This summer, newly hired Dillard coach Mike Newell was asked by the school’s human resources department if athletic director Kiki Baker Barnes explained his job description.
Yes, Newell responded.
“I expect the program to begin competing for a conference championship within his first three years and eventually compete for a national championship,” Barnes said.
This from a men’s basketball program with a recent history of losing. During the past four seasons, the Bleu Devils won 15 games.
Last season, DU won five games. The Bleu Devils have not enjoyed a winning season since 2004-05. The last team to win at least 10 games was the 2008-09 squad.
Still, Newell agrees with Barnes’ winning plans at Dillard. Here’s five reasons why.
1) He’s done it before.
Newell has served as a head coach at West Alabama, Arkansas-Monticello, Lamar and Arkansas-Little Rock. During these Division I and II stints, he’s won 320 games, compiling seven 20-win seasons along with seven NCAA/NIT appearances, one appearance in the NIT semifinals, four regular-season conference championships and three conference tournament championships.
He’s also coached seven 2,000-point scorers.
2) He’s a risk-taker — in a good way.
When Dillard contacted Newell this spring, he started making phone calls before he interviewed for the job.
“You you’re not much of a coach without players,” he said.
He has already shaken hands with dozens of prospects in the South and made phone calls along the East Coast. One of his objectives is student-athletes that have transferred twice, ending their Division I status.
3) He’s not scared to have tough conversations, and they’re needed at DU.
Newell told Dillard’s returning roster of returning players — mostly guards — that many of them would not return. The Bleu Devils are in need of post players, as well as an influx of talent.
Newell said he already has five or six commitments.
4) He’s a teacher.
“You can’t be a good coach if you’re not a teacher,” Newell said.
One of the early lessons for the Bleu Devils: Elbow-to-elbow drills. The goal is to score as many layups as possible in 30 seconds. To play college basketball, to play for Newell, the minimum goal is nine.
This drill teaches players how to dip their shoulders before exploding at the rim. How to waste no body movement, dribbles included, en route to the rim.
Newell has dozens of drills that will re-teach lettermen how to play the game. This attention to details will push players to improve.
“Two things in basketball don’t lie,” said Newell, who set up his own line. “Stats and game film.”
He’s taught players and coaches.
Talladega College coach Matt Cross, the 2015 GCAC Coach of the Year, was an assistant under Newell at UAM. Last season, Cross took Talladega to the NAIA Final Four.
5) He’s old-school, and knows it.
Newell carries a flip phone with pride. He’s not ready to move up to smartphones, although he realizes he may have to in the future. For now, Newell prefers to talk versus text, and he utilizes this technique to stand out among the dozens of coaches that contact the same players he’s recruiting.
It’s been rough
The Dillard men’s basketball program has not had a winning season since the year before Hurricane Katrina. Here’s a year-by-year look at the Bleu Devils’ records:
2005-06: (Did not play)