St. Francis Red Flash unexpectedly lose Scott Eatherton

It’s been a difficult offseason for St. Francis (PA) to say the least. After missing the NEC tournament for the 5th time in 7 years, head coach Don Friday was forced out, approximately 8 weeks after their season ended. And if the questionable timing wasn’t enough, the St. Francis AD immediately hired his own son, Rob Krimmel, to replace Coach Friday without conducting an external search. To be fair, Krimmel was an assistant coach for the Red Flash the past 12 seasons, but the whole situation seemed a little fishy for people observing on the outside.

Unfortunately for St. Francis, the lousy offseason just got that much worse.

Scott Eatherton, the Northeast Conference’s Most Improved Player of the Year, will transfer to Northeastern next season, leaving a gaping hole in the Red Flash’s frontcourt. The second year power forward averaged 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game, despite only playing 10 minutes per game in his previous season as a freshman. And now, perhaps spurred on by Friday’s unexpected dismissal, Eatherton leaves a St. Francis club that suddenly lacks offensive firepower.

This announcement, as reported by Adam Zagoria, comes on the heels of a tweet by the “official” St. Francis men’s basketball Twitter page. Last week, the St. Francis Twitter page tweeted this message, which bragged about Eatherton’s efficiency shooting the basketball (he did lead the NEC with an effective field goal percentage of 62.5%). Four days after the tweet was posted, Eatherton had departed the St. Francis campus for good.  Either the Twitter page isn’t really official, or there’s just terrible communication within their athletic department.

Questionable tweet aside (or should I say tweets), Eatherton’s departure is obviously a big blow to the immediate and long term future of the Red Flash. With junior guard Umar Shannon returning from a torn ACL, it was certainly conceivable that St. Francis could return to the NEC tournament as a 7th or 8th seed next season. Without Eatherton though, it’s difficult to envision this roster finishing better than 10th overall. Coach Krimmel now must replace Eatherton’s production and frontcourt defense, which impressively produced 3.1 win shares (the next best St. Francis player, Anthony Ervin, had 1.2 win shares). It’s a daunting task, especially since most of the other NEC teams are improved heading into the 2012-13 season.

The Northeastern Huskies acquire a skilled big man that should undoubtedly improve their depth. Eatherton will have to sit out next season as a transfer, but the Huskies will get two seasons of eligibility starting in the 2013-14 season. (That is unless Eatherton has a second cousin living in Boston with a head cold, then maybe the NCAA will kindly grant him a hardship waiver)

What was meant as a rebuilding project at St. Francis four years ago with Don Friday’s hiring, is unfortunately happening once again.  St. Francis will now move forward with a very young roster and a first time head coach.  Their transition will have most NEC teams, at least in the immediate future, excited to pick up their one or two automatic wins against the hapless bunch in Loretto, PA.

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