Rob Krimmel optimistic despite tough road ahead for St. Francis

It was one of the more tumultuous offseasons in recent memory, but you would have never detected it in the voice of first time head coach Rob Krimmel.  The newly hired Krimmel has one of the most difficult jobs in college basketball these days; he’s been asked to rebuild a St. Francis team that has missed the NEC postseason in five of the past seven seasons.  Within that time span, the St. Francis Red Flash have posted a record of 50-154.

And if the job ahead wasn’t daunting enough for Krimmel, it was made that much more arduous when Scott Eatherton, the Red Flash’s leading scorer, rebounder, and NEC Most Improved Player of the Year, unexpectedly transferred to Northeastern University a few weeks after Krimmel’s hiring.

“I was a little surprised, but it wasn’t out of the blue,” said Krimmel. “It was really bigger than basketball, [Eatherton] wanted something a little different then what St. Francis had to offer.  St. Francis is a great place; it’s a beautiful school, great tradition, great academic reputation, but like a lot of other schools, it’s not for everybody.”

Eatherton’s departure leaves the Red Flash rife with inexperience in the frontcourt, but there’s now plenty of opportunity for the incumbent players to step up.  Krimmel is particularly excited about 6-foot-11, 270 pound Storm Stanley, who enters his junior season as a relative unknown.  Despite limited playing time last season, Storm has progressed nicely this offseason in the coach’s eyes.

“He’s come a long way from where he was a year ago from the injury” said Krimmel. “His development has more so been in between the ears.  He’s a talented kid, but we’re trying to get him to play with a little more confidence.  He’s benefitting tremendously from working with Eric.”

The Eric being referred to is St. Francis alum Eric Taylor, who after a 13 year professional career, joins Krimmel’s staff as a first time assistant coach.  Taylor was selected to three All-NEC teams as a member of the Red Flash, and he currently has the 4th most rebounds in school history.  His presence on Krimmel’s staff could very well pay dividends for the frontcourt in the long run.

Those also expected to benefit from Taylor’s instruction is senior tri-captain Tony Peters, sophomore Earl Brown, and incoming freshmen Ronnie Drinnon and Stephon Mosley.  Both freshmen come into Loretto as moderately hyped recruits, with Drinnon expected to eventually mature into one of the better big men of the NEC.  For now, Krimmel is cautious about projecting Drinnon’s immediate future, even though he’s been practicing with the team since January.

“Ronnie will be one of the guys that competes for [Eatheron’s] minutes,” said Krimmel. “Ronnie is a guy who brings a ruggedness, a physicality, he’s probably our best passer as a power forward.  He brings a lot of things to the table, but he’s still going to be a freshman.”

One bright spot in a tough offseason has been the progression of junior tri-captain Umar Shannon, who returns after tearing his ACL last November.  Now healthy, Shannon will be leaned upon to score for a team that averaged a meager 0.93 points per possession last season.  The 5-foot-11 playmaker averaged 15.8 points per game, with solid shooting percentages of 0.410/0.380/0.803 in his sophomore campaign.  Shannon will feature as the Red Flash’s shooting guard, but he could certainly run the point if needed.

Besides Shannon, Krimmel has a number of versatile combo guards and wings that will be asked to contribute.  Senior Anthony Ervin was the second most valuable player last season behind Eatherton, based on win shares.  Stephon Whyatt, perhaps one of the fastest guards in the NEC, will man the point more often than not this season.   Kameron Ritter isn’t much of a scorer, but his defense (he was 7th in the NEC in steal rate at 3.28%) and ability to share the basketball (assist rate of 19.5%) should make him a mainstay on the floor.  Freshmen guards Greg Brown and Ben Millaud-Meunier could serve as nice scoring options off the bench, with the former making an impact with his defense and ball handling skills.

It’s a bevy of guards at his disposal, and with this roster Krimmel will implement a more up-tempo offense.  Then again, it won’t take much for the St. Francis to play at a faster pace.  Last year, the Don Friday coached Red Flash averaged 64 possessions per game.

What you have is multiple players competing for minutes at almost every position, with the exception of Shannon.  And that’s exactly what Krimmel wants to see. “If an experienced player isn’t bringing it, we have a couple of guys biting at his heels ready to take his minutes.  As a competitor, as an athlete, that’s what makes you better.”

It will be a rebuilding year, but at the very least the St. Francis faithful will have the energy of their head coach to look forward to.  Krimmel refuses to let his team settle for modest goals, even though St. Francis will probably finish 11th or 12th in the NEC preseason poll.

When asked what his team’s goals are for this season, Krimmel said, “I hope I don’t come across as being arrogant, but our goal is to win the Northeast Conference championship.  Why put the uniform on if everything you do isn’t geared toward winning a championship?  Why try to finish 4th, or 7th, or why try to finish just to make the playoffs?  I know we have a little bit more to prove than the next team, but everything we do on and off the court is geared toward winning a Northeast Conference championship.”

Maybe Krimmel’s confidence and optimism will finally push St. Francis out of a decade long slump.  This coach is just too proud to let his alma mater fall into Division I irrelevancy, although it will take quite an effort to lead St. Francis back to its glory days.

Ryan Peters covers Northeast Conference men’s basketball for Big Apple Buckets and Pioneer Pride.  You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s