Tag Archives: Jerrod Calhoun

Felton’s Debut Season at Cleveland State Will Be Grueling

For as many basketball pundits who have already predicted that Cleveland State, under Dennis Felton, will finish at the bottom of the Horizon League rankings, the Vikings’ new head coach didn’t seem deterred by loading up the non-conference schedule with some tough contests.

Cleveland State will, for its opening months, be facing the likes of Rutgers, Michigan State and Cincinnati. As expected, The Spartans and the Bearcat will provide the Vikings with, quite bluntly, nearly impossible odds of winning, especially given the recent changes in the Cleveland State roster and coaching staff.

Ironically, though, the CSU-Cincinnati game on December 21st will be played at the home of one of Cleveland State’s conference foes, Northern Kentucky. The Bearcats, while their permanent home is being renovated, will take up temporary residence at BB&T Arena, which the Vikings will see one more time later in the season when they face the Norse in Horizon League play.

As for the Scarlet Knights, second-year head coach Steve Pikiell may find some challenges in Cleveland State, which travels to New Jersey as part of the Phil Sellers Showcase, though Rutgers has made some significant improvements to its roster since last year. This showcase will also find the Vikings hosting Coppin State on November 17th, which will be Felton’s home debut, and Central Connecticut State, with a road trip to East Carolina in between.

For the third year, Cleveland State, along with Akron, Kent State and conference foe Youngstown State, will gather for the annual Northeast Ohio Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. This season, the classic will be held in Akron, with the host Zips facing off against the Vikings on November 14th.

Akron will be one of four MAC teams that Cleveland State will face. Toledo will come to the Wolstein Center for CSU’s annual pre-Christmas match on December 23rd, while the Vikings will make the road trip to Kent State (12/2) and Western Michigan (12/6).

In what seems to be a given with Cleveland State and every other mid-major, there will be a non-Division I team on the home slate. This year, it will be Notre Dame College on December 10th. The Vikings will play a second non-D1 team, Cedarville, but this will be a November 2nd exhibition game.

Cleveland State will, in addition to its conference slate, play 14 games in the confines of the Wolstein Center. The Vikings will play host to Arkansas State on November 29th, a return matchup from the trip CSU took to Jonesboro last season.

Of course, the most anticipated game on the schedule may very well be on New Year’s Day, when the Vikings open the year, and the Horizon League, with a home contest against Youngstown State. The duel between new coaches Felton and YSU’s Jerrod Calhoun is probably marked on a few people’s calendars, though it’s a safe bet many of those folks are wearing red and white.

The competition that Cleveland State will face in 2017-18 is some of the stiffest that the Vikings have seen in some time, and you’d be forgiven if you’re not sure what to make of it. With three high-major road trips and an ever-improving Horizon League (IUIPUI notwithstanding), it seems as if CSU will not spend Felton’s opening year trying to ring up wins against low-majors to inflate its record.

At the same time, a slow burn may hinder Felton’s effort to rebuild the fan base. Whether the scheduling will serve as a benefit or deterrent to the Vikings when January 1st rolls around remains to be seen.

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

Image via CSUVikings.com

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

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

Gary Waters is Gone. Who Will Coach Cleveland State?

The Gary Waters Era at Cleveland State has ended not with a bang, but with a whimper.

An early-round exit in the Horizon League Tournament at the hands of Youngstown State sounds like a pretty anticlimactic ending for the all-time wins leader in school history. But that’s exactly how it came down, and on the heels of a second straight 20-loss season.

Waters virtually pulled the Vikings out of the hoops scrap heap in 2006, taking a team loaded with talent to the 2009 NCAA Tournament, a run that was capped by a first-round upset of Wake Forest.

But what goes up, apparently, must come down. In spite of multiple 20-win seasons, a spate of post-season appearances and a first-round NBA draft pick in Norris Cole, Waters was never able to repeat the success of that tourney year.

In the end, the near-misses, transfers and possibly the slide back into obscurity took its toll on Waters. And even though he has a ton of upperclassmen returning, which includes second team All-Horizon League selection Rob Edwards, Waters, who has two years left on his contract, will be parting ways with CSU.

