HARRISONBURG — Siena University has a job opening for a basketball coach. Matt Brady, a 1987 SU graduate, just led James Madison to the NCAA Tournament. Logically, then, Brady is a natural candidate to fill the Siena vacancy, right?
Asked about Brady on Thursday, a person in the Siena athletics department said, “You’re barking up the wrong tree” to think that the 47-year-old JMU coach will be a candidate to replace Mitch Buonaguro, who was fired by the Albany, N.Y., school this week after three straight losing seasons.
That source, however, was not the athletic director — and schools often keep their wish lists close to the vest.
Regardless, Brady said Thursday he has not gotten any calls from Siena — he wouldn’t say whether he’d received any inquiries in general — about the job opening, and JMU athletic director Jeff Bourne said he doesn’t “think there’s any interest” from Brady in applying to Siena.
Brady, in fact, said he won’t even entertain job overtures until after the Dukes’ season ends.
“I’m not considering [other jobs],” Brady said. “As much as I tried to not concern myself with the eventual impending decision on my future at JMU, I’m not considering the future still, because we have games to play, and hopefully we have more than one.”
JMU (20-14) will open play in the NCAA Tournament anytime between Tuesday and Friday next week. If Madison is a play-in team, it will play on one of the first two days of the tourney; if it is slotted directly into the Round of 64, it will play later in the week.
So, if a school calls with interest in hiring Brady, would he tell it he wouldn’t consider the job until after the season?
“That is the process that I’m adhering to,” he said.
JMU, meanwhile, is pushing back the target date for re-signing Brady. The university first hoped to complete the process at mid-week, then by the end of the week, but Bourne was away on a family matter for one day and things are being slowed by inauguration activities for new school president Jonathan Alger.
Brady, on the hot seat all season until his Colonial Athletic Association tournament run, is in the last year of a five-year deal that pays a base salary of $290,000.
Why is there apparent mutual disinterest in a possible Siena-Brady marriage? On Brady’s end, he’s said publicly he is interested in staying at Madison. But even if he were interested, Siena may be aiming for a more prominent coach.
The Saints apparently are the chief local sports attraction in New York’s capital city, drawing significantly more fans than Madison in a modern arena whose capacity ranges from 8,000-plus to 15,229, depending on configuration. Even in a down year this season, tiny Siena averaged 6,361 fans compared to JMU’s 3,334 in the aged, 7,156-seat Convocation Center; in 2010, when Siena made the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year while JMU went 13-20, it averaged 7,853 to Madison’s 3,732.
SU also has had more success than JMU (albeit in the slightly weaker Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, which had an eight-year average RPI of 16.3 to the CAA’s 13.9 among the NCAA’s 31 Division I leagues). The Saints secured NCAA Tournament berths three years in a row, from 2008-10, while JMU is making its first appearance since 1994.
So it would appear unlikely that Brady would be atop Siena’s list — which would suit JMU’s now Brady-loving fans just fine.
Jason Adkins, 37, a 1996 JMU graduate who’s been a fan of Madison basketball since growing up in Broadway during the Lefty Driesell years, said that, coming into this season, “in my mind, the jury was out with Coach Brady.” It’s a sentiment that was echoed by many fans, along with the university’s administration, which last spring chose not to extend Brady’s current deal after the Dukes went 12-20 in 2011-12.
“Fans can be somewhat fickle depending on who’s doing what and at what time,” said Steven Brown, 50, a 1984 Madison graduate who now lives in Richmond. “But I’m on the message boards, I read them more than I post, and there was a feeling at least from the general population…the team needed to make a really good run at the CAA tournament [for Brady to get re-signed].”
The Dukes did that, winning their first CAA title in 19 years, automatically qualifying for the school’s fifth-ever Division I NCAA tournament.
Adkins said the CAA title was “way overdue,” and that he was “surprised” it happened this year. Now that it has, he wants more of Brady — although not necessarily a long-term commitment.
“In my mind, a three-year extension is probably fair at this point,” said Adkins.
Why not longer? Because, Adkins and other fans said, the last time the Dukes extended a coach five years was Sherman Dillard in 2000 after the Dukes won 20 games, and Madison went on to have four straight losing seasons before firing Dillard. Fans are wary of repeating that mistake.
“I think we’ve been through that process once with a coach, and it didn’t work out too well,” said 70-year-old Howard Curry, a Harrisonburg resident and JMU fan since the 1970s.
But this season, anyway, has worked out for Brady — and the fifth-year coach is not surprised that it did.
“JMU hired me to do what we basically just did, and I knew that it could be done, and I knew it could be done here, and I knew it could be done under my leadership,” he said. “The fact that there’s been doubters, it really kind of goes with the business.
“…We as a staff never let the contract or our future interfere with our ability to do our job, and for that, I’m really grateful to my staff for staying on point, staying focused. The same things we demand in our players, the staff has done in this office on a daily basis.”