Don’t blame Corey Gipson one bit. Thank him for his remarkable season — no, that’s not plural — as Northwestern State’s men’s basketball coach.
Accept the new paradigm in college sports. You may detest the transfer portal, not to mention Name, Image and Likeness payments to athletes. But those are defining standards these days.
Coaching moves after brief stays were happening before the portal or NIL. They felt like the portal, and resulted from the motivation behind the NIL. There’s lots of money in reach climbing the ladder in college sports. Now the players can access it, too.
Sources indicate by moving to Austin Peay, Gipson will nearly double his $160,000 base salary at NSU as the Governors open a new arena. Those are undeniable and understandable incentives. It’s his alma mater, where he played in Austin Peay’s glory days. Can’t deny that appeal, although it’s a nice sidebar, not the primary motivation.
Also nice for Northwestern: a contract buyout, said to be at least $100,000 and maybe almost twice that, a tab his new employer will have to pay the Demons. APSU’s $178 million university budget would rank third in Louisiana higher education, behind only LSU and UL Lafayette, nearly $100 million higher than Northwestern’s, so the Govs can do such things.
Speculation that has swirled for weeks about Gipson’s upward mobility crystalized over the weekend, with reputable national basketball observers and others reporting he was heading to Austin Peay after one 22-win season in Natchitoches. APSU made it official with a Tweet posting its announcement Sunday night.
Gipson spent 356 days as the Demons’ coach. Don’t let that upset you.
He accomplished a bunch, built around a core of three outstanding players – DeMarcus Sharp, Ja’Monta Black and Isaac Haney – who loyally followed him to Natchitoches from Missouri State, where Gipson was an assistant coach for seven seasons. He boldly signed Hansel Enmanuel, whose journey from the amputation of his left arm when he was six had already earned global notice and a huge social media following.
The patient development of Enmanuel into a player able to start and play some significant minutes as the season ended is a fabulous achievement for all involved, especially Gipson. The mind-blowing exposure Northwestern got in conventional and social media pathways was justifiably phenomenal, and the young man proved he was not a “dog and pony show,” Gipson said after the Southland Conference Tournament championship loss on Wednesday.
Gipson continued the long tradition of community service established by his predecessor, Mike McConathy, who received a prestigious National Association of Basketball Coaches’ “Guardians of the Game” award in 2012 for community outreach through educational initiatives off campus. Gipson, staff and coaches did a wonderful job coming in blind and quickly getting involved across the community with good causes, and making new inroads. They were quite justified in talking about it, although the impression of some that it was beyond comparison to anything prior with the program was way off-base.
Northwestern president Dr. Marcus Jones and athletics director Kevin Bostian surely knew Gipson’s departure became inevitable in the last 2-4 days as the coach visited Austin Peay and contract terms were wrapping. There were plenty of rumors floating about a hefty pay hike Jones supposedly proposed for Gipson, but it seemed implausible. Adding tens of thousands of dollars would have shattered the salary structure not only in the athletic department, but across campus, at a time when the university is laying off employees and making brutal budget decisions in the wake of an enrollment free-fall hardly unique to NSU – although it’s not just because of COVID, despite what the party line has been.
You can bank on it that Bostian and Kyle Bowlsby, who is the one-man search firm that identified both Bostian and Gipson for NSU last year, already have a list of potential successors and those are being vetted, at least.
There probably have been some conditional conversations with a handful of candidates in case the job opened. Don’t expect there to be much of a gap in hiring the new guy. It’s the way the business gets done nowadays, and that’s necessary, because every competitor is already building next year’s team.
Speaking of that – don’t be surprised if there’s a total roster rebuild. It’s as likely as the Academy Awards running way too long that Black, Enmanuel, Haney, Sharp and some other 2022-23 Demons will be at Austin Peay in the fall.
Fair, and feasible with the portal. The mindset that players choose a school primarily because of the institution and its community is secondary to recruits or transfers being totally invested in their coach – and available dollars from scholarships and financial aid and if any exists (there’s only a trickle at NSU), NIL money.
Bottom line: the landscape is very different than what St. Denis saw in 1714. It’s not much like what Demon fans enjoyed under McConathy when north Louisiana prep stars Chris Thompson, Clifton Lee and Jermaine Wallace, then Will Mosley, James Hulbin, Jalan West and Zeek Woodley wowed with their feats in the best of times for modern-day Demon basketball, featuring three trips and two wins in March Madness .
Perhaps Bostian, Bowlsby and Jones can pick another winner, and this time, he’ll stay a little longer — not 23 years, but maybe 3-4? It’s happened before at Northwestern.
After five years at his alma mater in Natchitoches, baseball coach Jim Wells got the Alabama job in 1994. Athletic director Tynes Hildbrand hired Dave Van Horn, who has become one of the game’s icons at Arkansas. When Van Horn left in December 1997, young NSU AD Greg Burke picked John Cohen, who is now Auburn’s AD after a long, highly successful coaching career at Mississippi State and Kentucky. Cohen left NSU in 2001, and Burke brought back Wells’ assistant Mitch Gaspard, who also became head coach at Alabama.
Demon fans are hoping for some of that magic.
Contact Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org