Coles retires after Miami's worst season

March 6, 2012

There were plenty of reasons to be optimistic when the RedHawks opened practice in October.

Star forward Julian Mavunga was returning for the final season of his outstanding career. A strong supporting cast was in place to provide extra scoring punch and depth. Veteran coach Charlie Coles would surely get the most out his team, and the RedHawks were expected to contend in the rugged East Division of the Mid-American Conference.

Six months later, the long and disappointing season ended following Monday night's 60-53 loss to Toledo in the opening round of the conference tournament. The RedHawks finished 9-21 to become the only team in school history to lose 20 games on the court. Miami was officially 5-23 in 1988-89, but eight of those losses were NCAA-mandated forfeits.

Coles, who turned 70 last month, announced his retirement following the game after coaching at Miami for 16 seasons, going 263-224. Counting his six seasons at Central Michigan, he finishes with a career record of 355-308. Coles retires with more MAC wins than any other coach in conference history (218) and is tied for second on the MAC's career wins list. He also played basketball at Miami from 1963-65.

It's unfortunate Coles wasn't able to retire after a successful season. The RedHawks were never able to field their full team. Guard Allen Roberts missed the entire season because of a knee injury. Forward Bill Edwards, a Penn State transfer, was expected to add scoring punch to go along with Mavunga, but he played in only seven games before suffering a season-ending wrist injury. Guard Orlando Williams, who started every game last season, was dismissed from school before the season after being arrested on suspicion of burglary.

Coles got his team to play hard, but Miami didn't have the talent to pull off many wins. Ten of the MAC losses, including Monday's defeat, were by a total of 56 points, and only two were by double figures. Monday's loss typified the season in many ways.

Miami trailed 49-33 with just over 11 minutes left, but it shocked Toledo with a 20-3 run to take a 53-52 lead with 5:35 remaining. As has been the case many times this season, the RedHawks couldn't sustain their run and were held scoreless the last five minutes.


Turnovers were a perpetual problem

--Miami's inability to take care of the basketball has been a problem all season, and it continued March 3. The RedHawks committed 17 turnovers and had only 11 assists. Miami had 394 turnovers and 336 assists in 29 regular-season games. Point guard Quinten Rollins (91 assists to 68 turnovers) and forward Jon Harris (47 assists to 35 turnovers) were the only players with significant playing time who had more assists than turnovers. Incredibly, the team numbers were better than last season, when the RedHawks had 456 turnovers and 364 assists.

--Miami was dominated on the boards against Ohio. The RedHawks were outrebounded 34-26, but that tells only part of the story. Miami allowed 15 offensive rebounds, which led to 14 second-chance points. Julian Mavunga leads the team with an average of 9.1 rebounds, but no other player was averaging more than 5.6 rebounds.

--Senior forward Julian Mavunga, playing his final regular-season game, scored eight points and had nine rebounds against Ohio. He was 3-for-13 from the field, committed seven turnovers and had eight assists. Mavunga was removed from the game with 23 seconds remaining by coach Charlie Coles so he could get one final ovation from the home fans.

Mavunga also played in his 123rd career game, setting a new Miami record. He led the Mid-American Conference with averages of 16.6 points and 9.1 rebounds in the regular season. A legitimate case can be made for Mavunga to be the conference's Player of the Year, but Miami's 9-20 record and last-place finish in the East Division certainly won't help his chances.

BY THE NUMBERS: 20 -- The RedHawks (9-20 through March 4) set a program record for losses in a season and finished last in the Mid-American Conference East Division. That doesn't include a 5-23 record in the 1988-89 season when Miami had to forfeit eight wins.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've never had a team this bad that's played this good. We've just been hitting places where it was going to be hard to go, but my kids keep fighting." -- Miami coach Charlie Coles, after the March 3 loss to Ohio dropped his team to 9-20.



--Season over.

LOOKING AHEAD: Miami's program will have a new look next season. Julian Mavunga will be gone after four outstanding seasons in which he set a school record for most games played in a career (124). That won't be the only change. For the first time in 16 years, someone other than Charlie Coles will be running the team in 2012-13. Coles has the justified reputation of someone who "coaches up" his players, as he takes less-talented teams and wins games few expect him to win. He's also known for his sense of humor and his frank assessment of both himself and his team. Coles is an icon in the Mid-American Conference, having coached in the league for 22 years. He has the respect of opposing coaches, players and fans, which is rare in this day and age. Coles' retirement is a loss for both the program and the conference.


--Senior F Julian Mavunga scored 12 points and had six rebounds in the final game of his career. He led the league in scoring (16.4), rebounding (9.0) and minutes played (36.9) this season.

--Freshman G Brian Sullivan got more playing time than expected thanks to Allen Roberts' injury and Orlando Williams' dismissal from school, but he responded with a solid season. He averaged 10.3 points and shot 44.9 percent from the field.

--Sophomore PG Quinten Rollins made progress in running Miami's offense. He averaged 7.7 points and shot 46.4 percent from the field. Rollins played all 40 minutes in the finale against Toledo, scoring six points and handing out five assists.

--Sophomore C Drew McGhee scored a team-high 16 points and had eight rebounds Monday against Toledo. He averaged 14.5 points in his last two games of the season.