How quickly a year goes by. Just around this time in 2013 Marist was looking for a head coach when Jeff Bower’s name emerged as a potential candidate.
He had said that he thought his stop as a scout would help prepare him for his next college coaching job, after leaving as Marist’s associate head coach to accept a job with the Charlotte Hornets as a scout. What he didn’t know was that the NBA would keep him hooked to the point where he became a general manager as well as head coach of the Hornets franchise. After a year of consulting for NBA teams and the league office, Bower met with Tim Murray who would eventually hire him for his first college head coaching job.
It has been almost over a year since Bower’s formal interview at Marist, in which he laid out his plan to the three Red Fox captains of Jay Bowie, Adam Kemp and Chavaughn Lewis, after which he would accept the job to be their next coach less than a week after.
Bower’s Red Foxes finished in sixth place in the MAAC, their best finish since the 2007-08 season. The first year coach said he has enjoyed his first calendar year on the job.
“I’m as excited and encouraged as I was a year ago on the potential and the prospects for the future of the program,” Bower said. “I think league is terrific, the teams, the coaches, the players in it are outstanding and really play a brand of basketball that I think more people become aware of it, the more they like.”
“I’m excited about people finding out more and with success and with wins creates more exposure and more opportunities for our program and every program in the league. I think it was a great year of establishing a foundation of creating expectations and putting ourselves in position to play meaningful games in the last two to three weeks of the season and that was what we had hoped, that was a position that we hoped to be in at the beginning of the year.”
The Red Foxes lost their first nine games, three of those against teams that would be in the NCAA tournament field, but turned around their season with a five-game winning streak from mid-December to the beginning of January. From there the Red Foxes contended for the fifth place spot and the final bye in the MAAC tournament, holding an 8-8 record with four games left in the regular season, but a 1-3 finish pushed them out of that slot.
The season saw senior Jay Bowie break out, as Bower said he “had as solid and efficient a senior year as you could have” while averaging career highs with 12.4 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game and made 66 three-pointers. Adam Kemp averaged 10.1 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game, but the team’s major breakout was redshirt freshman Khallid Hart who ran away with the MAAC Rookie of the Year award.
In his first season as college head coach, Bower said that this season showed that his long term vision for the program is on track.
“I think this is going to be built with long term decisions being made, with a outlook on sustainable growth and on recruiting philosophy that is based on player development and players coming to Marist that fit the profile of the school and the opportunities that someone who is interested in being challenged academically and basketball wise can present,” Bower said.
Marist has five scholarships open prior to the April signing period, in which they will try to lock up their verbal commitments starting on April 16.
Ryan Restivo covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.