Unless you're known as a devout Kanye West fan, you've never heard of the Chicago State University Cougars or their 347th-ranked (in RPI) Division I basketball team.
Benjy Taylor wishes he had never heard of them, either. In three seasons as head coach, Taylor posted a 39-53 record—a huge improvement over the combined 119-421 record of the seven coaches before him—but led the team to their first winning season since 1986 before his firing was announced April 19.
Another snag in CSU's admirable pursuit of Division I noteworthiness, Taylor is the Cougars' sixth head coach to come and go since Chicago State moved up to the Mid-Continent Conference for D-I play in 1994.
With a 19-13 season that blew away all the sub-12 win seasons that the Cougars had reached since joining Division I competition, it looked like CSU had found their coach.
That was, until last season when the team moved over to the Great West conference alongside teams like North Dakota and Houston Baptist. Taylor lead his team to a 9-23 overall record and was promptly let go.
With Taylor's firing, Chicago State's Athletics Department has engaged in a proactive prowl for greatness.
They're serious about getting rid of coaches that can't cut it—they've done just that six times in 16 years—and they might have finally roped in the coach to get the job done.
The Search Is On
As the front of Chicago State's athletics webpage painfully reminds fans, the search for Taylor's replacement is still on—and at this point, the Cougars are alone.
They are the lone coachless D-I team according to a June 16 ESPN report , although the athletics department has, according to a source cited by ESPN, narrowed the field to three candidates: Illinois State assistant coach Paris Parham, University of Illinois-Chicago associate head coach Tracy Dildy, and acting head coach Matthew Muhammad.
Unless CSU is content with another 23 years of losing seasons, they'll offer Tracy Dildy the job. The competition doesn't even come close, and the timing is on the button perfect. Here's why.
Enter Dildy, Chicago Basketball Recruiting Superstar
A 19 year basketball veteran who has assisted at UAB, Ole Miss, Auburn, Ball State, and DePaul, Dildy has shown an unmatchable moxie for recruiting in Chicago.
From 1997-2001 he scouted a domineering force of recruits for DePaul that found a spot in the second round of the big dance in 2002.
Neither Muhammad nor Parham can boast such a resume.
Ever heard of Eddy Curry? Yeah, Dildy found him along with a slew of other NBA up-and-comers during his time at DePaul.
He is currently in charge of recruitment duties for UIC, a post that puts him in the stands of northern Illinois' junior colleges and high schools on a continuing basis, and he was named a top 25 Mid-Major Assistant by College Insider in 2009.
It's Dildy's time to prove his worth in Chi-town once and for all, and CSU offers up the perfect empty canvas.
With 11 of CSU's returning 14 players graduating after the 2010-2011 season, the recruitment timing couldn't be more perfect.
Grab Him Now Before Someone Else Does
UIC head coach Jimmy Collins' contract will expire after the 2010-2011 season, and his 8-22 2009-2010 season doesn't provide much hope for him as fans have already called for his exit.
Choosing Dildy, Collins' associate of three years, as Collins' replacement would be a no-brainer for cash-strapped UIC.
For Dildy, the chance to coach his alma mater and hometown team would no doubt be a no-brainer in its own right. Dildy knows his opportunity with UIC is quickly approaching.
Before those planets align, Chicago State University has the opportunity to offer Dildy, recruiter to the stars, the golden chance to turn a dead-end team into a Great West leader.
Dildy is the only candidate of the three with on-court head coaching experience at the D-I level (from his years as acting head coach at DePaul), he boasts a resume of tireless recruitment excellence—he knows Chicago's best kept secrets better than anyone around—and he'll be looking, harder than anyone else, to stake his place in Chicago college basketball history with the blankest of slates.
Give Dildy two years, and he'll change the (spotlight loving) face of Chicago State alumni.
Give him more, and he'll change the course of basketball in the city of Chicago forever.
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