Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Miami's Shawn Eichorst has work to do
CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Miami is searching for a men's basketball coach, raising money for some major construction initiatives and has already taken the first steps toward trying to revitalize its football program.
Given all that, Shawn Eichorst knows he will not be able to settle slowly into his new job.
Miami's new athletic director said Wednesday that he's ready for simultaneous challenges, starting with priority No. 1 -- finding someone to coach a team that went 21-15 this past season and then lost Frank Haith to Missouri in a move that caught the school by surprise.
"Everybody who has an interest in being our basketball coach here at the University of Miami will get consideration," Eichorst said.
Eichorst offered no timetable to complete the hiring process and did not discuss any specific candidates, though insisted on two points: No one has been excluded from the search and no one has been offered the job, despite widespread speculation to the contrary on both counts.
"Any account or report otherwise is inaccurate and pure speculation," Eichorst said. "From this point forward, I will take complete charge of the search and will exhaust all means to find a coach who stands for the great values of this institution, is a fundamentally sound teacher of the game and will positively lead our players with a tremendous amount of passion, integrity and dedication."
Miami players, who have already met with Eichorst, have been told to expect a hire within 10-14 days.
Eichorst spoke on a conference call one day after being named Kirby Hocutt's replacement as the person in charge of the Hurricanes' athletic department. The 44-year-old former Division III football player most recently was Wisconsin's deputy athletic director, and also worked at South Carolina and his alma mater, Wisconsin-Whitewater.
At Wisconsin, he was the Chief Operating Officer for athletics, overseeing a $90 million budget and being closely involved with a $100 million construction project for ice hockey, swimming and football.
"He's a person who is just a class act and one that has the integrity of the entire athletic department," said Bob Berezowitz, who was Eichorst's coach at Wisconsin-Whitewater -- then had the former player become his boss when he returned there as athletic director after graduating from Marquette Law. "I think he will do everyone down there justice in what they're looking for in an athletic director."
Eichorst was highly recommended for the Miami job by his now-former boss with the Badgers, athletic director Barry Alvarez, who has remained close with Miami President Donna Shalala from her time at Wisconsin. Shalala was Chancellor there from 1987 through 1993.
Said Shalala, in a statement released by the university: "Shawn Eichorst has the skills, experience, and philosophy to elevate UM athletics and exceed our highest expectations."
Eichorst interviewed in person on Sunday, sitting down with new football coach Al Golden, women's basketball coach Katie Meier and others, collecting information from them as they tried to glean the same from him.
"I'm pretty prepared in everything I do," Eichorst said. "I had done a lot of due diligence in a lot of people that I met with, and we quickly developed a chemistry and the pace of the situation moved quickly. I think our values and our core beliefs and our philosophies started to mesh. I'm just so darned excited to get there."
His hiring is part of a whirlwind time for the Hurricanes. Golden was hired in December by Hocutt, who several weeks later denied being a candidate at Texas Tech, then ultimately was hired by the Red Raiders. Miami alum and longtime athletics executive Tony Hernandez -- who was a candidate for the permanent AD job -- took over as the interim, and was overseeing the search to replace Haith.
Plus, the university has long been working on getting a $13.6 million project for a new sports center, which will house an academic center for members of Hurricane sports teams, a larger sports medicine facility, a new football locker room and a gallery of champions.
Now Eichorst takes over all that, and more. He said he plans to be in South Florida this weekend for meetings with key personnel, the expectation being that those talks will mostly revolve around the basketball coach situation.
Eichorst is married with three sons, and except for about two years with South Carolina, has spent the overwhelming majority of his life living in Wisconsin. He said he's ready for the challenge of a new climate in South Florida.
"I think you've got cheese and milk down there, too," Eichorst said. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity."