Butch adds the head coach of a top recruit to his staff as Director of Player Personnel

Butch Davis is pulling out all the stops to attract top players to UNC.

Carolina is off to a quick start in 2009 recruiting with 11 commitments so far, including 4-star prospect Josh Adams who is mentioned in the linked article. It seemed like odd timing for Adams to commit so early in the process, however it makes a little more sense now:

Since his departure from Cambridge in December, Paul Gonnella said he has been all over the country, around the clock, in search of the right coaching job. Finally, the most prominent virtue he expressed -– patience -– appears to have paid off.

Gonnella said has accepted a job last week at the University of North Carolina to be the football program’s Director of Player Personnel and Assistant Recruiting Coordinator. The job offer would effectively end a four-month journey that Gonnella said spanned eight states and included a stint as an assistant coach for the U.S. Army All-American Game. Last month, the Raleigh News & Observer reported that UNC got a commitment from former Cambridge wide receiver Joshua Adams, a top recruit in the class of 2009, who is now at Cheshire (Conn.) Academy. Word filtered out in January that Adams had left Cambridge to attend the college preparatory school in the Nutmeg State.

The hiring of high school coaches of key recruits is a fairly common practice. It isn’t always necessarily a shady practice as most coaches are hired because of pre-existing relationships and networking. Most NC State fans remember Larry Brown’s hiring of Danny Manning’s father while at Kansas.

Former NC State head coach Herb Sendek hired Mark Phelps who was coaching Damon Thornton and Kenny Inge during the Wolfpack’s recruitment.

As the poster below added, Herb also hired Sean Miller whose younger brother Archie was a top 40 junior recruit at the time. Damon Thornton was the first player that Herb Sendek landed after he was hired. Kenny Inge and Archie Miller were part of a six man recruiting class the following year that was ranked in the top 10 by www.prepstars.com. Inge (top 65~), Miller (top 40~) and Ron Kelly (top 60~) were the three highest rated recruits in that class that also included Cornelius Williams (top 125), Ron Anderson (top 150+) and Rhouldra Thomas (top 150+).

It is always difficult to know the exact assignments of assistant coaches once they are on a campus, but if I remember correctly Phelps was a solid contributor at NC State. I think he was responsible for finding Engin Atsur who turned into a four year starter for NC State and remains on Herb Sendek’s staff at Arizona State.

Phelps, who had been a member of the Wolfpack staff for a decade after enjoying tremendous success in the high school ranks, added a new list of responsibilities last year as he also was NC State’s Director of Scouting and Recruiting Coordinator. The 1996 Old Dominion graduate had spent the previous six seasons as an assistant after serving as the Wolfpack’s Director of Basketball Operations for four years. He originally joined the NC State program after a highly successful tenure as a high school head coach.

Phelps spent two seasons (1995-96) at Atlantic Shores Christian High School in Chesapeake, Va., where his teams compiled a 44-12 record. His 1996 squad finished 20-3 and set school marks for winning percentage (.870) and fewest losses. Two of his former Atlantic Shores players went on to play basketball and graduate from North Carolina State — Damon Thornton and Kenny Inge.

Sean Miller obviously has become very successful as a head coach leading Xavier to the Elite 8 this year. He eventually left NC State after Herb’s fifth season after not being hired by at least one small college program (Robert Morris?). If I remember correctly, then he took a position on Thad Matta’s staff at Xavier. Matta and S. Miller were assistants for Herb Sendek at Miami, OH(thanks to poster below for that information), Matta is now the head coach at Ohio St., and Matta recently recently hired Archie Miller away from Herb Sendek. If you aren’t confused yet, then Thad Matta also has another former NC State/Sendek assistant on his staff at Ohio St. in John Groce who originally left NC State to join Matta at Xavier around Herb’s third of fourth year in Raleigh.

Following the Miller brothers should be interesting over the next few years. Clearly, Sean has elevated himself to a level where a BCS school will eventually come calling as long as he keeps winning. At Xavier in their conference, the winning should continue. Archie is now in a great position working for one of the best coaches in the country in Thad Matta. Hopefully, Sean stays put for a few more years. Xavier has sent two former head coaches to ACC jobs(Gillen to UVa, Prosser to Wake) and Matta to Ohio St.

