Ray Giacoletti

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Giacoletti resigns from Drake

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Ray Giacoletti’s tenure at Drake has come to an end.

In the midst of a 1-7 start to his fourth season, Giacoletti resigned Tuesday, handing the team over for the season to assistant coach Jeff Rutter.

“I think it’s time for a new direction,” Giacoletti told reporters at a press conference announcing the news.

Giacoletti compiled a 32-69 record with the Bulldogs, whose win totals decreased in each season from 15 in 2013-14 to nine the year after and seven last season. Giacoletti’s teams never won more than six games in Missouri Valley Conference play.

Prior to his six seasons as an assistant at Gonzaga under Mark Few, Giacoletti was the head coach at both Utah and Eastern Washington for three seasons each.

Drake’s start to this season has been nothing short of a disaster with its lone win coming against a Division III school and suffering a loss to Division II Alaska Anchorage.

Rutter joined Giacoletti’s staff in 2013 after serving as both an assistant and director of operations at Iowa State for Greg McDermott and Fred Hoiberg over the course of seven seasons. Prior to that, he was an assistant at Northern Iowa for three seasons. Previous head coaching experience came at Division II Wisconsin-Parkside, where he helmed the program from 1996-2003.

Drake athletic director Sandy Hatfield Clubb would not commit to retaining Rutter beyond the remainder of this season, which continues for Drake on Saturday against Jackson State.

The question for Drake, which has made just one NCAA tournament (2008) since 1971, is who will make the next hire for the program.

Hatfield Clubb is under pressure locally with her two hires – Mark Phelps and Giacoletti – having combined for two winning seasons since Keno Davis left for Providence after Drake’s tournament appearance in 2008. She was also recently named in a civil complaint from an athletic trainer who claims he was wrongly terminated due to a medical disability.

Ray Giacoletti has high hopes for Drake basketball

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Ray Giacoletti is used to winning.

In his previous three head coaching jobs — North Dakota State, Eastern Washington, and Utah — he posted winning records at each school.

As an assistant on Mark Few’s at Gonzaga from 2007 – 2013, he won 20+ games and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in each year.

Now, as he embarks on his first year on the job at Drake, Giacoletti hopes to transform the program into the next Gonzaga. Ambitious? Perhaps. But, he ostensibly knows what it takes to win and have success at smaller schools.

It’s more than just Gonzaga, though. Giacoletti has seen what Butler and Davidson have accomplished in recent years, and believes Drake — as an institution — is capable of finding that success.

He told The Associated Press during the team’s media day:

“Maybe 10 years ago people didn’t believe you could do both,” he said Tuesday during the team’s media day. “You can do both. There’s enough people out there that have proved it. That’s something Drake needs to be, in the same sentence with Butler, Davidson and Gonzaga. That would be our hope and vision.”

Giacoletti understands a program cannot be transformed overnight: it takes an institution that is committed to success, a rabid fan-base behind the program, a good head coach, and strong recruiting — all traits of Gonzaga’s program.

He said: “Gonzaga’s been playing basketball for over 100 years. It’s the last 15 years that are prevalent. Before that, one thing rings out: John Stockton. That’s the only thing you can think of for that basketball program before 15 years ago.”

For the better part of 40 years, Drake has been stuck in neutral; many 14-18 wins seasons, but never truly becoming a fixture in the college basketball landscape. Aside from the 2007-08 season under Keno Davis where the Bulldogs went 28-5 earning a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament — a truly magical year that can aptly be categorized as a fluke considering their record in years before and after that season — Drake hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1971.

To make a parallel between Gonzaga and Drake, prior to Mark Few taking over as head coach in 1999, Gonzaga went to a mere two NCAA Tournaments in program history. Since then, 14 straight years — they have gone to the NCAA Tournament every season Few has been head coach.

Probably unreasonable to expect Giacoletti to have that kind of success right away, especially seeing as Few was a long time assistant with Gonzaga and knew the program inside and out, but it does demonstrate building a program is possible when the right people are in place and the school is committed.