Changes coming for RedHawks after nightmare season
The worst season in school history will be followed by an offseason of many changes from finding a new head coach to replacing a star player.
The RedHawks finished with a 9-21 record, their worst on-court season ever. Miami was officially 5-23 in 1988-89, but eight of those losses were NCAA-mandated forfeits. No team in program history had ever lost 20 games on the scoreboard until this season's team that was expected to contend for the Mid-American Conference East Division title was rocked by injuries, turmoil and a string of close losses.
And more uncertainty lies ahead. Charlie Coles announced his retirement after coaching at Miami the last 16 seasons. Known for his sense of humor and frank opinions, Coles has been the face of the program and the conference, and has earned respect from every opposing team in the league.
Coles, who won 263 games at Miami, announced he was stepping down after the RedHawks were eliminated by Toledo in the first round of the MAC Tournament. He retires with more MAC wins than any other coach in conference history (218) and is tied for second on the league's career wins list. Coles, who played basketball at Miami from 1963-65, finishes with a career record of 355-308.
Coles, who also coached six seasons at Central Michigan, turned 70 last month. He had a heart attack while coaching a game in the MAC Tournament in 1998 and had bypass surgery in 2008. Coles was hospitalized with a virus and missed a game late this season.
Miami's season was marred by several close losses. A total of 18 losses were by 10 points or less and 10 of the defeats in the league were by a total of 56 points. Only two of the conference losses were by double figures.
"I thought the year was as big a contradiction as any I've ever been associated with," Coles said in the Oxford (Ohio) Press. "I have been in so many exciting games this year. That being said, I've never been in so many exciting games that we lost."
Despite the frustration of losing so many close games, Coles always kept faith in his team.
"Everything panned out except the wins," he said in the Press. "And I can't explain that. I think the basketball gods are going to grab me one of these days, sit me down and tell me what happened."
Miami was expected to battle Akron, Kent State, Ohio and Buffalo for the East title, but circumstances beyond anyone's control ended that chance. Three potential starters -- guards Allen Roberts and Orlando Williams and forward Bill Edwards -- saw little or no playing time. Roberts and Edwards both had season-ending surgery and Williams was dismissed from school after a burglary arrest.
Forward Julian Mavunga carried the RedHawks in the final season of his outstanding career. He was second in the league in scoring (16.4) and led the conference in rebounding (9.0) and minutes played (36.9). Mavunga was second in the voting for the league's Player of the Year award.
Jermaine Henderson, a long-time Miami assistant, is considered a strong candidate to replace Coles. Assistant Todd Lickliter, who has coached at Butler and Iowa, may also get consideration. Athletic director Brad Bates has looked outside the program to hire his last two football coaches and could do the same to fill the job.
Although he won't be on the bench to see it, Coles believes Miami's future is bright.
"I can't say we had a good year, but I can say this: If these kids will take this year and learn its lessons, it'll be the beginning of something successful," he said in the Press.
Mavunga honored by MAC for his strong season
--Senior forward Julian Mavunga was named first team All-Mid-American Conference to close out his outstanding career in a Miami uniform. He finished second behind Buffalo forward Mitchell Watt in the Player of the Year voting. He had 14 double-doubles this season, giving him 28 for his career. Mavunga scored 20 or more points six times this season and 14 times in his career. He averaged 16.4 points, good for second in the league, and a conference-leading 9.0 rebounds. Mavunga also led the MAC in defensive rebounds, averaging 6.8.
Mavunga played in a school-record 124 games in his career and missed only one game in his four seasons. He finished his Miami career ranked third in made free throws (444), third in free-throw attempts (632), sixth in rebounds (799), seventh in minutes played (3,602), ninth in blocked shots (72) and 13th in scoring (1,398).
Mavunga is the 11th player in program history to earn All-MAC honors three times in a career. He was named to the first team as a junior and was named honorable mention as a sophomore.
--One of the top priorities for the new head coach must be to clean up the RedHawks' ball handling skills. Miami was atrocious in the assist-to-turnover category for the second straight season. The RedHawks turned the ball over 406 times and had only 351 assists. Guard Quinten Rollins and forward Jon Harris were the only players who played significant minutes with positive numbers in that department. Miami had 456 turnovers and 364 assists last season.
FINAL RECORD: 9-21, 5-11, sixth place in MAC East Division.
2011-12 SEASON RECAP: The plan to contend in the East Division hit a snag before practice even began in October when guard Orlando Williams, who started every game in 2010-11, was arrested on burglary charges. He was suspended from the team and later dismissed from school. Allen Roberts, who would have started in the backcourt, sustained a knee injury and had surgery, forcing him to miss all of his junior season. Bill Edwards, a Penn State transfer, was touted as a top scorer to go along with Julian Mavunga to give Miami a one-two punch in the frontcourt. However, Edwards quickly saw his playing time decrease and he played in only seven games before wrist surgery ended his season. Mavunga led the team in scoring and rebounding, but he didn't have enough help.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We just couldn't win. That was frustrating. Believe you me, that almost broke me down. But there was a reason why the fans kept coming back this year. Because our kids showed a lot of heart." -- Charlie Coles, who retired as Miami's coach, after the RedHawks' 9-21 season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THE GOOD NEWS: Seven players who saw significant playing time will return. The RedHawks have only two openings for next season. Miami has made an offer to Geovonnie McKnight, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Middletown, Ohio, who is a two-star prospect (Scout.com).
THE BAD NEWS: It won't be easy to replace F Julian Mavunga, the RedHawks' best player the last four seasons. He could score, rebound and rarely left the floor. Then there's the matter of finding a new coach for the first time in 16 seasons to take the place of Charlie Coles. The new coach will take over a program that has had three straight losing seasons
KEY RETURNEES: The RedHawks should be strong in the backcourt with starting G's Quinten Rollins and Brian Sullivan returning. F Jon Harris, who became a reliable outside shooter, also returns. G Allen Roberts, who missed all of the season because of knee surgery, will be back. F Bill Edwards played only seven games before having wrist surgery will also return. C Drew McGhee showed signs of progress in his sophomore season.
--Freshman G Brian Sullivan averaged 10.3 points and hit 42.3 percent of his 3-pointers. It was thought that Sullivan would be brought along slowly, but the lack of depth in the backcourt forced coach Charlie Coles to give him playing time quicker than expected. Sullivan, who appeared in 30 games, became the first Miami player since 2003 to be named to the Mid-American Conference All-Freshman Team.
--Sophomore G Quinten Rollins did a solid job running Miami's offense. He averaged 7.7 points overall and 9.1 in conference play. Rollins led the team with 48 steals and was second in assists with 96. He started 28 of the 30 games in which he appeared.
--Sophomore F Jon Harris averaged 8.5 points and hit 37.4 percent of his 3-point attempts. His conference numbers were better with a 9.3 average and he hit 43.8 percent of his 3-pointers.
--Sophomore C Drew McGhee showed steady improvement. He averaged 5.2 points overall and 5.9 points in conference play. McGhee also shot 59.2 percent from the field. He played in 29 games, making 20 starts, after seeing limited playing time as freshman. McGhee averaged 14.5 points in his last two games of the season.
--Sophomore F Bill Edwards didn't have the expected impact the coaching staff was looking for when he transferred from Penn State. He sustained a wrist injury in December and appeared in only seven games, averaging 6.7 points.