Sendek continued to use the practice of hiring HS coaches in his transition to Arizona State where he quickly hired Scott Pera from the high school ranks. Pera’s biography on Arizona State’s website states the following:

Pera’s path is similar to that of current ASU Associate Head Coach Mark Phelps, who has been part of Coach Sendek’s staff for 11 years. Phelps joined Coach Sendek’s North Carolina State staff in 1996 as the Wolfpack Director of Operations after a successful high school coaching career in Virginia.

“This is an exciting time to be a part of Arizona State basketball,” notes Pera, who coached incoming ASU McDonald’s All-American James Harden at Artesia as well as current point guard Derek Glasser. “The transition from high school is always difficult, so the familiarity will be an advantage in working with James and as Derek progresses”

Football Recruiting General

26 Responses to Butch adds the head coach of a top recruit to his staff as Director of Player Personnel

  1. StateFans 04/14/2008 at 10:00 AM #

    Director of ‘Player Personnel’?

    Is this the friggin NFL?

  2. WTNY 04/14/2008 at 10:13 AM #

    And “Assistant Recruiting Coordinator”? Do most schools have one of those or is UNC-CH just making up jobs now?

  3. El Scrotcho 04/14/2008 at 10:22 AM #

    Always smells fishy, but it’s definitely a well worn path. I worry less when you see the incoming coach actually taking up an official coaching spot (of which there are a limited number). In that case if you’re just taking him to get the kid, you’re shooting yourself in the foot by eating up one of the finite coaching slots and likely hurting the rest of the team. Now in cases where the coach comes into an administrative position (which I assume are limited only by the resources of the athletic department) it sure smells a lot worse.

  4. PackMan97 04/14/2008 at 10:41 AM #

    Don’t forget that Sendek also hired Sean Miller and that year received a commitment from Sean’s younger brother, Archie.

    To be fair, Miller was an assistant with Herb at Miami, OH for two years before Miller left to join Pitts staff.

    SFN: Is this^ true? I don’t remember.

  5. packbackr04 04/14/2008 at 10:43 AM #

    i wonder how much $ someone like that makes. i mean i had friends who were great athletes and played D1 sports… if i had only known i just had to leach onto them to make it big. How do you sleep at night, knowing your “success” has been totally dependant on a kid who you have manipulated to go to school where you could get the best job.

  6. BoKnowsNCS71 04/14/2008 at 10:45 AM #

    And didn’t HS hire Sean Miller in order to get Arch? And though it did not work out Mr Pres Maravich did coach at State with hopes of getting young Peter to play here until LSU hired them both.

    I would say it’s a smart move. For MFBD the future is now. He needs to show he can win, build and keep those big fat raises coming.

  7. MatSci94 04/14/2008 at 10:55 AM #

    From Sean Miller’s Bio at http://goxavier.cstv.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/miller_sean00.html

    “Miller began his coaching career as an assistant under Stu Jackson at Wisconsin in the 1992-93 season. After the stop in Wisconsin, then Miami (Ohio) head coach Herb Sendek offered him a full-time spot on his staff. The RedHawks made postseason appearances in both of Miller’s two seasons at Miami (1993-95), including the 1994-95 team that finished 23-7 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Second Round. Miller left Sendek’s staff for one year, spending the 1995-96 season as an assistant under Ralph Willard at his alma mater, Pittsburgh. Miller reunited with Sendek in 1996, this time for the first of five seasons at North Carolina State. The Wolfpack made four postseason appearances in the five years (1996-2001) while Miller was at NC State, including the 2000 NIT Semifinals.”

  8. choppack1 04/14/2008 at 11:01 AM #

    See, here’s the thing, if you look who Phelps brought to the program short term and long term – is it a smart move?

    Was Phelps instrumental in the signing of the class that turned the program around? (It’s worth noting that several of the previous classes were highly regarded and could have helped us get to the tourney) But the class of Hodge, Powell, Evtimov, Collins and Watkins is the class that turned the proverbial corner. I’d also say that when you look at the critical players involved in the 2001-2002 season that allowed us to break through – you had Grundy, Arch, Melvin, Cliff and Scooter. You then had guys like Cam, Bethel, Simmons and Atsur who helped us sustain – replacing the likes of Grundy, Arch, Melvin, Cliff and Scooter.

