I heard last week that the job was already taken, but strangely no announcement so far, so maybe the job is still open. Anyway, I would give a very strong endorsement of Jermaine. Other than hiring some Hall of Fame coach like Rick Pitino when Iona hired him, I fully believe that Jermaine would be the best choice. Here is why I think that.
One thing wrong about our two previous coaches is that they came in without any knowledge or experience with the MAC. When you look at the top teams in the MAC, most of those coaches were very knowledgeable about the MAC. Ohio’s coach played in the MAC. Akron’s coach was a former very successful head coach at Ohio. Kent’s coach had previously been an assistant in the MAC. UB’s last two coaches were promoted from the top assistant position. Only Toledo has a coach with no MAC experience, they got TK from Wisconsin-Green Bay, where he was already a successful mid major coach.
Jermaine Henderson played on two NCAA tournament teams at Miami, then coached many years at Miami with a couple of NCAA tournament teams, including the Sweet 16 team. He also took over as interim head coach at Miami when Charlie was hospitalized and the team played their best basketball of the season under him. I think we lost a close game in the MAC semifinals that season. Also, the players very badly wanted him to replace Charlie when Coach Coles resigned. In fact, Brian Sullivan, who was twice a first team A-10 player at Davidson, transferred out after Jermaine did not get the job and made it clear that was the reason he left. We have not had a college player with that level of accomplishment in all the years since.
I used to go to practices quite a bit, and many times I watched Jermaine coaching the half court offensive and defensive practices and as a former coach, I can tell you that he was excellent and the players listened and learned. One time I got to be in the locker room for a pregame scouting report given by Jermaine and it was really well done. I have attended plenty of Coaching clinics in my day and Jermaine is at a high level in his coaching and instruction.
Then there are the personal character things I liked abut Jermaine. He was so loyal to his head coach, and there were many times when he covered for Charlie, never once trying to take credit for himself, always giving it to Charlie. He also loves Miami as much as I do. I know that he was really down when he did not get the job after Charlie retired. Our program has not yet recovered from that mistake.
At that time he lacked experience of working for anyone other than Coach Coles, but since then he has been an assistant at 3 programs under some good coaches, Missouri State under Cuonzo Martin, Cleveland State under Gary Waters, Kansas State under Bruce Weber.
When I ran into him at the MAC tournament, I also noticed what really good physical condition he looked to be in. He has worked at it, and actually looked better than he did a decade ago. He now has a wife and a child on the way. I thought that he was more mature and very much happy and in control of his life. He would be absolutely great for our young men.
Another thing which is a disappointment about our program ( and very different from our football and hockey programs) is that there is almost no relationship between the current program and the players from the past. While both hockey and football regularly have players back and get big donations from former players, that is a rare thing with our basketball program. Jermaine definitely would work hard to fix that, and in fact he mentioned to me when we talked that some former players had been complaining about that lack of contact and lack of the current staffs reaching out to them.
I think a personal strength of Jermaine is his one on one ability to communicate and build a relationship. This would be absolutely great for recruiting. One final thing, back in the late 90’s, when Jermaine was a young coach in maybe his first or second season, Charlie Coles had a heart attack during a really intense MAC tournament game at Western Michigan ( Wally had missed most of the MAC season and Mestas was also out with a season ending injury in December and we had finished 7th, but Wally had just come back with a couple of games to go, we were playing at WM who was the #2 seed). We were down around 10 halfway through the first when Charlie collapsed and his heart stopped beating and he was technically dead for awhile but there were several Dr’s there and they had all kinds of equipment and got his heart resuscitated and saved his life. There was about a 2 hour delay before we played again ( we came back and won and ended up making it to the championship game before losing). Anyway, this is all just setting the stage for this. Before the teams came back out, Jermaine took the mike and made a gripping testimonial to how Coach Coles had changed his life and given him confidence as a player and then opportunity to coach and he had the entire crowd hanging on every word. So he can do a great job as a public speaker and he knows how to speak from his heart when the occasion calls for it.
I really think he has everything he needs to be successful, except he needs David Saylor to give him the opportunity. I think he would be the most motivated person in the world for this particular job.