made it clear he wants to hit the ground running with his current squad. And Edwards, in all honestly, would be the lynchpin that would finally get the Vikings over the hump.

The backcourt rotation, which was lacking last season and probably contributed to a few of those close losses, would be much more solid. Kash Thomas returns as point guard, finally joined by Gavin Peppers, whose season was wiped out by injury. Add to the mix freshmen sharpshooter Shawn Christian, who should take some pressure off of Bobby Word and Kenny Carpenter, who struggled at time last year.

Having Edwards in the rotation, especially as the team’s returning leading scorer, would catapult Cleveland State back to having one of the best backcourts in the Horizon League. And in a guard-heavy conference, that’s the key difference between the top and the bottom.

Beyond that, Edwards is also probably looking at what help the frontcourt would bring. And this may very well be where Felton’s previous coaching experience comes into play. While retired head coach Gary Waters tended to struggle with developing big men (Aaron Pogue and Anton Grady being the exceptions), Felton has had some success in this department. The best example would be Felton’s center at Western Kentucky, Chris Marcus, who was an honorable mention All-American in 2001 and 2002.

And Felton, who served as the Director of Pro Player Personnel with the San Antonio Spurs, would certainly know what Edwards would need to do in order to make it to the pros.

Ultimately, Edwards will do what he feels is best for his basketball career, and that could very well be at another school. That said, perhaps the above arguments could simply go beyond the “the team would be awful without you” line and, as a result, maybe might make Edwards change his mind.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via CSUVikings.com

Dennis Felton’s at Cleveland State. Now the Real Work Must Begin.

Well, the hire has been made and the introductory press conference is now in the books. Dennis Felton is now the head men’s basketball coach at Cleveland State. Among the guests at his presser were athletic director Mike Thomas, who chose Felton over, among others, Jerrod Calhoun and Jermaine Kimbrough, and the recently-retired Gary Waters, whom Felton considers a mentor.

Felton, to his credit, has the presence of mind to understand what’s at stake in the coming months as it relates to the CSU program. There are already many questions that will need to be answered before the 2017-18 season tips off in November.

At the forefront is the local ties. During his press conference, Felton mentioned the need to focus on local recruiting to strengthen the ties between Cleveland State and the community. The challenge becomes overcoming his own lack of ties to Northeast Ohio.

The question may inevitably answer itself during Felton’s hiring of a new coaching staff. While nobody is sure if either former assistants Larry DeSimpelare or Jermaine Henderson will be retained, there is certainly at least one slot open, as Cornelius Jackson has accepted an offer to join the Marshall staff.

At this point, the hiring of an assistant with local ties is the highest priority, especially considering with the announcement of Calhoun as the new head coach at Youngstown State, Northeast Ohio will be a major target for him and his Penguins staff.

Helping Felton’s cause are as well the recent shows of support from two of the area’s most prominent names in high school hoops: St. Edwards’ Eric Flannery and Garfield Heights’ Sonny Johnson. In the case of Johnson, the endorsement does seem to indicate that one of his players, CSU signee Shawn Christian, will definitely honor his commitment to the Vikings and be a part of the squad next year.

It’s too early to tell, but any help from the high school ranks would go a long way, especially after Babe Kwasniak, the head coach at Villa Angela-St. Joseph, was openly baffled by Cleveland State’s seeming refusal to give further consideration to Calhoun. This is particularly noteworthy, given that recent CSU player Demonte Flannigan was recruited out of VASJ.

Beyond the incoming recruiting, retaining current players will have to be on Felton’s agenda. And, according to a report from the New-Herald’s David Glasier, sophomore star Rob Edwards is at the top of that list.

As it stands, Felton will already be looking to fill at least seven open scholarship slots for 2018. But before that even happens, he now must worry about the prospects of potentially losing his top playmaker to another school. Felton’s ties to the NBA, a clear aspiration for Edwards, may contribute to providing a compelling argument. But it’s not really clear at this point whether it will work.

Other major questions on the current Cleveland State roster remain as well. Who else is thinking of leaving? What becomes of Derek Sloan? Where does redshirt freshman Andy Lucien fit into all of this? While it’s a situation that Felton has faced in his prior head coaching roles at Western Kentucky and Georgia, there can be little hesitation.

The last, and quite possibly biggest, piece of the puzzle is CSU’s overall standing within the Cleveland sports landscape. Even as Felton’s press conference splashed on the headlines, that news had to compete with both Calhoun’s hire at YSU and the recent announcement at Akron’s Keith Dambrot will be taking over at Duquesne.

Again, from Felton’s own experience, the lack of attention isn’t a new situation for him. One story he related during the press conference was the miniscule crowds that showed up to Western Kentucky games during the early years of his tenure. Upon his departure in 2003, the Hilltoppers averaged more than 5,400 people per home game.

It also probably helped that Felton’s WKU teams didn’t lose a single game at home from 2001 to 2003.

