Imagine you got a job. Good for you! You wouldn't go so far as to say it's your dream job, but it's your first full-time managerial position in a tough economy, and you're a pretty young guy, so, you know, pat yourself on the back. Your Mom sends you a greeting card with a cartoon rocket ship and a little text bubble that says "Up, up and away!" (Millennial mothers would totally do this.) You've got to admit -- you're pretty stoked.
Now imagine the company that just hired you told you it was downsizing the company drastically. And that you were going to have to re-hire a huge chunk of your team. And -- oh yeah -- your downtown SoHo New York office was no longer financially viable, so the company was moving most of its workforce to a corporate office park in Paterson, N.J. Would you still take the job?
That's pretty much what happened to Centenary coach Adam Walsh, a 31-year-old who took his first head coaching gig at the school three months ago and who is dealing with the athletic program's transition from Division I to Division III. Many of the coaches and assistants in other Centenary programs are running from the school as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, Walsh has lost five players this offseason, three of which decided to play at Division I programs and were able to transfer without restriction thanks to the school's D-III move.
“Some people are OK with it, completely excited about it, and we’ve also had some staff who wanted to leave because they want to stay in Division I as long as they can as coaches,” Walsh said. “I completely understand it. There are so many opinions on both sides of this, and I understand what everyone’s going through.“
“I’m looking at this season as an opportunity for our guys to improve themselves,” Walsh said. “We’re approaching this head-on; I don’t want our guys to feel left out. We’re doing the Division III switch and there’s a lot of different feelings about it. There’s a lot of negative feelings about the switch, and so, as a program we’re really hoping, through a lot of our guys, to make this a positive situation.”
Centenary's season should be just as interesting as its offseason. Walsh's team will still be competing as a Division I squad in 2010-11. It'll still be playing in the Summit League, and it'll still have a chance to make it to the NCAA tournament. As Norlander writes, though, since the Gents are in the first year of the Division III transition, they'll follow Division III rules off the court even as they take on big boys like Memphis, Marquette, LSU and Tulane.
Chances are it's going to be an ugly year for Centenary, with high turnover and staff defections, but if Walsh's team can somehow, just maybe, pull off a few upsets and make a go at the NCAA tournament -- well, a first-year coach and his ragtag bunch playing for their school's last best chance at the NCAA tournament? That's the stuff cheesy sports movies are made of.
You know what? I think I just became a Centenary fan.