To say that Donnie Tyndall didn’t leave Sean Woods with a bare cupboard when he decided to take over at Southern Miss would be an accurate statement to make.
The Morehead State program has been a consistent contender in the OVC in recent years, which includes a 2011 OVC title and an NCAA tournament win over Louisville.
The task for Woods, who took the job after leading Mississippi Valley State to the NCAA tournament last season, is to pick up where Tyndall led off and take the Eagles to new heights.
With that in mind the former Kentucky Wildcat point guard has been a busy man since taking over, making multiple speeches to alumni groups and other supporters of the university.
This off-season’s been about firing up a fan base that expects Morehead State to compete for conference championships, and Woods has not backed away from the expectations.
As he said at his introductory news conference, Woods wants to make Morehead State “the Gonzaga of the South.” That is to say a mid-major program that can compete with any college team.
Woods smiled and nodded when asked if he used the same line — Gonzaga of the South — to describe his intentions when he became coach at Mississippi Valley State.
“I did,” he said, “and we were headed that way.”
To say the least that’s a very lofty goal to have when considering what Gonzaga has accomplished since they made that first run to the Elite 8 in 1999.
That season was the first of 13 straight that culminated with an NCAA appearance for the Bulldogs, who have also gone out and accepted many challenges in their non-conference schedule as well.
If that’s what Woods has in mind for Morehead State that certainly isn’t a bad goal to shoot for. But it won’t be easy given the presence of programs such as Murray State and league newcomer Belmont.
Coming off of an 18-15 season (10-6 OVC), Morehead State has to account for the loss of two of their top three scorers (Terrance Hill and Ty Proffitt) this season.
Hill missed the second half of the season with a knee injury so there’s some experience in that regard, and 6-7 forward Drew Kelly returns for his senior campaign as do guard Marsell Holden and forward Milton Chavis.
Taking over a new program is never easy, but the fact that Morehead State has a history of success should help Woods and his staff as they look to return the program to the NCAA tournament.
Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.