Column: The future of SEMO basketball is unknown, but the support of its coach shouldn't be
When I was hired as the regional sports editor for Semoball.com nearly a year ago, one of the most repeated opinions that was delivered to me, whether I wanted to hear it or not, was the displeasure of those that followed the Southeast Missouri State men’s basketball program in former coach Rick Ray.
To a person, every comment was the same.
“I like Rick,” they would tell me. “He’s a great guy. But we need a new coach.”
Well, Redhawk Nation, you have one.
Southeast Missouri State athletic director Brady Barke announced Monday the hiring of current Kansas State assistant coach Brad Korn to replace Ray.
"I'm excited to welcome Brad and his family to Cape Girardeau," Barke said in a release. "Brad is a winner and has an incredible knack for building relationships with student-athletes while developing them both on and off the court. His energy and passion will bring a renewed sense of excitement to SEMO Basketball."
Aside from the public’s desire for a new Redhawk basketball coach, what I also quickly discovered was that the hiring of Ray was questioned from his very first day on the job – and the reasons for such weren’t invalid, necessarily.
I don’t think Ray was ever truly embraced by the Southeast fan base and that isn’t a criticism of the fans, I’m just stating what I believe.
I find myself in a similar predicament as my predecessor in that there are inarguable statistics regarding Korn’s career as a full-time assistant that certainly could lead to legitimate skepticism as to whether or not he will be the guy that breaks a three-decade run of mediocre to abysmal basketball in Cape Girardeau. However, I’m going to take the fork in the road and veer off in a different direction for the first day of the Brad Korn era.
I’m still going to write my opinion (I know no other way to do this job), but I’m going to get behind this hire and do everything I can – within ethical behavior – to support Korn and his work with the Redhawk program.
Given the sordid history of Southeast basketball, coupled with the fact there were experienced successful head coaches seeking this position, there is no possibility I would have hired a guy in “hopes” that he could do the job. I’ve written that and I stand by my opinion.
However, you could fill a newspaper with the names of first-time head coaches that have succeeded, some to an incredible degree. For all I know, Korn may be the next Brad Stevens (God, I hope he is).
For selfish reasons, I’m going to root for Korn’s success perhaps more voraciously than anyone outside of his wife and two children.
“He really knows the game,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber told Semoball.com Monday. “He’s really matured as a coach. He knows the SEMO area, recruiting wise. He’s also been at different levels and he’s had to work at it to get (to a head coaching job).
“There is something to that.”
There is. And there are other reasons to support this hire.
Barke spoke earlier this month about his belief that success starts with “people.” What I can tell you unequivocally is that Korn played at Southern Illinois for both Weber and current Purdue coach Matt Painter, and there aren’t two more genuine – and knowledgeable – basketball coaches in America than those two.
Like under Ray, there will be no questions surrounding the ethical manner in which the Southeast program is operated with Korn managing it.
From a professional standpoint, I want Korn to succeed because it makes my job more enjoyable.
A successful Southeast program means more readership of Semoball.com. I can’t be more blunt than that.
From a personal perspective, I am rooting for Korn because, quite frankly, I have zero interest in covering a bad basketball program.
Until coming to Semoball.com, I spent my career covering the programs at Butler and Purdue Fort Wayne, both of which were successful in every measurable way, and I’m spoiled.
I don’t know how long I can deal with seven-win seasons and 80 percent transfer rates.
The truth is, no one – Korn included – knows if Barke’s decision was the right one. However, Korn, as well as everyone else associated with the program, deserves the support of this community and that is going to start right here.
Best of luck to Korn. He’s accepted a monumental challenge and I really, really hope he succeeds in a mind-blowing fashion.
Tom Davis is the regional sports editor of Semoball.com and the Southeast Missourian.