Despite the latter-year shortcomings, history will be quite kind to Waters. The good he brought to the program, which includes all of his players graduating and one of the highest APRs in the NCAA, outweigh the bad.

But as the old saying goes, the show must go on.

It’s the future that is on the mind of athletic director Mike Thomas. He’ll be looking at a coach who will not only continue the work off the court players have done, but he will undoubtedly be seeking a vast improvement of the on-the-court product, both in the standings and in the stands.

With attendance at the Wolstein Center shrinking to virtually nothing and the partnership with Quicken Loans Arena netting very little value, Thomas’ pick for the next head coach will have his work cut out for him.

So, who will emerge as Cleveland State’s next head coach? Here are some possibilities:

Jerrod Calhoun, head coach, Fairmont State

Look up either “Rollie Massimino coaching tree” or “Bob Huggins coaching tree.” Realistically, either statement would be accurate for Calhoun. The 34-year old head coach at Division II Fairmont State has two advantages: Cleveland State roots and a reputation for building a winning program.

The Viking roots come from his start as a manager and ascending to the roster, even starting for Cleveland State during Massimino’s final season in 2002-03. Calhoun would eventually head to Cincinnati to join Huggins as a student assistant and to complete his Bachelor’s degree. The two would meet up again when Huggins took the West Virginia job and Calhoun joined the staff prior to heading down I-79 to coach FSU.

As for his coaching skills, the Falcons have won 20 games in every season of his tenure and includes this season’s tear, in which Fairmont State easily took the Mountain East Conference regular season crown and earned the Falcons a No. 1 ranking in Division II.

John Groce, head coach, Illinois

Groce has big advantages and disadvantages in the coaching race. The biggest advantage? He’s the coach Thomas hired at Illinois after a wildly successful stint at Ohio. With the Bobcats, Groce notched a Sweet Sixteen appearance that including beating Michigan, which probably made then-football coach Brady Hoke a bit uncomfortable.

The disadvantages? Well, first is that he’s not exactly available at the moment. The Illini still have Groce under contract as of now, so he still has a job to do. Also, even if he gets bought out by Illinois, he may be a bit rich for CSU’s blood. If either scenario is a deterrent, consider one of his assistants, Dustin Ford, as a viable alternative.

Billy Donlon, assistant coach, Michigan

When last we saw Donlon, he was giving Green Bay a run for its money in finals of the 2016 edition of Motor City Madness while head coach at Wright State. Most fans around the Horizon League fully expected the Raiders to accept a bid to the CIT or CBI afterwards, but when it didn’t happen, something was up.

And that something turned out to be athletic director Bob Grant showing Donlon the door, replacing him with South Dakota State’s Scott Nagy for a rather sizable sum of money.

Donlon, however, landed on his feet, and joined John Beilein on the Michigan coaching staff, joining fellow ex-Horizon League assistants Saddi Washington (Oakland) and Jeff Meyer (Butler). Look for Donlon to express an interest in the Cleveland State gig if, for no other reason, the need to exact some revenge.

Patrick Tatham, assistant coach, Maine Red Claws

The inclusion of former Cleveland State player Tatham to this list may be a bit out of left field, but it would come as a surprise to many fans that the Brampton, Ontario native has quite a bit of coaching experience under his belt, including his current stint with the Red Claws in the NBA D-League.

In fact, Tatham is still part of the coaching staff at Ryerson University in Toronto (he’s completing a season in the D-League while taking a leave of absence). The Maine coaching offer came on the heels of Tatham serving as the Rams interim head coach while head coach Rob Rana led Canada’s under-18 international squad.

The interim season proved to be a great one, with Ryerson finishing 17-2 and topping the Ontario University Athletics conference. A third-place finish in the U Sports (then called the CIS) tournament also netted Tatham national coach of the year honors.

Undoubtedly, there will be additional names that pop up during the search process, but one thing is likely clear to Thomas and Cleveland State: The program needs a boost, and the next head coach must bring it in a big way.

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

Image via CSUVikings.com