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The Trentonian's Full-Court Press blog is back and improved. We'll keep you updated on everything you need to know about Rider and Princeton hoops as well as the college basketball landscape.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The strange story of Tim Welsh's downfall



In an offseason that has included some of the strangest coaching dismissals on record -- Fred Hill for cussing out the Pitt baseball staff, Bobby Gonzalez after multiple player arrests and outbursts -- this one might be the most astonishing of all.

Less than a month after signing a five-year deal worth $600,000 per year -- and before he held so much as an official practice -- Tim Welsh has been forced out at Hofstra.

Welsh, a former Iona and Providence coach who was somewhat of a rising star in broadcasting during the past two seasons, left ESPN to take over at Hofstra, which lost coach Tom Pecora to Fordham.

The Pride wanted to make a statement to the New York sports community that it remained serious about high-profile athletics after dropping its football program. Hiring Welsh -- and giving him the most lucrative deal they'd ever given a coach -- was a widely praised move.

Then came last Friday, when Welsh was arrested by Levvitown, N.Y. police when they found him asleep at the wheel at a green light. Welsh's blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit -- an offense that, even on its own, may have warranted dismissal.

Welsh, though, did nothing to help his situation. Rather than inform Hofstra officials that he had been arrested and preemptively explain himself, Welsh didn't discuss the situation with his bosses until they had read about it on newspaper websites.

After the school's president and athletic director met with Welsh over the weekend, the school released the following statement Monday:

"Tim Welsh today tendered his resignation as the Hofstra University men's basketball coach. The University accepted the resignation in the best interests of the University and of the men's basketball program."

Under some other circumstances, painting the dismissal as a resignation could have helped Welsh's hopes of getting another job. This time, though that's going to be a lot more difficult than if he had simply failed on the sidelines.

Welsh -- Hill -- is now damaged goods. In a profession with thousands of ambitious coaches and only 345 Division I openings, there's simply no reason for a school to take a risk on someone who would bring such obvious baggage.

As for Hofstra, the school is in the unenviable position of having to launch its second coaching search in less than two months. With a talented roster that includes reigning Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year Charles Jenkins, a program willing to spend money and perhaps the east coast's best mid-major conference, the school should still be able to land a quality replacement.

One option could be former Manhattan, St. John's and New Mexico coach Fran Fraschilla -- if Rutgers chooses Robert Morris' Mike Rice over Fraschilla. But Fraschilla, an ESPN analyst, draws interest from programs virtually every offseason, and it isn't clear if he'd be interested in settling for less than a major-conference job. (For instance, he pulled out of the search at Iona before the school eventually hired Tim Cluess)

One thing, though, is sure: In an offseason like no other in recent memory, there are more storylines yet to unfold.

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