Longtime Lions coach decides to step down
ST. LEO - In the same blunt, unbending and unforgiving fashion with which he has always criticized himself and his team during a trying 10 years as Saint Leo men's basketball coach, Mike Madagan came to an unavoidable conclusion about his future with the school he has guided throughout its entire university era. He was no longer the right man for the job. Madagan agreed to step down as Lions coach on Monday, following this week's Sunshine State Conference games against Eckerd and Barry. The Lions, 1-13 in conference play and 11-15 overall, already had been eliminated from postseason play by clinching last place in the SSC. He will remain with the school as an adjunct professor and assistant athletic director through the end of the school year. "I have been given every opportunity and resource needed to be successful at Saint Leo both on and off the basketball court," Madagan said in a news release. "While there were many successes and milestones achieved, we lacked the consistency the program I aspired to build needed and deserves moving forward."It is a bittersweet ending for a coach whose values and emphasis on recruiting players of high character never came into question, but who never enjoyed sustained success on the court other than the occasional upset. The Lions had a losing record in each of Madagan's 10 seasons. Though Madagan's Lions produced three SSC Freshmen of the Year and six All-SSC selections, their best finish as a team in the SSC was fourth, in 2004-05. They never made the conference tournament final or advanced to the NCAA II Tournament. Saint Leo's last SSC Tournament win came in 2008. The Lions are 103-183 overall, and 40-112 in SSC games under Madagan. Saint Leo Athletic Director Fran Reidy said Madagan came to him after the school's Christmas holiday break and brought up the possibility of stepping down following the season. Madagan had recently lost his top assistant coach, Ben Thompson, who was offered a job on the support staff of the Virginia Tech men's basketball team. Thompson was never replaced, adding more stress and responsibility to Madagan's job. "He told me the passion and the go was not what it used to be," Reidy said. "He always put Saint Leo University first, the athletic department second, and the men's basketball team after that, which ultimately may have been detrimental to his own personal and his team's success." Reidy has hired an outside consulting firm, Alden and Associates, to conduct a nationwide search for a new coach. Because the current team has seven outgoing seniors, thus plenty of scholarship money to allocate to new recruits, the incoming coach should have ample opportunity to build right away without jeopardizing the scholarships of returning players. "We typically do not take away scholarships from student-athletes," Reidy said. "Traditionally we have not allowed coaches to do that, even though our competitors do that. I think there is enough flexibility for the new coach so that we can keep that policy." Reidy expects to accept applications until March 16 and have a new coach in place by early April. He made it clear what he wants the emphasis to be during the hiring process. "Prior, successful head coaching experience at the college level, first and foremost," Reidy said. Though Madagan's success on the court was never consistent, Reidy believes the values he exhibited could be difficult to duplicate with a new coach. "I think all of our coaches will come to appreciate how much of a team player Mike has been," Reidy said. "He had a lot of wins in other areas. ...Unfortunately, the record only shows wins and losses."
Correspondent Bart O'Connell can be reached at email@example.com.