On February 27, Center Field reported that Mike Maker would stay on as head coach for next season after a sit-down interview Center Field had with Marist Athletic Director Tim Murray. Murray stated this on the record and at no point insinuated that Maker would be gone after this season.
Throughout the 40-minute conversation before Maker was fired, Murray talked about every aspect of the Men’s Basketball program going all the way back to 1986. Murray answered every single question without hesitation.
For roughly 10 minutes Murray discussed Coach Maker and his situation as head coach of the Marist Men’s Basketball Team. The following is the transcript of that conversation.
Marco Schaden (Editor-in-Chief, Center Field): Usually Division I schools don’t hire Division III head coaches. What was the thinking there?
Tim Murray (Athletics Director, Marist College): Well, he had 17 years at the Division I level: at a high level with West Virginia and Creighton, at a strong academic institution like Dartmouth, and then at a really strong academic institution (Williams College), but as a head coach so he had that management leadership experience that I think is important because you’re running a little business back there. You got people that work for you and you got budgets. I know Mike being a head coach and having that background and experience would be a plus.
MS: What was your goal in hiring Maker? Where did you want to see the program in Maker’s tenure at the time you hired him?
TM: I knew we had some transition. I knew we were not looked at as an extremely competitive program in the MAAC conference at that time in the previous four years, five years. I knew when I hired Mike he had a little different system in terms of play and what he was going to run more of a motion, shooting, guard-out, post-out type system. I was looking for some clear growth to the point where we can be competitive in the MAAC.
MS: Have you seen that growth?
TM: Not as much as I would like to see at this point. I thought we would be further along after year four and I think Mike would probably say the same thing in terms of wins and losses. I’ve seen a lot of things that I really like in terms of the quality of character that he has brought in, the people that he has brought in, what he accepts from these kids both on and off the court. All of our numbers – APR, GSR, graduation rates have been terrific.
MS: That is great, but at the end of the day it is also the product that he will end up putting on the court and he has not won 10 games in a season yet.
MS: Do you believe a Marist men’s basketball program should be winning at least 10 games a year?
TM: Oh my god, yes absolutely and so does Mike.
MS: Why do you think that has not happened yet?
TM: The roster when Mike got here, there were players that were not exactly the type of players that would be best for his system. Although, one of the things that we do at Marist is that we are not going to run kids. We don’t do that, we’re better than that. From that perspective, it takes time in order to get that personnel in place for your system.
MS: He has three years of his guys. The seniors, Connor (McClenaghan) is a backup center and Obi (Momah) is probably going to transfer so he has not played this year. This is basically his personnel of what he would want to fit his system. The personnel that he recruited should be fitting the pace and space type of game he wants to play. Is that not an excuse saying that his personnel is not currently on the team? He has basically recruited everyone on this team.
TM: I’m saying when he first got here. When he first got here, he did not have the players that he would ultimately want in terms of their skillset. We’re getting there with the three recruiting classes.
MS: Are you at all disappointed with Maker’s tenure so far?
TM: Am I disappointed with his tenure? I will say it this way, we both knew that the progress would take some time because of the way in which we were doing personnel. If you look at the games this year, there were times where I was very pleased with our play. And then there were times when we had a lack of concentration or whatever it may be where I would say, yeah, there was some disappointment in our play. But again, there were times when our play was good and it was the system that Mike is going to run where a lot of passing, high-post passing, lot of shooting, but clearly, we have to be more competitive in the league. I think if Mike was sitting where Mike (Ferraro) is now he would say the same thing if he did not tell you already.
MS: He did.
TM: Yeah, so I think Mike and I are on the same page in terms of where we’re at and where we need to be.
MS: Is Maker’s job safe for next year?
TM: At this point right now, yes, absolutely.
MS: You expect him to be the head coach for the Marist Men’s Basketball Team for next year?
TM: I do.
MS: From what I found, but cannot confirm, is that Maker has one year left on his contract. Would you ever think about giving him an extension rather than being a lame-duck coach that cannot tell his recruits that he will be there the next year?
TM: I think it would depend what is in the contract. Depends what we’re looking for – additional years. Again, at the end of the season we will sit-down and evaluate just like I do with all coaches and take a look at that.
On March 5 at 1:43 p.m., a press release from Marist College was sent out stating that Maker was fired as head coach. Instead of following through with his previous statements about Maker’s job status, Murray defied them.
“From the day he stepped on campus, Mike guided our program with class and integrity. The program accurately represented our expectations in the classroom and community, but ultimately we had to make a decision that was in the long-term best interest of the team,” said Murray in the press release.
Murray makes it pretty clear that Maker was to return as head coach throughout his conversation with Center Field. He demonstrated confidence in Maker’s coaching style of play and believed another recruiting class would bring in players that fit the system. Murray also credited Maker for the character of player he brought in and their ability to represent everything good about Marist College, unlike one of his predecessors, Chuck Martin.
Why did he change his mind?
Perhaps he took a second look at the state of the program and decided it was time to make a change. Maybe he came to the realization that a winning program under Maker was not possible under the current circumstances. Other possibilities include President David Yellen stepping in and telling Murray to make a change—a move that may have been influenced by members of the Board of Trustees as well.
After Murray stated that Maker would come back, Center Field reached out to Yellen’s office, which declined to comment. When Marist College announced that it had fired Maker, Yellen’s office was again sought for comment, and Center Field has received no reply.
It is unclear what changed Murray’s mind. The reasoning behind it will likely never be known or truthful.