College Basketball Nation: Mark Macon

On its face, there is little mystery to Binghamton's firing of coach Mark Macon, which the school announced Monday afternoon via Twitter. The Bearcats went 2-29 in 2012. When you go 2-29 in a season -- when you flirt with a winless season and you're a charter regular in the Bottom 10 -- it isn't all that difficult to figure out why you might be fired. Your basketball team was bad. The school wants it to be better. End of story.

Still, Macon's situation at Binghamton was not a typical one, and the timing of this decision certainly follows suit. Why fire a coach now, weeks after the height of the coaching carousel, when candidates are sparse in the first place? What happened between the end of the Bearcats' season and Monday afternoon? Why delay the decision?

Macon doesn't know the answer to that question. It will be up to athletic director Patrick Elliott to provide the answers in the coming days as he begins a search for the coach that can lift Binghamton out of its post-scandal doldrums and begin a new, less depressing era at the school.

Because Macon's job was never an easy one. Binghamton fell into shambles after Kevin Broadus was fired amid an academic and drug-related scandal and the resulting score of departures and sanctions by both the school and the NCAA. Macon's job was less about winning -- though apparently that could have helped -- than restoring the priorities of a proud academic institution and reducing the lingering embarrassment from the Broadus fiasco.

Clearly, Elliott will be looking for a coach with those priorities in mind. The last thing Binghamton needs is even a whiff of another scandal, or academic impropriety. But it's just as clear that the Bearcats AD isn't content with the trajectory of the program on the court. Three years ago, Binghamton men's basketball would have been happy merely to exist. Now, that very low bar isn't high enough.

As he searches for that coach, Elliott will have to explain why Macon wasn't the man for that job -- and why Binghamton didn't realize as much until April 30.

Binghamton's perfect APR score pays off

October, 31, 2011
Basketball programs struggling to wrap their heads around the NCAA's new emphasis on Academic Progress Rate standards now have a model they can follow, and would you believe that it's Binghamton?

The Binghamton men's basketball program that has been troubled in years past announced Monday that it achieved its first perfect APR score of 1,000, boosting the Bearcats' four-year average to a level where it can regain its full scholarship allotment of 13.

Under coach Mark Macon, the team has gotten serious about academics and will now have all its scholarships available after self-imposing a two-scholarship reduction last year. The mass exodus of players had caused bad headlines and the APR score to dip, but now the program averages an acceptable score of 900, which is right on the NCAA cutline.

From the Press & Sun-Bulletin:
The men's program had been down to 11 scholarships following the turmoil prior to the 2009-10 season, which included six players being dismissed from the team and two others transferring at season's end.

"To get your scholarships back is good, but the overall thing is that the guys have met the expectations academically," BU head coach Mark Macon said.

Macon also confirmed one of the reinstated scholarships has been awarded to junior point guard Jimmy Gray, a former Binghamton High School standout.

Binghamton isn't out of the woods yet since the NCAA will look to increase the APR threshold to 930 in the coming years for teams to qualify in the postseason, but considering the program was in deep trouble not long ago, regaining the scholarships and reestablishing graduation rates is a credit to Macon. The former Temple star inherited a mess, and now little by little it's being cleaned up.

Any program struggling with academic concerns should take notice and know it's not an impossible situation.
Given the way the Binghamton program deteriorated under Kevin Broadus, you wouldn't assume the man was in line for a buyout. But, thanks to the NCAA's finding that no major violations occurred even as Broadus' team lost six players thanks to academic issues, drug-related crime and a handful of other reasons, there was a chance the school could have reinstated Broadus and tried to move forward.

That's what Broadus and his lawyer, Don Jackson, wanted; Broadus wanted to be coach again. But it's about the last thing Binghamton wanted. The solution? Buyout! From the Greater Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin (now THAT'S a name for a newspaper):
Kevin Broadus has entered a $1.2 million settlement with Binghamton University. [...] The university will pay $819,115.89 as required by his contract, BU spokeswoman Gail Glover said. The State University of New York will pay an additional $380,884.11. In exchange for the settlement, Broadus will resign and withdraw all claims and future lawsuits, Glover said.

Mark Macon, the man who somewhat awkwardly signed a two-year contract with the school while Broadus was on suspension, will remain the head coach. Perhaps most important, Binghamton can officially end the Kevin Broadus era. It was the best of times, it was the ... well, you know.

(Special "still catching up after Big Ten media day" hat tip: The Dagger)

Academics work in favor of Binghamton

July, 8, 2010
Binghamton actually got some good news for a change when leading scorer Greer Wright decided he would return for his senior season rather than transfer to Cincinnati, according to the Press & Sun-Bulletin.

Wright certainly had every opportunity to transfer given the turmoil at the program and that he might not have had to sit out a year. The NCAA has handed out a hardship waiver to at least one of his former teammates because of the program's troubles.

But according to the report, the 6-foot-7 forward, who averaged 15.6 points per game, decided to stay with interim coach Mark Macon for academic reasons.
Wright said academics played a significant role in his decision to stay at BU. A Human Development major, Wright said that some of his credits accumulated at BU would not be accepted at Cincinnati.

"At Cincinnati, I wouldn't be able to graduate on time, or I would have had to change my major, which I really didn't want to do," Wright said. "That was one of the main things; my parents wanted to see me graduate.

Hearing this has to be refreshing for Binghamton given the accusations of the program's academic misconduct and school officials compromising academic standards for the team.

Because if Wright wants to stick by his team and his pursuit of a degree even when he had a chance to bolt for a bigger conference, maybe it shows that at least someone in this situation is making adult decisions.

Binghamton running out of assistants

February, 23, 2010
By now, everyone's likely heard of Binghamton's scandalous offseason troubles. The school that sold its academic reputation for an NCAA tournament appearance placed coach Kevin Broadus on indefinite administrative leave, kicked almost everyone of note off the team, and was forced to have open on-campus tryouts in the offseason in the hopes of filling out the team before the 2009-10 got underway. (And then even those tryouts were against the rules. No, in case you're wondering, it was not a very good summer in Binghamton, N.Y.)

To their credit, the undermanned Bearcats have made a go of it this season. Interim coach Mark Macon has seven scholarship players, but Binghamton isn't at risk of going winless, which seemed like a logical conclusion given the offseason turmoil.

It would be nice if Macon could keep his assistant coaches around, though. Assistant coach Mark Hsu was placed on administrative leave -- effective Feb. 12, but officially announced Sunday -- after being implicated in violations in a SUNY report on Feb. 11. Among them: "Hsu allegedly provided former player Malik Alvin money for gas and food -- an NCAA violation -- and completed course work for several players on the team." These things, as you know, are not allowed.

The move leaves Binghamton with just Macon and assistant Don Anderson as the only two coaches left on Binghamton's bench. The Bearcats now have two coaches, seven scholarship players, and very little hope. Then again, maybe this is the nadir. That's one way of looking at it: What else could go possibly wrong?

Coach Macon said what?

January, 16, 2010
Given all of Binghamton's recent troubles, interim head coach Mark Macon probably could have chosen a more proper analogy when asked about the Bearcats surprising their future opponents.

WBNG-TV posted video of the Macon quote, which came after Binghamton's win over Boston University on Thursday:
"We were never trying to sneak up on anybody anyway. Why? We want people to know we're coming. When I knock on your door, I want you to know who it is. If you don't, I might steal something. We're not trying to surprise anybody. Like I said, if I knock on your door and you ain't there, that's your fault that your TV got stolen, not mine."