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03/10/06 -

Search for coach commences at Canisius

News Sports Reporter


The search for a new men's basketball coach is on at Canisius and Athletics Director Bill Maher said the college needs to make a greater commitment to its coaching staff to compete in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Canisius announced the firing of Mike MacDonald after nine seasons Wednesday. MacDonald was making about $100,000 and the total salary of the head man and his three assistants is believed to be in the $200,000 range. That pales in comparison to some MAAC schools; conference champion Iona, for instance, pays head coach Jeff Ruland $350,000 per year.

"Finances at any level of college athletics are a consideration," Maher said Thursday. "[College President Vincent M. Cooke] and the administration are committed to building a competitive athletics program and basketball is obviously a very important part of it. They understand there are other pieces that go into it. To find the right coach for Canisius College we have to make adjustments and we're prepared to do that."

Asked if a key component is an increase in staff salaries, Maher said, "It's part of the big picture and yes it would be."

The big picture of wins and losses is what brought down MacDonald. The Golden Griffins were 9-20 this year and 108-153 in MacDonald's nine seasons.

"He's been very, very positive but you have to look at the full body of work," Maher said. "In Division I athletics, they keep score. We know where we stand and we want to improve as a college and continue to make progress."

MacDonald met with the media in the Koessler Center and said he has no immediate plans.

"Canisius is a very special place . . . It's a bottom line business unfortunately," MacDonald said. "If the only thing we can be accused of is not winning enough games, I leave here with my head held high because we've had guys who've acted the right way."

MacDonald met with his team late Wednesday night to break the news of his dismissal. The school did not make players available Thursday.

"It was difficult but I told them I was down in that locker room after Richard Jones passed away [in 2004] and that was a tragedy," MacDonald said. "[Wednesday night] was not a tragedy. We are not dealing in life and death."

Nevertheless, it was still an emotional day at the school. Maher briefly broke down when asked how difficult it was to decide the fate of his longtime friend.

"There were a lot of people on Mike's side but the decision to make this change was my decision," Maher said. "It's tough."

Maher said the three players who have already signed to play at Canisius next year will be bound to their letters of intent until they meet with the new coach. One of them, 6-foot-7 Fairport star Cory Magee, will be playing Niagara Falls Saturday night at Buffalo State.

Maher will choose the next coach without a search committee but will consult with Cooke and others. He said he's already receiving e-mails about the job and hopes to have it filled in four to six weeks. He said he will look at head coaches and assistants from all NCAA levels.

Potential candidates are two former Canisius players, Iona assistant Nick Macarchuk and Rider assistant Fred Dupree; and Marshall assistant Bob MacKinnon, a son of the longtime former Canisius coach who has also worked at Niagara, Notre Dame and North Carolina.

Also expected to pursue the job are University at Buffalo assistant Chris Hawkins; former Niagara aide Tom Parrotta of Hofstra; and Richmond assistant Carlin Hartman, the ex-Grand Island star. Maher's radar may also include Penn State-Behrend head coach Dave Niland, a former Canisius assistant with MacDonald under John Beilein.

Sources said Providence women's coach Phil Seymore, the former Canisius player and assistant, and current Canisius women's coach Terry Zeh - who moved from the men's team in 2004 - are not interested.
News Sports Reporter Rodney McKissic contributed to this report.