Schuckman: Next QU men’s basketball coach faces sizable task of meeting variety of needs

Brad Hoyt

John Wood Community College men's basketball coach Brad Hoyt could be one of the candidates as Quincy University searches for Steve Hawkins' replacement. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — The challenge facing the next Quincy University men’s basketball coach is three-fold.

One, replenish the roster. Two, put fans in the stands. Three, win games.

All three are intertwined.

Prior to Steve Hawkins resigning Monday to pursue another coaching opportunity, four QU players had entered the transfer portal, although two of which are graduating and weren’t expected to return. But will more follow with Hawkins leaving after two seasons at the helm? Will the recruits who have committed stick to their pledges or will they look elsewhere?

As it stands, the Hawks are losing their top three scorers and 64 percent of their offensive output. That sounds rather significant until you look at where the Hawks ranked in the 14-team Great Lakes Valley Conference in key offensive categories — 11th in scoring, 13th in assist-to-turnover ratio, 13th in 3-point shooting and 14th in field goal percentage.

So maybe the roster needed to be overhauled anyway.

Finding high-level shooters and scorers is of premium importance, probably more so than in a normal recruiting cycle. A smart, savvy, facilitating point guard should top the wish list, too.

Putting the ball in the basket more consistently will ratchet up the fan engagement and enjoyment. In turn, that creates a better home-court advantage at Pepsi Arena. Although the Hawks ranked third in the GLVC in average attendance and season ticket sales were up, the level of interest has waned over the past seven seasons.

QU averaged 671 fans per home game this season, which is on par with other seasons in which the Hawks had a sub-.500 record, but still a far cry from the 1,119 fans the Hawks averaged during the 2016-17 season. That was their last winning season.

Theoretically, there shouldn’t be an empty seat in the lower bowl for any game if the Hawks are meeting expectations.

That means winning. QU has finished with a record of at least .500 only once since the 2016-17 team won 25 games and played in the NCAA Tournament. QU has qualified for the GLVC Tournament only twice in the past seven seasons.

In that span, QU’s winning percentage within the conference is just .335.

So who is the person who will fill a roster that addresses the primary needs, gets fans excited about what’s to come and can win in the GLVC?

QU athletic director Josh Rabe expects his email to fill up with resumes from coaches who believe they fit that bill. Rabe’s work in creating a short list of candidates began before Hawkins informed the team of his departure, and names will be added or crossed off as Rabe sifts through every email, text message and phone call.

There are a few names that are intriguing if they choose to apply.

Brad Hoyt is at the top of that list.

The John Wood Community College coach has enjoyed remarkable success in this community and knows how to recruit locally and regionally to unearth some real gems. He’s kept the best area kids at home — between 2011 and 2022, eight of the 12 KHQA Players of the Year went to JWCC — and helped many of them go on to play at the NCAA Division I or Division II level.

He also has a knack for identifying and developing point guards, a position QU needs to bolster.

Hoyt recently was named the full-time dean of students at JWCC, which creates an interesting layer to his story. Is his long-term future in coaching or in academic administration? That could impact his interest level.

A pair of former Hoyt assistant coaches could be candidates.

Pat Lepper, who worked at JWCC from 2010-12, recently wrapped up his third season as an assistant coach at Purdue Fort Wayne, an NCAA Division I program in the Horizon League. Lepper has head coaching experience, having spent nine seasons at Lincoln College.

Brad Witherspoon, who was Hoyt’s top assistant when the Trail Blazers finished second in the NJCAA Division II national tournament in 2015, has been the head coach at Dodge City Community College the past two seasons.

Witherspoon is a more intriguing possibility because Brody Gronewold, an Illini West graduate and former JWCC sharp-shooter, is one of his assistant coaches. With Gronewold’s connection to the area, it would open doors for Witherspoon on the recruiting front.

Another name already being thrown around is Illinois College coach Steve Schweer, who has turned the NCAA Division III program into a force. In six seasons under Schweer, the Blueboys have won 85 games — they played only nine games in the COVID season — while going 49-8 the past two seasons with a pair of national tournament berths.

Other names will surface in the days ahead, but the challenge Rabe faces is clear.

Find a coach who can twist all three needs into a cohesive solution.

That’s a sizable task, but that’s where the QU program finds itself these days.

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