Christian should stay

Jeff Russ

I think Jim Christian made a mistake.

Think about it, he’s leaving a place where there are no extreme expectations, four media outlets, a small, but consistent and supportive fan base, and most important: a winning basketball program.

As Christian left, I wonder if he thought about the men he replaced at Kent State — Gary Waters and Stan Heath. Both left for bigger jobs, Waters to Rutgers and Heath to Arkansas. Both were fired from those jobs.

I understand Christian is not worried about TCU firing him right now, but it should be in the back of his head.

Not Kent State, but Dan Monson was the first coach of Gonzaga when the Bulldogs became a national power. He left for Minnesota and struggled for years before being fired. Gonzaga stayed strong when Mark Few took over and now he wins the West Coast Conference nearly every year and makes the NCAA Tournament every year. And he hasn’t left Spokane, Wash.

I thought Christian would be our Mark Few. He took over a great situation and only made it stronger. Christian won two Mid-American Conference Championships and leaves with the highest winning percentage in the history of the MAC.

I thought he would pick up where Waters and Heath left, and he would continue to win 20 games every season while being a contender in the MAC.

Instead, he threw it all away for TCU of all places. He already was outcoached once by a Mountain West coach, UNLV’s Lon Kruger. I can imagine Kruger is licking his chops right now thinking about coaching against Christian twice a year.

Why go from the MAC to the Mountain West. I understood when Waters went to Rutgers and Heath went to Arkansas. They were major steps up from Kent State.

Christian is a great coach, you can’t argue the success he had here, so why would you walk away from this.

Look at what is here: A gym that is constantly improving (the M.A.C. Center), a team that wins every season, the opportunity to win a conference tournament every season, a media that loves him and one of the best athletic departments in the MAC.

There’s something I’m missing … oh yeah almost the entire team returns. Yeah the loss of Mike Scott and Haminn Quaintance hurts, but MAC Player of the Year Al Fisher and Chris Singletary both return. Fisher was the Flashes’ best player down the stretch last season, and there is unlimited potential with him for next season.

I’m weary of Christian’s ability to win at TCU. The last time this team went to the tournament was 1998. The Flashes have made the tournament five times since then. They have won 20 games or more since then.There is some winning reputation that Christian can use at Kent State when he is recruiting.

What does he say to recruits at TCU? I know he can talk about building a winning program in Fort Worth, Texas, but it’s not 10 seasons with 20 wins. He will never be fired from Kent State, and the crowd will be there when it matters the most if he just stays consistent.

There is no pressure on Jim Christian to win, but all he does is win. The Stater, The Beacon Journal nor The Plain Dealer, will ever start a “fire Jim Christian” campaign. Now he goes to TCU, a place with no winning tradition and a giant gym they cannot sellout. If he doesn’t change things, he will be out the door like the rest of them.

I don’t know about Christian, but I would rather be Mark Few, a coach who proved you can succeed long term in a mid-major, than Stan Heath, who left a great situation at a mid-major and failed at the next level.

Contact sports reporter Jeff Russ at [email protected].