    In Larry Brown’s case, it was obviously worth it. I think we UNC signed Ken Browning – it’s probably been beneficial both long and short term.

  9. SuperStuff 04/14/2008 at 11:03 AM #

    He went to 8 states and couldn’t find a football coaching job? LOL….

  10. Mr. O 04/14/2008 at 11:09 AM #

    How could I forget Herb hiring S. Miller?

  11. MatSci94 04/14/2008 at 11:59 AM #

    A couple of points from the bio piece I posted about the Sendek and Miller connection.

    1. Miller was already a college asst coach, and not a HS coach who was given a break.

    2. Miller worked for Sendek at Ohio first, then joined his staff again here.

    I’m not saying that there wasn’t some kind of deal that Arch would come here as well, just that this is no where near as sleazy as some of these situations are. (Not that anyone was saying so, but I just wanted to be clear)

  12. blackdom 04/14/2008 at 12:00 PM #

    Yep I remember Miller had a history with herb and also was an asst here.
    But why not hire someone who you saw coach here and in all eyes was an up and coming PROVIN coach.
    Btw whose brother in law has that director of basketball operation gig here?

  13. PackMan97 04/14/2008 at 12:03 PM #

    Mr. O, as I stated in my post, Herb and Sean had worked together previously prior to Herb bringing Sean on as an assistant at NC State.

    I don’t feel that the situation is comparable to Gonnella, Manning, Phelps or the number of other times something similar has been done. In those cases, there is no prior relationship.

    In the case of Miller, he likely left Miami, OH to take a lateral position in the Big East. When his former boss called and said he could be his top assistant at an ACC school, I’m sure Miller jumped on it.

    That said, I think the real “smell” test is how long the newly hired coach sticks around after the recruited player leaves. In the case of Phelps he’s still with Sendek at ASU. Sometimes when recruiting a player a college coach can become very impressed with the head coach and want to offer him a job. There is nothing wrong with that as was obviously the case with Mark Phelps. Now, a question of ethics arises when the coach leaves the same time a player leaves in which case he was likely only there because the recruit was there. That’s not such a good thing.

    I think there is a long list of things to criticize Sendek for, hiring Miller and Phelps should not be on that list. (Unless of course you feel he should have hired someone else, in which case it’s a valid, if a bit odd criticism 😛 )

  14. Mr. O 04/14/2008 at 12:29 PM #

    Who is criticizing Sendek? Who says there was any kind of deal to get Archie?

    I was just trying to be fair since the main point of this topic was Butch’s recent hire. I felt that pointing out that we have had similar situations in recent years.

    As far as the commentary on Miller, Miller, Phelps, Sendek, and Matta, I just thought it was interesting how they are all so connected.

    Another former Herb Sendek assistant is also at Ohio St with matta: John Groce.


  15. Wolf Dog 04/14/2008 at 3:07 PM #

    Butch don’t want to get stuck at UNX. He moved his spring game to avoid the embarressment of having no one there cause the B-Ball team was playing the same day in the final four, and sited the weather as the reason. Butch was sweating it big time this past Feb. on national signing day. He didn’t do near as well as he thought he would and got embarressed on his lack of instate commits. Butch learned recruiting has changed since he coached Miami got to get them early. Plus Butch has to recruit nationally many of the state high school coaches already see him as a used car salesman.
    Frankly, Butch has a severe case of Mack Brown disease he needs to win as quick as possible to land a job he really wants.

  16. turfpack 04/14/2008 at 8:05 PM #

    B.D. is best ,all world,the smartest coach,has alot of early commitmemts this year-BAH BAH BAH
    Until he proves he can coach in the present day college game,all those tricks of the trade don’t mean sh&%.
    As a football coach I say=Put Up on the field or SHUT UP!
    If you can get real athletic football players and coach -you can win.
    And Sociology(Duke)African American Studies(UNX)Commmunications(State)they all know where to put certian incoming athletes.

  17. SuperStuff 04/14/2008 at 9:02 PM #

    Stupid field goal kicker for Duke. If he would have just put that baby through the uprights. Butchie would have really looked like a bargain.

