HUNTINGTON, W.Va.— Mike Hamirck wants to reinvigorate the Marshall fan base after two disappointing basketball seasons left the fans disinterested and disgruntled with the state of the men’s basketball program.
“We were all at the games this year in February, March,” Hamrick said. “We saw the crowds. We saw the lack of enthusiasm, lack of crowds in that building. And that’s not how you build a program.”
The Cam Henderson Center has had its moments when it has been loud, hostile and affected the visiting team. In the last couple of years, games against Memphis and Donnie Jones’ first trip back to Huntington were examples of the Henderson Center at its best. Hamrick wants the atmosphere to equal those games night in and night out.
The quickest way to re-energize is to hit a grand slam with the next basketball coach. However, that will be easier said than done with a skeptical fan base, which has been let down with the last three hires. Ron Jirsa’s teams never panned out, Donnie Jones bolted for a rival and Tom Herrion could not elevate the program to the next level.
However, in some ways the Marshall basketball program is a more attractive job than it was four years ago when Herrion took over and that should draw interest from a talented pool of candidates.
According to sources close to the situation four years ago, Herrion was not the first choice to head up the program and build on the success that Donnie Jones had established during his short two-year tenure. However, factors including salary, precluded Hamrick from hitting a home run with the hire.
“When I got here it was just like every salary here, it wasn’t even competitive,” recalled Hamrick.
When Donnie Jones left Marshall for then-conference rival UCF he more than doubled his salary.
Herrion’s original four-year contract came with a base salary of $400,000 and that figure will likely be slightly higher for his successor. Over the last four years, Hamrick has also made investments into facilities. The Cam Henderson Center, like other facilities on campus, had little improvements made during the previous athletic administration.
“I can remember walking in the Henderson Center four-and-a-half years ago and I walked through that building for the press conference when I was announced as the athletic director and I was embarrassed,” Hamrick recalled. “My first year there, if you got up above row 25,” added the former UNLV AD, “I thought I was back in Las Vegas in the middle of the desert watching a basketball game in July, it was so hot. We’ve addressed those issues.”
“We going to find the best possible coach we can, to do the things I described, to try to do with our program,” Hamrick said. “That’s what we’re interested in.”
Marshall fans need a reason to get excited about the basketball program, to attend games and to get rowdy and loud inside the Henderson Center. Giving them a quality head coach to lead the program is a good first step.