While that may be impressive, as Felton is likely aware, Cleveland is not basketball-hungry Kentucky. CSU not only competes for attention with the Cavaliers, it also has to contend with Akron and Kent State, whose own success can snatch away any Viking media attention in a heartbeat.

The next few months will likely give Felton the opportunity to dispel any concerns that fans and the media (myself included on both counts) have about his hiring. Any misstep along the way either by Felton or Cleveland State could prove costly.

Let’s be honest here. Felton was a safe pick. With the expectations that Thomas would make a home-run hire, the selection of Felton can be considered, at best, a ground-rule double. Sure, the batter made it safely on base, but he’s going to need a lot of help to make it home to score.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via CSUVikings.com

Cleveland State Hires Dennis Felton. That’s About It.

For the past three weeks, Cleveland State fans started thinking about potential replacements for head coach Gary Waters. Picks ranged from the coaches with solid track records (Jerrod Calhoun) to former locals wanting to come home (Jermaine Kimbrough) to flat-out head-scratchers (Chris Jent).

So, with all of those people to look at, and with the need for athletic director Mike Thomas to hit this hire out of the park, you’d think we’d be looking at a pretty decent future.

And instead, Cleveland State hired Dennis Felton.

Felton’s biggest claims to fame are his early 2000s run as the head coach of Western Kentucky and his miserable run at Georgia, save for the surprise SEC Tournament win in 2008. Prior to getting the call with the Vikings, he was an assistant coach with Tulsa.

The resume may have been a key selling point, but honestly, given the desperation to garner attention to the basketball program, this absolutely smacks of CSU completely phoning it in.

In terms of wins and losses, sure, Felton does possess a track record of success at the mid-major level with the Hilltoppers. But, as any Viking fan left will tell you, winning isn’t enough to get eyeballs on your product. Waters found that out the hard way.

And then there’s the fact that Felton has zero ties to Northeast Ohio. None of his previous coaching positions put him even close. So, now he’s going to have to contend with a steep learning curve that, quite bluntly, should never have to be.

So, forget all of those faint wishes that local superstars languishing at high-major programs will find their way home. I didn’t see it in in the last two years of the Waters era, and I sure don’t now.

I can’t even imagine what is going through the heads of the current players, either. If you look at a side-by-side comparison, Felton seems like, in all respects, a slightly younger, less expensive version of Waters.

The bottom line is even though that the Felton hire may be thought of as, in the eyes of the administration at CSU, a solid hire, to the fans, it’s a flat-out dud. And sure, the company line will be to fans to take a “wait and see” approach when it comes to the new coach.

Wait and see isn’t what Cleveland State needs. The fan base was already scurrying away to find better things to amuse themselves. Waiting around two to three years to see if everything pans out with Felton isn’t in the cards, especially not for the fans who stuck around to see if the institution would make the right move. This is a particular insult to them.

Good luck convincing them to come back, because they’re leaving out the door, cursing you with every step.

At some point, somebody at CSU will have to explain to all of us how it was absolutely incapable of reading the room on this one. The voices on this search were pretty loud and clear that the Vikings needed somebody who would make an immediate splash, and the powers that be went with an old standby instead.

The message is obvious here: Cleveland State’s priority is to its academics, not in generating any interest in its crown-jewel sports program, and that’s fine. But it’s really an insult to the fans who wanted to be at least a little inspired by the prospects of the basketball team. Now, it just looks like they’ll be waiting around and hoping the Vikings get lucky.

I can hear it already. “But Bob, you have to give it a chance.” How about no?

At this point, CSU might as well just move the team back to Woodling Gym, downgrade to the Summit League and call it a day. Because if getting people interested in basketball isn’t a priority, then stop wasting money.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via Cleveland State University

Jerrod Calhoun Boosts Resume for Cleveland State Coaching Job, One Win at a Time

When Cleveland State head coach Gary Waters announced that he was retiring, Fairmont State coach Jerrod Calhoun’s name was bounced around as an early name to watch for the role. That argument was bolstered by the News-Herald’s David Glasier, who was emphatic in his support for the Villa Angela-St. Joseph grad and former Viking player.

Even without Glasier’s ringing endorsement, Calhoun’s resume, particularly in the last five seasons leading the Falcons, would leave very little doubt that he’d be a top candidate for the CSU job.

And it would make sense. If anybody needs a case study in making the transition from Division II (where Fairmont State resides) to Division I, look no further than one of the Horizon League’s own. Linc Darner, who now coaches at Green Bay, came to the Phoenix after winning a Division II title with Florida Southern. And in his first season, Darner led Green Bay to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 20 years.

Like Darner in 2015, Calhoun has his Falcons squad very well-positioned for a Division II crown of their own. Since arriving in Fairmont after being on Bob Huggins’ staff at West Virginia, it’s clear to see that the previous four seasons have led to this latest tourney run.

