Huskie fans can finally dream again. How is this for a future headline? Mark Montgomery cuts down the nets at the Final Four as NIU edges Duke for a spot at the 2014 championship game against Butler.
Meet Mark Montgomery, Northern Illinois new men's basketball coach. The former Michigan State Spartan point guard and assistant coach will try to clean up the mess left by Hurricane Patton over the last 4 years.
Montgomery has the daunting task of resuscitating a program that has been deteriorating over the last decade and half. During that time, NIU has lacked in almost everything there is to lack: wins, talent, fans, pride, basketball fundamentals, excitement, defense and consistency. Although, we did lead the conference in excuses and players getting kicked out of the program.
So is Montgomery the right man to clean up this holy mess?
On paper, he seems the right man for the job. He has everything NIU needs.
Experience recruiting/coaching at a Power Conference school? Check. Experience recruiting/coaching in the MAC? Check. Well regarded amongst AAU/HS Chicago-land basketball community? Check. Experience recruiting Chicago-land? Check.
The icing on the delicious cake that is Montgomery's resume is the fact that he has learned under future hall-of-fame coach Tom Izzo. Izzo promoted him to Associate Head Coach before the 2007 season. Former Izzo top assistants include: Tom Crean (Marquette, Indiana), Doug Wojcik (Tulsa), Brian Gregory (Dayton, Georgia Tech) and Stan Heath (Kent State, Arkansas, USF). Lots of 20-win seasons and post-season appearances amongst those guys.
The only flaw in Montgomery's resume is the fact that he has not had Head Coaching experience. Any real concerns about that could be alleviated by listening to Izzo, who called Montgomery one of the best X's and O's assistant coaches he has ever had around him. That is some high praise.
Even if Montgomery's struggles with his in-game coaching to start off, he should be fine as long as he takes time to practice the basic fundamentals of basketball every day. The Huskies have been abysmal in all aspects of the game, offensively and defensively.
There are a lot of things that need to happen for his program to become relevant in college basketball. The first two things have already happened. Getting rid of a dead-beat coach was the first and hiring a qualified up-and-comer to replace him was the second.
Now it's up to Montgomery to figure out what the next steps are. For right now, Huskie nation is just happy that they can dream of basketball relevancy once again.