The University of San Diego men’s basketball program has been on a downward spiral since its Cinderella run in the 2008 NCAA tournament. That run, which included an upset victory over the University of Connecticut, was expected to propel the team to future success. Instead it has had the opposite effect. Fast-forward five years and its 2013, where the Toreros have once again floundered in mediocrity. Since going 22-14 in the 2008 season, the team has failed to achieve a winning record, capped off by this year’s mark of 16-18. The lack of wins poses a problem for the university. Since basketball is to the WCC what football is the SEC, USD can’t afford for its marquee sport to flounder much longer. Basketball offers USD the best chance to gain national recognition and raise revenue. But with a middling program that fails to consistently bring fans into the Jenny Craig Pavilion and fails to win nationally televised games, one wonders if the program must make a coaching change to become competitive again.
In 2007, Bill Grier was hired to replace Brad Holland who had become the most successful coach in USD history in terms of wins. Holland was let go because he failed to win in the WCC and NCAA Tournaments. In his first season, Grier led the Toreros to an upset win over the University of Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament. He failed to capitalize on the momentum created by that victory and has since endured five consecutive non-winning seasons. Not only has Grier had difficulties winning on the court, but he has also struggled to maintain control of his players off the court. He was caught in the middle of a point shaving scandal involving three former players, including arguably the best player in USD history Brandon Johnson. Between the losses on the court and the lack of player control off the court, it appears that the only way to get the students and fan base excited about next year is to put a fresh face on the sideline of the Slim Gym. If USD elects to start fresh, one intriguing candidate could be Ben Howland, who has reportedly been let go by UCLA. Howland would bring a high profile name and national championship caliber coaching to the campus, which could be just the thing that is needed to re-energize USD’s basketball program and its fans. However, even if no coaching change is made, the future of USD basketball remains promising with returning starters Johnny Dee and Christopher Anderson and talented big man Jito Kok expected to lead the Toreros to victory in the upcoming years.