Don’t blame Corey Gipson one bit. Thank him for his remarkable season – not plural — as Northwestern State’s men’s basketball coach.
Accept the new paradigm in college sports. You may detest the transfer portal, not to mention Name, Image and Likeness payments to athletes. But those are defining standards these days.
Coaching moves after brief stays were happening before the portal or NIL. They felt like the portal and resulted from the motivation behind the NIL. There’s lots of money in reach climbing the ladder in college sports. Now the players can access it, too.
Sources indicate by moving to Austin Peay, Gipson will nearly double his $160,000 base salary at NSU as the Governors open a new arena. Those are undeniable and understandable incentives. It’s his alma mater, where he played in Austin Peay’s glory days. Can’t deny that appeal, although it’s a nice sidebar, not the primary motivation.
Speculation that has swirled for weeks about Gipson’s upward mobility crystalized over the weekend, with reputable national basketball observers and others reported he was heading to Austin Peay after one season in Natchitoches. APSU made it official with a Tweet posting its announcement Sunday night.
Gipson spent 356 days as the Demons’ coach. Don’t let that upset you.
He accomplished a bunch, built around a core of three outstanding players – DeMarcus Sharp, Ja’Monta Black and Isaac Haney – who loyally followed him to Natchitoches from Missouri State, where Gipson was an assistant coach for seven seasons. He boldly signed Hansel Enmanuel, whose journey from the amputation of his left arm when he was six had already earned global notice and a huge social media following.
The patient development of Enmanuel into a player able to start and play significant minutes as the season ended is a fabulous achievement for all involved, especially Gipson. The mind-blowing exposure Northwestern got in conventional and social media pathways was justifiably phenomenal, and the young man proved he was not a “dog and pony show,” Gipson said after the Southland Conference Tournament championship game.
Gipson continued the long tradition of community service established by his predecessor, Mike McConathy, who received a prestigious National Association of Basketball Coaches’ “Guardians of the Game” award in 2012 for community outreach though educational initiatives off campus. Gipson, staff and coaches did a wonderful job coming in blind and quickly getting involved across the community with good causes, and making new inroads. They were quite justified in talking about it, although the impression that it was new to NSU basketball was way off-base.
NSU President Dr. Marcus Jones and athletics director Kevin Bostian surely knew Gipson’s departure became inevitable in the last 2-4 days as the coach visited Austin Peay and contract terms were wrapping. There were plenty of rumors floating about a hefty pay hike Jones supposedly proposed for Gipson, but it seemed implausible. Adding tens of thousands of dollars would have shattered the salary structure not only in the athletic department, but across campus, at a time when the university is laying off employees and making tough budget decisions in the wake of an enrollment free-fall not entirely unique to NSU – although it’s not just because of COVID, despite what the party line has been.
You can bank on the fact that Bostian and Kyle Bowlsby, who is the one-man search firm that identified both Bostian and Gipson for NSU last year, already have a list of potential successors and those are being vetted, at least.
There probably have been some conditional conversations with a handful of candidates in case the job opened. Don’t expect there to be much of a gap in hiring the new guy. It’s the way the business gets done nowadays, and that’s necessary because every competitor is already building next year’s team.
Speaking of that – don’t be surprised if there’s a total roster rebuild. It’s as reasonable as the Academy Awards running way long that Black, Enmanuel, Haney, Sharp and some other 2022-23 Demons will be at Austin Peay in the fall.
Fair, and feasible with the portal. The mindset that players choose a school primarily because of the institution and its community is secondary to recruits or transfers being totally invested in their coach – and available dollars from scholarships and financial aid and if any exists (there’s only a trickle at NSU), NIL money.
Bottom line: the landscape is very different than what St. Denis saw. It’s not much like what Demon fans enjoyed when nearby prep stars Clifton Lee and Jermaine Wallace, then Will Mosley, James Hulbin, Jalan West and Zeek Woodley wowed us with their feats in some best of times for Demon basketball.
Hopefully Bostian, Bowlsby and Jones can pick another winner, and this time, he’ll stay for a bit longer. It’s happened before at Northwestern.
Baseball coach Jim Wells got the Alabama job in 1994. Tynes Hildbrand hired Dave Van Horn, who has become one of the game’s icons at Arkansas. When he left in December 1997, Greg Burke hired John Cohen, who is now Auburn’s AD after a long, highly successful career at Mississippi State and Kentucky. Cohen left in 2001, and Burke brought back Wells’ assistant Mitch Gaspard, who also became head coach at Alabama.
Here’s hoping for some of that magic.
Contact Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org