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FGCU’s Joe Dooley leaving for East Carolina; contract approved

Lee Herald Favicon 16It’s official: Joe Dooley is no longer the men’s basketball coach at FGCU.

Rumored for a month, and all but done yesterday, Dooley will be formally introduced as the men’s basketball coach at East Carolina on Thursday. The ECU Board of Trustees approved Dooley’s new contract in a special meeting Wednesday evening, after which the deal became official.

Wednesday’s special meeting was announced Monday afternoon, and by late Tuesday morning media reports were flying around that Dooley was returning to the school where he previously coached from 1995-99.

“The personal and professional decision I made was not an easy one. We have accomplished something very few teams in the country have over the past five years here in Dunk City, and I have no doubt the successes you have witnessed this decade will continue for many more to come,” Dooley said in a statement issued by FGCU after accepting the ECU job.

“FGCU will always hold a special place in our hearts. We’ll be rooting for the Eagles every chance we can, and wish them all the best.”

According to Ronnie Woodward of the Greenville, N.C. Daily Reflector, Dooley’s contract is a five-year deal with a base salary of $400,000, but other guarantees bring his annual take to $900,000 per year, reaching $1 million in 2022-23, along with incentive bonuses related to season ticket sales and team performance that could push that number higher.

 

Dooley earned $350,000 at FGCU this season, and even that number includes multiple raises beyond the $225,000 he made in 2013 when he took over the Eagles after spending a decade at Kansas as an assistant.

In five seasons at FGCU, Dooley went 114-58, including two NCAA Tournament appearance in 2016 and 2017, winning the Atlantic Sun regular season in 2014, 2017, and 2018. This season, after winning the ASUN regular season, the overwhelming favorite to win the conference Eagles were beaten in the conference tournament final by Lipscomb, 108-96, sending FGCU to the NIT where they lost to Oklahoma State in the first round.

Still, Dooley won over 20 games each season he was in Fort Myers, something that had only been done once in FGCU’s prior six Division I seasons and took FGCU to a postseason tournament of some sort every season.

“It’s a program, not a team,” Dooley said on March 2 after an ASUN semifinal win over North Florida. “We’ve talked about trying to build something sustainable. We’re fortunate that we’ve had good players and a good atmosphere, and that’s something you strive to do.”

Dooley went 57-52 in his first stint at ECU, still the only Division I coach in the history of the Pirates to have a winning record as a coach. He was let go after going 13-14 in 1998-99 by then athletic director Mike Hamrick, in a decision that many ECU fans still gripe about today. The return to ECU nearly came eight years ago, but the two sides couldn’t come to a deal in 2010.

That wasn’t the case this week.

“Joe’s history with the ECU community and the success he’s had as a coach on and off the court will be a great asset for our men’s basketball program,” ECU Chancellor Cecil P. Staton said. “Not only is he a great recruiter and a great basketball coach, but he also understands the importance of connecting with our alumni, fan base, student body, faculty, and community at large. He also gives proper priority to the academic success of student-athletes. I am delighted to welcome him back to Pirate Nation.”

DOOLEY BY THE SEASONS

2013-14: Despite only having eight active scholarship players for the season due to a combination of defections and incoming transfers and starting the season 6-7, FGCU went 22-13 and won a share of the ASUN regular season title for the first time in program history. After losing to Mercer in the conference final, the Eagles went to the NIT where they were bounced by Florida State.

2014-15: Returning four senior starters from the season before, and with Mercer leaving for the SoCon, the Eagles were heavily favored to win the ASUN. They started 11-1 in conference play before dropping their last two to end the regular season and lost the conference regular season to North Florida. A shocking home loss to USC-Upstate in the tournament semifinal relegated FGCU to the CIT, where a half-full Alico Arena watched a clearly disheartened Eagles team get beaten by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to end the year 22-11.

2015-16: A retooled FGCU roster featuring an all-freshman backcourt stumbled through the regular season, only to grab another year once the ASUN tournament began, crushing regular season champ North Florida in the semifinal, then squeaking past equally surprising Stetson in the tournament final to return to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in program history and first under Dooley. The Eagles routed Fairleigh Dickinson in the First Four as a No. 16 seed and played No. 1 North Carolina to a point at half before losing 83-67. UNC lost the national title to Villanova on a buzzer beating three. FGCU went 21-14.

2016-17: The young FGCU core added star in the making Brandon Goodwin, and after playing tough against Florida and Baylor, and nearly upsetting Michigan State, rolled through the regular season and conference tournament to rack up their most wins in a season in Division I history, going 26-8. The Eagles earned a No. 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament, losing to Florida State, 86-80 in the first round.

2017-18: A rocky non-conference slate that included multiple headscratching losses gave way to an 11-0 start in conference play. But back-to-back losses to Kennesaw State and Lipscomb, and a loss to Lipscomb in the ASUN final spoiled back-to-back regular season titles. The Eagles finished 23-12 after losing to Oklahoma State in the NIT.

WHO’S GOT NEXT?

With Dooley gone, the question shifts to who will be the next FGCU coach.

Two of the most popularly discussed options probably wouldn’t even need to change their ZIP codes.

FGCU’s top assistant Michael Fly was considered the front-runner job even before Dooley left. Fly, 34, followed Andy Enfield from Florida State in 2011 and has spent the last seven years as an assistant, including turning down a job from Oklahoma State last season to stay put. He’s also the last remaining link on the basketball staff to Dunk City. He’s also been named the interim coach until a permanent replacement can be found.

Another popular name is current Florida SouthWestern coach, and former FGCU assistant Marty Richter. Like Fly, Richter followed Enfield to FGCU, and stayed put after Enfield left for USC. Richter took over as FSW’s founding coach in 2015, and the Bucs played their first season in 2016-17. Richter, 41, is 56-10 as the head coach of the junior college Bucs, including reaching the quarterfinals of this year’s NJCAA tournament. In 2013, Richter was reportedly the player’s choice to take over for Enfield, and the inclusion of him and Fly on Dooley’s staff was rumored to be to placate the veteran players.

Other names that have appeared in the rumor mill include Bethune-Cookman’s Ryan Ridder, Lipscomb’s Casey Alexander, who has twice applied for the FGCU job in 2011 and 2013, and former Virginia Tech coach and ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg, who was in the running for the ECU job.

Whoever it is, there won’t be much of a wait. A press conference to announce the new FGCU coach is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Thursday. The program called the press conference late Wednesday night.


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