Filling the house that Schroyer left

After leading Portland State to unprecedented heights, former head coach Heath Schroyer’s abrupt departure has left the men’s basketball team at a crossroads as the search for the next coach begins.

Schroyer, who engineered a worst-to-first turnaround in his three years at PSU, resigned from PSU over the weekend to assume associate head coaching duties at Fresno State and left much of the basketball team’s future up in the air. Schroyer took two of his assistants with him to Fresno State and the other left last week following Schroyer’s initial flirtation.

The program, which a week ago had three assistant coaches, now has none and what looked to be a promising recruiting class has been left unfinished.

Athletic Director Tom Burman has spent the last two days burning up the phone lines to find a new head coach who can fill in the gaps.

“We’ve got to move quick,” said Burman. “We’ve got to get someone in here in the next couple of weeks.”

Speed is of the essence, as the spring recruiting period started last week and PSU still has needs to fill should it hope to defend last year’s regular season title and try for another shot at March Madness. At the time Schroyer left, he had a promising recruit on campus and reportedly ready to sign, with another even flashier signing possible over the weekend. Now both recruits are likely lost and the team still needs a point guard and, ideally, another athlete to fill the shoes of the six departing seniors – four of whom started last year.

Recruiting expertise ranked high on Burman’s list of the qualifications the next coach must have. He identified his ideal coach as one with West Coast ties, a good personality, a commitment to student athletes and some experience coaching at a high level.

Burman said he plans to narrow his list to six candidates by the middle of this week and two of Schroyer’s former assistants, Steve Gosar and Dedrique Taylor, figure to be high atop his short list.

Gosar came to PSU with Schroyer from Wyoming in 2002 and served the duration of Schroyer’s tenure until he took an assistant position at junior college powerhouse College of Southern Idaho last week.

“I want to be the head coach at Portland State,” Gosar said when reached by phone. “I see the potential here and I think we’ve only scratched the surface of it.”

Taylor worked with Gosar during Schroyer’s first two years before taking an assistant position at Nevada last year. He had a large hand in recruiting many of the stars that led this year’s team to a 19-9 record and turned the program around.

“There’s no question I’m interested,” Taylor said. “It’s a unique opportunity.”

Both candidates retain strong ties to Portland, Gosar having yet to clean out his office and Taylor still owning property, and fulfill nearly all of Burman’s stated requirements.

“Both are good candidates,” Burman said. “[They are] guys that have good track records and who’ve done nice jobs for Portland State.”

Despite their similarities, each presents a very different profile. Gosar is beloved by his players and known for his mastery of the x’s and o’s. Taylor is an excellent recruiter and seen as an up and coming talent. Taylor is flashier, Gosar is more laid back.

Without doubt Burman’s search will identify other candidates from outside the program, but none would likely be able to heal a team hurt by Schroyer’s flip-flopping and quick departure.

Junior Anthony Washington, who sat out last season after transferring from the University of Washington, summed up what seemed to be the common sentiment on the team. “Everybody’s a little upset with the way Heath left, but it’s college basketball, you’ve got to take it for what it is. When he first told me I kind of felt betrayed, but that’s just fuel for the fire.”

Selecting a new coach without ties to the team could jeopardize the progress made during the last two years by raising the possibility of transfers. At a gloomy Monday shoot-around, players said they would wait to see who the next coach is. Many players expressed strong support for Gosar and have told Burman as much. Tellingly, the gym lit up when Gosar stopped in to clean out his office.

For now, team manager Thomas Crum is acting as the interim head coach and Burman is burning up the phone lines.

“Hopefully I’ll pull the trigger as quickly as possible,” Burman said. “The whole perception of PSU has been raised.”

Added Washington, “We’re going to be a better team next year.”

Schroyer Timeline

Nov. 22, 2002
Heath Schroyer beats Cal State Northridge in his first regular season game as PSU head coach.

Feb. 24, 2005
PSU clinches the Big Sky regular season title with an 88-82 overtime road win against Montana State.

March 8, 2005
The Viks host their first ever Big Sky Conference tournament at Memorial Coliseum. They lose to Weber State 71-61 in the semifinals and finish 19-9. They are not invited to the NIT.

April 9, 2005
After sleeping on the decision, Schroyer decides to stay at PSU and gives back position he had already accepted at Fresno State.

April 16, 2005
Schroyer tells his players he has again changed his mind and has accepted an associate head coaching position at Fresno State. He cleans out his office and is on a flight to Fresno Sunday.