Better late than never?
Or can things be better than ever for the Baton Rouge Community College basketball programs?
The Bears met those questions head on with a Thursday news conference to introduce new Athletic Director Neil Hayhurst and men’s basketball coach Ricky Wilson.
“I’m very excited to be here and to be part of the BRCC family,” Hayhurst said. “I have one major goal, and that goal is to continue to build an athletic department that the community and people at BRCC can be proud of.
“We’re going to do that three ways. One, we’re going to graduate players. No. 2, we’re going to win games. That’s why everyone is here.
“And three, we’re going to recruit and develop good people. We’re not just here to create basketball players, softball players and baseball players. We’re going to recruit young men and women, and when they leave here they’ll be adults and they’ll be ready to take their next adventure.”
The news conference, held at BRCC’s Bonne Sante Wellness Center, site of the Bears’ home basketball games, also served as a media day for the men’s and women’s basketball teams. BRCC opens its basketball season next week, hosting Pearl River Community College for a men’s-women’s doubleheader on Nov. 3.
“I never thought I’d be in my second year and be the oldest one here in tenure at BRCC,” second-year women’s basketball coach Paula Lee said with a smile after being introduced.
Hayhurst was hired in August and has been on campus since September. He came to BRCC from Iowa-based Marshalltown Community College, where he served as an assistant basketball coach from 2005-08 and as Dean of Students/Athletic Director from 2008-11.
The Nebraska City, Neb., native also was a graduate assistant at Iowa State before moving into the JUCO ranks.
BRCC had been without an athletic director for over a year. When he arrived, one of Hayhurst’s first tasks was a men’s basketball coaching search that led to the hiring of Wilson, a Southern Mississippi assistant for seven years.
Wilson’s hiring was finalized two weeks ago. The former University of Idaho point guard has been in Baton Rouge for one week.
As the coaching search was going on, Hayhurst and Shawn LeFleur, previously the interim athletics director, conducted conditioning practices with the men’s team.
“Hiring a coach two weeks before the season is definitely unconventional,” Hayhurst said. “I believe we opened his office door, gave him (Wilson) the roster and said ?go get ‘em coach.’”
Wilson, an Orange, N.J. native moved to Walla Walla, Wash., as a teenager and played at Walla Walla Junior College before transferring to Idaho where he played for Larry Eustachy, most recently his boss at Southern Miss.
“Why this job ... because it’s a new program,” Wilson said. “It’s three years old, and it’s something you can build from the ground up.
“I can come in here and put my stand on it (BRCC program). During my seven years at Southern Miss, there were other opportunities, but none as appealing as this.”
The rosters for the two teams indicate a series of new challenges for both Lee and Wilson.
Lee, a former Belaire High head coach and LSU assistant, has a squad that includes 11 newcomers. BRCC was 15-11 in 2010-11, Lee’s first season.
Wilson’s BRCC men’s squad also includes few returnees from the squad Todd Foster coached to a 17-13 record a year ago. Foster, who built Christian Life Academy into a Class 1A prep power, resigned after two seasons last spring.