Boston Herald: Kellogg Is Mr. Right For UMass - UMass Athletics

Boston Herald: Kellogg Is Mr. Right For UMass

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UMass coach Derek Kellogg, a former Minutemen player, is piecing together a winning program, as evidenced by his 7-0 start this season. In the Boston Herald, Steve Buckley has a great column on how Derek Kellogg is the right man for the job in Amherst.

The first time Anthony Gurley laid eyes on Derek Kellogg, he was convinced good days were ahead for the UMass basketball program.

"You could tell he wasn't just here for the job," said Gurley, a senior guard for the Minutemen who made his way to Amherst via Newton North High School with a brief stop in Winston-Salem, N.C., along the way. "Coach Kellogg has done a great job of putting together a blueprint of a top-25 program and putting us on the rise. I'm very confident in the direction this program is headed."

UMass has its mr. right
Kellogg is the ideal coach for right now
By Steve Buckley  |   Friday, December 3, 2010  |  http://www.bostonherald.com  |  Columnists
Photo
Photo by Nancy Lane

AMHERST -- The first time Anthony Gurley laid eyes on Derek Kellogg, he was convinced good days were ahead for the UMass basketball program.

"You could tell he wasn't just here for the job," said Gurley, a senior guard for the Minutemen who made his way to Amherst via Newton North High School with a brief stop in Winston-Salem, N.C., along the way. "Coach Kellogg has done a great job of putting together a blueprint of a top-25 program and putting us on the rise. I'm very confident in the direction this program is headed."

And then Gurley dropped the big one.

"I think he's here for the next 20 years," he said. "Because this is where he wants to be. I think even if he were given another job, I don't think he would take it. This is his home. This is where his support is. This is where he started. He wants to build this program to where it was when he was playing."

The Minutemen take on Boston College in the Boston Tip-Off Classic tomorrow night at 6:30 at TD Garden, a rare opportunity for UMass grads inside Route 128 to support their team without trekking out to Amherst. And a lot of hardcore UMass hoops fans see Kellogg as Gurley does: a local kid from Springfield who took his skills to UMass just as John Calipari was molding the Minutemen into a national program, and who now, years later, is doing the "Welcome Back, Kotter" bit as head coach.

Count me among the yahoos. When Kellogg took over the program two years ago, I saw him not as the next John Calipari but as the next Jackie Leaman, an assistant coach at UMass for five years who later coached the Redmen

Minutemen for 13 years, including such players as Dr. J., Al Skinner and Rick Pitino. Leaman, who grew up in Columbia Court in Cambridge, eventually stepped down as coach and devoted the rest of his years to being an overall ambassador of goodwill at the UMass campus. In a pinch, he coached the women's team for a season.

That's what Gurley sees for Kellogg: a lifer. That's what the alums see.

Me? I've changed. I want Kellogg gone.

Not in a bad way. It's just that it's not realistic to expect Kellogg to spend the rest of his life tooling around Amherst, especially when one considers he hasn't even done much with the program yet. In his first two seasons at UMass, the Minutemen were a combined 24-38. So far this season, the Minutemen have shown promise, with a 7-0 record following Wednesday's win against Quinnipiac.

So let's say the Minutemen make some inroads this season. Let's say that, oh, in a year or two, they make the NCAA tourney. Let's say they even win a round or two, and, as such, regain a measure of what the program used to be -- big crowds, national television, and so on.

And let's say that, because of that, the athletic director at some big-time basketball school -- let's call it Perennial Powerhouse State -- offers Kellogg the chance to take over its program.

What, Kellogg is supposed to say no because he grew up on Hungry Hill in Springfield?

He's supposed to say no because he'd miss the buffalo chicken

blue cheese pizza at Antonio's in Amherst Center?

He's supposed to say no because he was captain of the Minutemen during the first Clinton administration?

Ask Kellogg about this and, sure enough, he'll tell you there's no place he'd rather be. In fact, when informed of Gurley's comment about coaching the Minutemen for the next 20 years, Kellogg said, "That would be nice. There's nothing better than being at a place where you went to school, being around people that mean a lot to you, that are friends, family. And if you can be successful in that environment, I don't think there's a better place in the world. And right now, I'm loving being here and loving life."

Right now. Good for Kellogg for finessing those two little words into his quote about how great it is to be a stay-at-home coach.

Right now. It means precisely what it's supposed to mean: Right now, this is where he wants to be. But five years down the road, if he has achieved his goal of getting the Minutemen into the tournament and onto national television, who's to say what will happen?

The savvy UMass hoops fan should hope that's the way it all plays out, that Kellogg builds a top-notch program and then moves on. If Kellogg does that, then he'll be able to take a bigger job knowing that the Mullins Center will always be home.

Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/sports/columnists/view.bg?articleid=1300510

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