With the school logo and the words “Welcome Coach Kellogg” illuminating the Barclays Center jumbotron behind him, it finally became official on Tuesday: Derek Kellogg is the head coach of the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds.
What a weird and wild ride it’s been to this point.
Ultimately, Kellogg might well be a good hire. The former UMass coach led the Minutemen for nearly a decade, taking them to the 2014 NCAA Tournament and twice to the NIT. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s more than any other UMass coach has done since the Clinton Administration.
Despite ultimately being fired, Kellogg undeniably did some good things at UMass, and LIU better hope he can do even more in Brooklyn. That’s the only way this embarrassing search can possibly be redeemed.
It started with LIU inexplicably firing Jack Perri after a 20-win season. The Blackbirds cruised to a 13-5 Northeast Conference record, only to be upset in the NEC quarterfinals to Robert Morris. Still, it was a second-straight winning season after LIU entered rebuilding mode and won just nine total games in 2013-14.
The program had been, by all accounts, moving in the right direction.
Regardless, the LIU administration thought it could do better. And so Perri was fired on March 20.
Less than two days later, none other than Hall of Famer Larry Brown emerged as a rumored candidate for the position. Despite his checkered past, hiring Brown would bring excitement, a reputable name on the recruiting trail, and an inarguable track record of success. Only it was then reported that Brown’s interest in the position was one-sided. LIU had other names in mind.
Days after Perri was fired, former Drexel coach Bruiser Flint was on campus. Flint is a fine coach and had his share of successes with the Dragons, but he also went 6-25 in his final season with Drexel and is 51 years old.
It would have hardly been an inspiring hire coming after the success Perri had. But the Flint candidacy came and went. More names were floated. Each one less exciting than the next.
Days passed. Then weeks, seemingly with little progress made in the search and the optics becoming progressively worse.
Source close to the LIU coaching search says there's an 'internal struggle' going on— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) April 15, 2017
It's now looking like the LIU Brooklyn HC search will go beyond Easter. The job has been vacant since 3/20. Next wk, it hits a full month.— Nelson Castillo (@NelCastNY) April 13, 2017
Then, Kellogg’s name came up. Despite his upside, it’s a roll of the dice.
"Derek Kellogg is exactly the kind of coach we were seeking to elevate Blackbirds basketball and create a championship program for years to come in Brooklyn," athletic director Brad Cohen said in a statement.
Kellogg floundered in his final two seasons at UMass, going 15-18 in 2016-17. In that way, LIU went from someone who had his program trending up and replaced him with someone whose program was on the decline.
He has also been named in a lawsuit that alleges he and former assistant Lou Roe intimidated a woman in order to keep her quiet about information that could have been damaging to the UMass program. The suit says that information includes the use of banned substances by members of the team, domestic violence allegations against some members of the staff, and the quashing of criminal complaints against players.
In that way, LIU went from a coach whose program was known for its accomplishments on the court and replaced him with a potential walking distraction.
Then again, as senior vice chair of the LIU Board of Trustees Michael Gutnick put it in the university’s release:
"I'm absolutely thrilled about the new coach, not just from a basketball perspective, but from a community perspective and I'm sure he'll assist the university on many fronts.”
But Kellogg said the right things at his introductory presser.
“This is a players’ first program,” he said. “I’m looking forward to building on what you guys have accomplished in the past and trying to make things even better. We’re going to do this together.”
He said that he wants to make the Blackbirds a consistent NCAA Tournament team. He emphasized what he calls the “3 Cs:” excellence in the classroom, on the court, and in the community.
Next, he must produce. In all three. If he doesn’t, then LIU is going to look really, really silly, and might even be in a worse spot than when they started this process.