UCF Basketball’s Seven-Year Plan?

By: John Weis

Imagine if you will, this fictional conversation between then-UCF Athletics Director Keith Tribble and Men’s Basketball Coach Candidate Donnie Jones had taken place back in 2010, when the job was open.

Tribble: Why should I hire you?

Jones: Well, I promise that after five years, I’ll only have one postseason win that will come in an insignificant tournament sponsored by some obscure pen company. I’ll also have one NIT appearance, but our team will be quickly dispatched in the opening round. Oh, and there will be some NCAA sanctions … but they will be partly your fault, so you can’t hold that against me. After the fifth year, a year in which my best players will be freshmen, the incoming recruiting class will be my best ever. However, they’ll take at least a year to really develop and mature into top-notch players. So I guess you could say I have a seven-year plan in mind. We have a chance to be pretty good at that point.

Tribble: That’s great news. You’re hired!

If you believe for a second any athletic director – even Keith Tribble – would hire a coach who promises such things, you should think again. But this is exactly what Donnie Jones has delivered to the school and its fans in his five seasons at the helm of the UCF hoops program. The next two years of the plan are still to be determined, of course, but we’re being led to believe that great things are just around the corner.

Even Jones’ most ardent supporters have to agree that, to date, he has not met the expectations of the UCF faithful. There is no buzz surrounding UCF basketball these days. Attendance is dwindling. Most of my friends – many of whom love basketball – have zero interest in UCF hoops. And that’s a shame.

It begs the question: Why have the teams who were part of Conference USA with UCF not so long ago leapfrogged us in the American Athletic Conference standings (with the exception of Houston and USF)? The answer to that is simple. In the world of college basketball, the coach runs a sole dictatorship. To borrow the famous Bill Parcells explanation, the coach is not only the chef, he shops for the groceries, too. By that I mean he recruits and signs his team, then does his best to coach ‘em up. The head coach, and only the head coach, is solely responsible for the on-court performance of his guys.

I guess those other schools, like SMU and Tulsa, had two- or three-year plans.

This year’s UCF freshman class certainly appears to have at least two keepers in B.J. Taylor and Adonys Henriquez. But how bad were the previous three years’ recruiting classes that we’ve had to depend so heavily upon freshmen to lead our team?

But let’s try to focus on the hope for a better future, because really, it’s the only thing we have going for us right now. If next year’s recruiting class is as good as advertised – a big if – UCF hoops will at least be heading in the right direction … and maybe we’ll discover together that the seven-year plan is right on course.