Graphic courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications
By Bennett Conlin (This content was originally published in our newsletter)
Rowe’s fourth year – It’s happening, whether you like it or not. Athletic Director Jeff Bourne shared his support for Louis Rowe in a letter to fans. Rowe will earn a fourth season as the head coach of JMU men’s basketball. The Dukes are 34-64 through his first three years, but next year’s roster is loaded, and the Dukes believe they can take a step forward.
Thoughts on the letter – The idea behind it is fantastic. If you’re going to bring Louis Rowe back, he deserves a vote of confidence from his AD. The execution of the letter left a bit to be desired, though. Bourne mentions that Rowe “didn’t have much opportunity to impact his roster in his first season” and added a line about Stuckey Mosley not being 100 percent in the CAA tournament.
I don’t love the excuse that Rowe couldn’t impact his roster in his first season. Tell that to Mike Houston, who inherited a JMU football program in need of a culture change and turned the Dukes into national champions. Given the football team’s talent, willingness to get better and senior leadership, the comparison is apples to oranges, but here’s a question: If the team didn’t buy into Rowe’s philosophy in his first season, why haven’t the last two teams been able to match the first team’s seven CAA wins? The last two years, JMU finished just 6-12 in the CAA both seasons. Did the Dukes get worse once they bought in?
It’s the right decision – I have significant doubts about Rowe’s ability to develop into an elite in-game coach, but the man can recruit and he bleeds purple. Those aren’t great reasons to keep a coach, but JMU isn’t in a position to get greedy. The roster is going to look fantastic for each of the next two seasons. Why not give Rowe a chance to lead those guys to a CAA title for the final two years of his contract? If it doesn’t work out, JMU can make a move. If it does, the Dukes have an alumnus at the helm leading JMU to the NCAA tournament. That’s ideal.
So … what now? – Listen to Bourne’s interview with Dave Thomas. Bourne discusses the expectation of winning a CAA title once every four seasons. Given Bourne’s line in his letter to fans about more or less ignoring Rowe’s first year, I think Bourne wants a CAA title in the next two seasons. After the next two seasons, Rowe will have been the head coach for five years, but it’s only four if you use mental gymnastics and ignore Rowe’s first season, which Bourne appears to be doing. I believe Bourne’s comments show that Rowe will stay in Harrisonburg for two more full seasons unless the wheels fall off next year.
Bourne also talked about trying to schedule more difficult opponents next season, specifically teams in the Virginia region. That’s a good idea and would help the team prepare for CAA play.
The future is a little murky for JMU men’s basketball, but the talent is there for this team to take a trip to the Big Dance soon. Bourne believes Rowe is the guy to lead the Dukes to their first CAA title since the 2012-13 season. Will Bourne be right?