As Detroit Mercy continues its hush-hush search for a new men’s basketball coach, the roster is deteriorating at a rapid pace.
Junior guard Josh McFolley, a former Detroit Western star and the third-leading scorer on the team last season, has decided to transfer for his final season, an athletic-department official confirmed Tuesday.
This comes after last month’s revelation that guard Corey Allen, of Ypsilanti, will be transferring for his final two years of eligibility.
Combined with departing seniors Jaleel Hogan, DeShawndre Black and Isaiah Jones, and graduate transfer Roschon Prince, that’s six of last year’s 17 players who won’t be back next season. And that doesn’t include the hotly anticipated looming decisions from the likes of freshman guard Jermaine Jackson Jr. and redshirt junior Kameron Chatman, who both have fathers on the Bacari Alexander’s holdover staff.
If Jackson doesn’t get the full-time job and isn’t retained, it’s unclear how that will affect the futures of Jackson and Chatman, the latter whose decision is multi-layered, as he also has declared for the NBA Draft, but doesn’t plan to hire an agent.
Jackson is believed to still be the interim coach, though he hasn’t spoken publicly since he was named to the post when Alexander was fired last month after two eight-win seasons on the job. Asked if Jackson remains the interim coach, a university spokesman sent an email to The News, saying, “Per university official protocol, Detroit Mercy does not provide public comment on internal personnel issues.”
Detroit Mercy athletic director Robert Vowels hasn’t returned repeated calls and texts for comment on the coaching search, and an inquiry to university president Antoine M. Garibaldi was referred to Vowels.
Jackson Sr. was the runner-up for the head-coaching job when Alexander got it in April 2015, but was appointed to the staff by Vowels. Jackson Sr. served as interim coach during Alexander’s seven-game suspension late in 2017.
Chatman (17.8 points), Allen (14.4), McFolley (11.1), Jackson Jr. (10.5), Prince (9.2), Hogan (8.1) and Black (4.6) were the seven leading scorers for the Titans last season.
Allen took an official visit last weekend to Georgia State, where former Detroit Mercy coach Ray McCallum Sr. is on staff. Eastern Michigan also could be in the mix for him. It’s still unclear where McFolley is leaning. Both would have to sit out a year, a tough sell for McFolley, with just one year of eligibility remaining.
Meanwhile, the longer Detroit Mercy waits to hire a coach, the tougher it gets for the next guy. The recruiting dead period lasts until Thursday, then reopens from Friday through April 18. But after that, it’s a quiet period into early July, with the exception of some brief evaluation-only stretches.
There’s a theory in college-basketball circles that while Alexander was seen as the safe choice two years ago — a popular Michigan assistant coming back to his alma mater — Vowels is casting a much wider net this time around, starting with inquiries at the Final Four earlier this month in San Antonio.
Among some of the high-profile names believed to either a) be interested in the job, or b) have been contacted by Vowels, including former Detroit Pistons “Bad Boy” Rick Mahorn, former Piston and NBA coach Lindsey Hunter, and former Central Michigan coaches Jay Smith and Ernie Zeigler, both of whom also had stints as assistant coaches at Detroit Mercy. Former Butler and Iowa coach Todd Lickliter is believed to also be on the radar, as is longtime Saginaw High coach and current Cleveland State assistant Lou Dawkins.
Drew Valentine, a former Oakland star and a hot up-and-coming assistant coach with Final Four participant Loyola-Chicago, is not in the mix.
While Detroit Mercy isn’t anywhere close to the “sexiest” job out there, it’s still Division I, still pays decent — Alexander drew about $450,000 a year — and is the only Division I school in the City of Detroit, a basketball hotbed where an inspired and tireless recruiter could make some serious inroads.
But the facilities are outdated, and rival Oakland has taken a leg up on recruiting and success for the past several seasons.