ALBANY -- So do we now add Will Brown to the endangered coaches watch list?
All eyes in the local college basketball landscape were supposed to be focused next season on Jimmy Patsos at Siena. After another lost Saints season, 2018-19 is posited as a win-or-else year in Loudonville, at least in the eyes of some (most?) alums.
All the pressure is on the effusive Siena coach. He knows it. The good news is there is a foundation of young talent that might turn things around.
As for UAlbany, the thought was there were lost seniors to replace, but it would still just do its thing, win 20 or so games, contend for an America East title. You know, the usual.
Then came Thursday's stunning news that UAlbany's star backcourt is now going to star, or at least play, elsewhere.
David Nichols and Joe Cremo are juniors who are getting their degrees this year, so they can transfer without sitting. As far as we can tell, the guards do not have a problem with Brown.
What the departing duo does have is a problem with not going to the NCAAs the first three seasons of their careers.
“Coach Brown was great through it all," Nichols told Gazette sportswriter Michael Kelly. "He did nothing but try to help.”
Said Cremo, the local hero who led Scotia-Glenville to two state titles: “I want to win ... It’s nothing personal. It’s what’s best for me. I’m leaving on a good note with everybody.”
They are also leaving the Great Danes' cupboard bare. That means Brown, the longtime Danes coach, does have a problem, both on the court and with perception.
As Kelly reported, reserves Xavier Cochran and Matt Conway are also leaving the program. The departure of those four players, plus the team’s four graduating seniors, leaves UAlbany with only five returning scholarship players for next season — and three of those players redshirted the 2017-18 season. The team’s top four scorers from the 2017-18 season will not be back.
In 16 seasons as head coach, after one season as interim head coach, Brown has led the Danes to five NCAA Tournaments, and three lesser postseason tourneys. They are rarely out of contention in America East, and, as a team, does well in the classroom. (Both Cremo and Nichols were on the AE all-academic team.)
But the last America East title came in 2015. In a one-bid league, it's all about the postseason conference tournament, but expectations were that with Cremo, Nichols and this supporting cast, another title would come. (UA was not the top-seed any of those years.)
Vermont is a power. UMBC is a national darling after its 1-16 upset of Virginia. Stony Brook will always contend.
UAlbany? UAlbany needs to rebuild on the fly, one year ahead of schedule.
Fairly or not, some will blame Brown for these departures if UA nosedives next year -- and barring the unexpected, the Great Danes will take a step or three back. It doesn't mean Brown's job will in jeopardy. It does mean he will be under greater scrutiny than in years past, more open to be second-guessed. Where that leads is anybody's guess.
Looks like both local D-I coaches will be under harsh spotlights next season. How endangered are they? Check back next February. We already knew that about Patsos. You can add Brown to that list.