    I have no problem with high school coaches making the jump to college. Just don’t want to hear a guy get a job because a player put the pinch on the college to hire his old coach. You seriously don’t want a player with that amount of control in a situation. TOB would have too much integrity for that kinda crap.

  18. Ed89 04/15/2008 at 8:19 AM #

    ^^^And though it did not work out Mr Pres Maravich did coach at State with hopes of getting young Peter to play here until LSU hired them both.

    That’s not really the reason Press left for LSU. He couldn’t get Pete into N.C. State!! I’ve heard for years that Pete wanted to play for State and admissions would not let him in.

    ^^^Btw whose brother in law has that director of basketball operation gig here?

    Is Q. Jackson someone’s brother in law? Haven’t heard that one. I just thought he knew Sid from the DeMatha (then State) Days — although he was 5-6 years younger than Sid.

  19. Elrod 04/15/2008 at 8:49 AM #

    Director of Player Personnel and Assistant Recruiting Coordinator

    This specific hire was made for one reason: To make sure the right “Personnel” are available to the “Players”, so he assists in the “Recruitment” of those “Personnel”, especially those not carrying knives. In a nutshell, he is a newfangled pimp.

  20. blackdom 04/15/2008 at 9:15 AM #

    ^Me thinks we needs a new pimp?

  21. Noah 04/15/2008 at 9:26 AM #

    That’s not really the reason Press left for LSU. He couldn’t get Pete into N.C. State!! I’ve heard for years that Pete wanted to play for State and admissions would not let him in.

    Absolutely true. The ACC had a minimum SAT threshold of 800. It was one of the reasons South Carolina left the ACC.

    The league ruled that South Carolina had played two games with ineligible players (SAT related) and forfeited their games. Then they wanted to get in a kid from New Jersey named Mike Grosso for basketball. He had a 789, so the ACC wouldn’t allow him.

    After that, South Carolina started getting hassled by the NCAA for their recruitment of Grosso. The gamecocks started making noise about cancelling part of their conference schedule. They complained that Dook had ratted them out and given them the shaft.

    The ACC eventually said they would allow incoming freshmen to have a 1.6 GPA, but still had to get 800 on their SATs and wouldn’t lower it.

    Around 1970, it looked like South Carolina and Clemson were both going to pull out.

    State’s chancellor, John Caldwell, led a committee that eventually settled on a floating GPA/SAT requirement. If you got in the 700s on your SATs, you had to have a 1.75 GPA. The gamecocks and Tigers still didn’t like it.

    On 3/29/71, the South Carolina BOT said that they were leaving the conference. But they implied that it would be temporary (meaning they hoped to blackmail the conference). But when Clemson’s president said the Tigers were staying, the gamecocks basically just got shut out. Two days later, the ACC voted unanimously to accept the gamecocks cowardice.

  22. Noah 04/15/2008 at 9:28 AM #

    Is Q. Jackson someone’s brother in law?

    I think that was a joke. He’s so completely unqualified and inept, it must be nepotism keeping him here.

  23. Ed89 04/15/2008 at 10:30 AM #

    Good info, Noah. Thanks for the clarifications, especially about Q. Jackson. 🙂

  24. highstick 04/15/2008 at 12:29 PM #

    Noah, totally right(as usual) with South Carolina/ACC issue. The only emphasis to add is that South Carolina really felt “shafted” by Clemson backing out on the deal to leave the conference. That probably also still “heats up the rivalry” between the fans of the two schools who are old enough to remember that.

    I was at State when Maravich stepped in after Case got sick. Seems like Pete went to prep school and still couldn’t get the grades to get into State. Also overlooked, but I sure could tell the difference having been at State 63-65 and then 70-72 was that prior to the mid 60’s, State was still basically an engineering and ag school with only a few majors in liberal arts or education, being available. There was the old Recreation, Parks and Admin degree, but I can assure you it was a lot tougher in the math and science deparments during that early era than it was when I came back in 70 and the liberal arts field has expanded dramatically. I can’t say whether is was teaching methods or my “head was screwed on a little straighter” at that time, but it was like “night and day for me”.

  25. redfred2 04/16/2008 at 11:50 AM #

    So from what I read above I’m guessing that if Butch Davis keeps this stuff up, he’ll soon have “class act” status.

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