NAU basketball coach gets unwanted media ‘exposure’

The Northern Arizona’s men’s head basketball coach got some media exposure he was probably expecting today by getting called out for being the only coach that voted Ohio State as the No. 1 team in the final ESPN/USA Today college poll – immediately after the University of Connecticut won the NCAA Tournament Championship.

The other 30 coaches who were included in the poll voted UConn No. 1.

For that, Michael Adras got his name in the print media and was a topic of discussion on ESPN television this morning.

Not a big deal, just one man’s opinion.  Probably good exposure for the Lumberjacks’ basketball program, which gets very little as a member of the Big Sky Conference.  It’s a Division I program, but doesn’t play in the same leagues with the big boys.

However, Adras got some additional exposure he undoubtedly hadn’t expected, and didn’t plan on.

The Houston Chronicle reported yesterday that Adras was one of four finalists for the head coaching job at Lamar University, which came open just two weeks ago when Steve Roccaforte was fired after going 76-78 in his five seasons at the Texas school.

Lamar is a D-I school that plays in the Southland Conference.

In most cases, a university doesn’t release the names of the finalists in the coaching searches, just the one they finally pick.  But the Chronicle used the Texas Freedom of Information Act to force the school to disclose those that were turned down.

The job went to Pat Knight, son of coaching legend Bob Knight, who was fired from his Texas-Tech head coaching job last month after he was unable to get the Red Raiders to the .500 plateau after three seasons.

You can’t blame Adras for looking around.  Recruiting to NAU is a monumental task, you play before comparatively small crowds, and you deal with harsh winters that come smack dab in the wake of your season.

Actually, he’s done quite well with the talent he’s been able to assemble over the 19 seasons he has been on staff, 12 as head coach.  His recruits have gone on to become four of the top five scorers, and the top eight 3-point shooters, in school history.

He took over the program from Ben Howland when Howland went to UCLA in April of 1999 and has led the program into post-season play in 10 of those 12 years.  In his first season as head coach, he took the Jacks to the NCAA Tournament, just the second time in school history, and became the winningest first-year coach in NAU history.

Adras won back-to-back regular-season Big Sky titles in 2006 and 2007 and was named the conference Coach of the Year for the 2005-06 season.  His 2007-08 team tied a school record with 21 overall wins.

But two years ago his squad managed just to break even at 14-14, and last season ended short of the 20-win mark (19-12) and got to just 9-7 in conference for a fourth-place finish – which is just where the media had predicted for the Jacks in the pre-season poll.

Adra can’t be expected to be any different than any other college coach.  They’re all looking for greener pastures.

And recruiting into Texas would be a much simpler proposition.

Also, Adras been in one spot for nearly two decades.  The oldest of his daughters will be ready to enter high school in another year or so.  So, maybe the timing is good for his family.

But Adras has been good for the NAU program.  He always puts a good product on the floor, one that fans can enjoy.

His “Recruit to Shoot” philosophy creates teams that are capable of running up the scoreboard.  The current edition entered the post-season as the top 3-point shooting team in the country.

So, we can’t blame Adras for looking around.  But, hopefully, he won’t find a new gig any time soon.

(Photo: NAU Athletics)