Friday, April 19, 2013

Eli Carter Leaving Rutgers: Can Eddie Jordan Pull a Tom Crean Rebuild?

This headline is an exaggeration, I know. At least it is as of right now.

If the SS Rutgers continues taking on water in its present volume, though, all-but-announced new coach Eddie Jordan will be able to sympathize with Tom Crean's pushing forward with one scholarship player in 2008.

What little upside the Scarlet Knights had for the future was tied up in the talented young backcourt of Jerome Seagears, Eli Carter and Myles Mack. Now, two are out the door and the other may not be far behind.

The latest shot across Rutgers' bow came Friday, when Eli Carter announced that he had received his release as reported by Brendan Prunty of The Star-Ledger. Carter joins Seagears in announcing intentions to leave Jersey for less Springsteen-loving pastures.

Seagears announced his desire to leave on April 3, immediately after ex-coach Mike Rice's firing. Carter took a few days to ponder his options, but announced last week.

The final domino to fall in the 35-PPG trio is rising junior point guard Myles Mack. Mack and Carter were RU's only double-figure scorers last season. Mack's high school coach, Hall of Famer Bob Hurley of St. Anthony's, offered some comments that could prove telling.

"I think what’s going to happen is, no one wants to be the last one standing," Hurley told the Star-Ledger. "Then, you face a situation where it becomes, 'I have to play in the Big Ten (in 2014) and who else is on the team?'"

Eddie Jordan, a beloved figure in Rutgers basketball history who was instrumental in the school's only Final Four trip (1976), brings some cachet as a former NBA player and coach, albeit a coach who lost 86 more games than he won. In the middle of his resume, however, are four straight winning seasons and a playoff series win with the Washington Wizards, a feat miraculous enough to qualify one for sainthood in some cultures.

If Mack does leave, Jordan will have four scholarship players left on his roster, a group that combined for about 15 PPG in less than 50 total minutes per game. None of those players are guards.

The recruitment of New York guards Jon Severe and Shane Rector will be pivotal, as the two are among the best remaining prospects in the 2013 class. Severe is lukewarm on the school, keeping it on his radar as long as it keeps assistant Van Macon on the payroll, according to the New York Post. Rector decommitted after the Rice firing, and a report from the Bergen (N.J.) Daily Record says he's now being chased by brand names like Butler and RU's future Big Ten rival Minnesota.

In comparison to Crean, Jordan's cupboard is not quite THAT bare and he's not under the microscope of running a cratered blueblood program like Indiana. Jordan does, however, walk into a school that has become a national punchline at best, the epitome of institutional incompetence at worst.

President Robert Barchi is still embattled after trusting an athletic director who appeared to hide the conduct of his signature coaching hire. Barchi's focus has been on merging Rutgers with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and he seemingly allowed Tim Pernetti to run the athletic program without accountability or oversight.

The task of selling Rutgers' negligible basketball tradition is much different from pointing to the banners on either end of Assembly Hall. Crean also had the experience of a Final Four trip and a personal reference from NBA All-Star Dwyane Wade with which to impress recruits. That's all a bit stronger than once leading the likes of Antawn Jamison, Larry Hughes and a pre-gunplay Gilbert Arenas to a second-round sweep at the hands of Wade's Heat.

"Fast" Eddie needs to move quicker than he ever has if he wants his first season as his alma mater's coach to be something less than agonizingly painful. Without finding bodies to put into his backcourt, Jordan could find it more fun to volunteer for weekly root canals at the aforementioned UMDNJ.

(Seriously, can you imagine getting worked on by a student dentist? No, thanks, I'll do it myself with pliers and bourbon out in the garage.)

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