I was sorry to hear the news that Brad Soderberg had been fired. But not really surprised. After five years on the job he had no NCAA Tourney appearances and only two invites to the NIT. I don't doubt he can coach. I thought, until this season, he had always squeezed every ounce of talent he had out of his players. But, the 2006-07 season was clearly a step back. Forget the 20 wins--that's a meaningless stat these days. The seventh place finish in a weak conference is what got him fired. It was clearly a puzzling season.
The timing of the firing is interesting. Since no one (and I mean no one) at SLU is talking, I can only speculate. My guess is that Father Biondi was giving Soderberg a chance to sign a difference maker in the early signing period. That hasn't happened. So coming off a bad season with no real reason to believe 2007-08 will be great, the move was made. As hard as SLU had to work to get the arena built, they can't move into the new facility with the program heading in the wrong direction. It still may head south under a new head coach but at least now the new coach has a year to get his feet wet and hit the recruiting trail before the new building opens.
Brad Soderberg is a likeable guy. He was always great with us in the media. In fact, he was a great addition to our coverage of the Final Four in 2005. That worked out great for us. But, bad things happen to good people in the coaching business. It comes with the territory. What I don't get is why Father Biondi and Cheryl Levick have gone into hiding. I think it's classless not to have someone stepping to a podium and addressing the move. Doesn't the school owe Soderberg that? I'll quote from the release..."The university thanks Brad Soderberg for his five years leading the men's basketball program. His integrity and his dedication to his players and the program are appreciated by all SLU supporters."
If Father Biondi and Levick truly believe that then they owe it to Soderberg to announce the firing and end all the inevitable speculation and whispering. The statement that was released doesn't even have a name on it. We don't even know whose words are in the release. Not a single quote. What are they doing? Electing a pope? Or firing a coach?
The speculation about a replacement has begun. I find two guys particularly intriguing. Pete Gillen is a guy who had great success at a similar institution--Xavier. He's currently out of a job. And Kim Anderson is a guy who has built Central Missouri into a Division II powerhouse. And he's a guy with local connections, a former All Big 8 player at Mizzou.
Whoever takes over as head coach should be asking Father Biondi and Levick to correct a mistake and petiton Doug Elgin for a spot in the Missouri Valley. SLU is concerned about filling the seats in the new arena? A good start would be to replace Duquesne, Fordham and St. Bonaventure with Missouri State, SIU, and Bradley.