Ron Cottrell and the Huskies celebrated the Head Coach’s 400th career win with an 87-76 victory over Campbell at Sharp Gym on Wednesday night. He is in his 21st season and has extended his win total by more than 270-plus of any former HBU basketball coach. In addition, he has averaged nearly 20 wins a season during his 20-year coaching career.
That’s quite an accomplishment for a program that has been considered slightly off the radar in a city where the three NCAA Division I basketball programs, Rice, Houston, and Texas Southern, get most of the attention.
But sometimes, programs receive attention based on the level of competition they face week-in and week-out and on Saturday, the road to more of that much-needed attention leads to Omaha as the Huskies will face #24 Creighton, (7-1), of the Missouri Valley Conference.
“Over the last several years, we’ve played a lot of nationally ranked teams, nationally known powerhouse-type teams, but none better than the team we’re facing on Saturday”, says Cottrell. “They do a lot of things very, very well as a program. It’s going to be a terrific environment. I always like going up there. This is our third time to go up there in the last five years, I guess, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
CHANGE PROVIDES CHALLENGES
It’s slightly different for Cottrell and his Huskies as they enter their first season of NCAA membership in the Southland Conference and are preparing to add the premier sport of football to their entree of sports which will certainly elevate the landscape of athletics.
But for now, it’s basketball season, and Cottrell’s team has survived, as they are 4-6 overall, 3-1 at home, 0-4 on the road, and in neutral locales, 1-1. So far, two of the larger NCAA Division I programs they’ve faced this season are Rice and Washington, in which they lost both. It’s been said that growth requires steady commitment and some pain.
However, Cottrell, second-year Athletic Director Steve Moniaci, and the administration recognize what needs to be done to help capture a portion of the Houston audience and is willing to endure whatever it takes to make HBU more visible. Besides, the timing of it all couldn’t be better.
“We started this process five years ago and a lot of transition has happened. Alot of great things have happened for our program and our institution; alot of growth going on. It doesn’t mean that it’s always painless. There are times when you’re going through some interesting times.”
“But, in the end, at the end of the day, it’s always a positive for the program and our administration has been tremendously supportive and the school sees what this can become on the Division I level and I think everyone on campus is excited about where we’re headed.”
MEANWHILE, ON THE COURT
Speaking of challenges, Cottrell has 9 new players on this season’s team. Obviously, it will take time to determine which player or two will emerge as the leader or leaders especially since all nine came from high school and junior college programs where they were “the man”. However, Cottrell is optimistic and with his 20 years of coaching experience, 21 after this season, he has a keen eye and a Sharp sense.
“We’ve had freshman to step up and take some leadership roles whether that be Marcel Smith at our point guard position, (5’6”, 150- Detroit), Ty Russell at our 2-guard position, (6’0”, 180, Arizona), and then you’ve got your junior college guys who have come in and really helped us a lot.”
“That’s Art Bernardi, (6’9”, 225), who came from New Mexico JC, a 4-man who’s very versatile, soft-spoken but works really hard. And then Marcus Davis has come in here from the Phoenix area, junior college player, probably our most vocal guy on the court, a hard worker.”
“Really, the guys, I think, follow his lead in a lot of ways because he is vocal and they see him everyday putting in the time to be a really good player and they respect that. I think he leads because of that. He had 30 points a couple of games ago, (versus Dallas Christian), and is just one of those guys who gets in and works really hard on the floor and I think that’s starting to become out group of leaders right there.”
Cottrell maintains he will stay the course. For him, it’s about growth for the institution.