For recruiting, Calhoun has maintained his ties to Northeast Ohio, the best example of which is senior Thomas Wimbush. The 6-7 forward, originally from Lorain, is among the teams’ leaders in both scoring and rebounding, trailing only fellow senior, first-team All-American and Delaware, Ohio native Matt Bingaya.

It also helps that the Falcons travel to Northeast Ohio at least once a year to play conference foes Notre Dame College.

And Calhoun hasn’t shied away from reclamation projects, either. When Nick Harney found himself kicked off the Akron basketball team, it was Calhoun and FSU that provided him with a second chance. Harney made it count, leading the team in scoring and being named to the Mountain East Conference’s first team for 2014-15.

Cleveland State fans can use the Falcons’ first round game in the NCAA Tournament against Bowie State as a good reference to the kind of play Calhoun promotes. One facet, the consistent pressure defense, should look familiar to the Viking faithful. But the big key that Calhoun brings is a much better flow on offense, which is something CSU has struggled with the past two seasons.

Fairmont State has so far been successful in its overall game plan, to the point where it has made its way for the Elite Eight, Division II’s annual basketball championship get-together, at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In fact, the Falcons are the overall top seed in the final eight, and face off against Rollins, a team in the midst of an 11-game winning streak.

Regardless of the outcome, Calhoun should certainly garner interest from Cleveland State, if athletic director Mike Thomas hasn’t picked up the phone and called him already. Time may be of the essence, though, as rumors are swirling around that Youngstown State may also be a serious suitor for Calhoun’s services as well.

So, you know that private jet that CSU president Ronald Berkman uses to travel, which ruffled some feathers a couple of years back? Now would probably be a good time for Thomas to ask Berkman to borrow it to fly up to Sioux Falls.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via FightingFalcons.com

Chris Jent Is Not the Answer for Cleveland State

Normally when a high-major assistant coach expresses interest in a mid-major head coaching job, the reaction is understandably mixed.

But when it comes to Ohio State assistant Chris Jent looking into the Cleveland State job, the whole situation is just plain head-scratching.

Sure, Jent is considered a legend in the annals of Buckeye basketball, having played in Columbus during the salad days of the Randy Ayers era. And of course, that means those within the Cleveland sports media who have long championed Ohio State over any other Division I school in the area were absolutely ecstatic about the news.

Moreover, Jent will be long remembered for his place on the Cleveland Cavaliers coaching staff from 2006 to 2011. And yes, that means he coached LeBron James, so that’s a rather noteworthy item.

However, when you look over Jent’s resume, it doesn’t exactly scream out as a top candidate for the Cleveland State job. It reads more like somebody who would bolt college for another shot at the NBA the first chance he got.

While it’s true that Jent came back to the Buckeyes after a year as the head coach of the Phoenix Suns’ D-League affiliate, the Bakersfield Jam. But Jent’s first full season as an Ohio State assistant didn’t go terribly well. In fact, those who follow Buckeye basketball with any regularity are opening wondering why head coach Thad Matta is even getting another year.

Now, while I understand the buck stops with the head coach and blame shouldn’t be placed on Jent’s shoulders, the idea that he’d want to leave after a single season with Ohio State (and a bad one at that) should make anybody wonder if he wouldn’t do the same thing to CSU.

Two other major factors in play for any candidate for Cleveland State are ties to Northeast Ohio, the likely reason why former CSU assistant Jermaine Kimbrough is in the mix, and previous head coaching experience, a key trait of Fairmont State’s Jerrod Calhoun and Stony Brook assistant and former Kent State head coach Geno Ford.

Jent has the year of head coaching with the Bakersfield Jam under his belt, plus an interim stint with the Orlando Magic. However, college and the NBA, even the D-League, are different animals entirely. And with only three years as a college assistant spread out over a decade and a half doesn’t exude confidence that the local recruiting connections will be there for him.

And Cleveland State hasn’t had the best of luck with Big Ten assistants. Mike Boyd and, more recently, Mike Garland come to mind. Boyd started out well but ultimately fizzled out and Garland never got started in his four years at the helm of the Vikings. Again, it may not be fair to lump Jent in with previous Big Ten assistants-turned-CSU coaches, but he will suffer by comparison.

The most concerned question out of all of this, though, is what direction Jent would go as Cleveland State’s coach. Garland, in his tenure, attempted to turn CSU into Michigan State-South, and it ended terribly. Would Jent’s goal be to create a northern version of Ohio State?

Given how the Buckeyes have struggled the past couple of seasons, that may not be the best move. More importantly, for a school like CSU that already struggles to get out of the shadows of Ohio State already, the perception that Cleveland State is nothing more than OSU red-headed stepsister would only be magnified.

So, as much as Buckeye Nation would revel in one of their own making the jump to head coach, the criteria for Jent to succeed at CSU just doesn’t seem to be there. With that, it’s probably in Cleveland State’s best interest to shift its focus to somebody else.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via Wikipedia