Troy Dannen didn’t wear a construction hat Monday.
Instead, Tulane’s athletic director settled for a suit and tie.
But anyone who happened to be walking around the Tulane campus Monday could probably see that the school’s athletic programs, now under Dannen’s guidance, are under heavy construction.
Well, reconstruction, actually.
The reconstruction started early in the morning, with the football team going through its first spring practice under new coach Willie Fritz.
It continued just a few hours later, when the school officially announced that it was parting ways with men’s basketball coach Ed Conroy after six seasons, publicly confirming what hasn’t been much of a secret.
Conroy’s firing became inevitable as the Green Wave lost 22 games this season. Going back to its days as a member of Conference USA, Tulane went a dismal 2-50 against conference teams that finished the season with a winning record.
Attendance dwindled as well.
“We have to create a renewed enthusiasm and excitement for men’s basketball at Tulane in the community, among our alums and all of our constituencies,” Dannen said. “And then provide the armor necessary in the tool belt for the next coach to compete at the level we want to compete.”
Now Dannen gets a chance to make yet another critical hire for the program. He will want to make a big splash with this hire.
If the Fritz hire is any indication, Dannen may go for a coach who is a proven winner, regardless of what level he coached on.
Maybe he will go after someone with Louisiana ties like Butch Pierre.
Pierre, currently an assistant head coach at Oklahoma State, is a Darrow native who spent time as an assistant at LSU and was once interim coach there. He knows the area and could help the school land some of the state’s top talent — or at least some of the top guys in the city.
Dannen likely will have plenty of worthy choices. He realizes the Tulane job may be considered more of a stepping stone, a place to vault a coach to a higher-profile job. He doesn’t mind that one bit.
“Encourage it,” he said. “Because I will tell you, if someone uses our job to step to the next place, that will mean we’ve done something we were not doing. At that point in time, then it’s on me to make this job attractive enough and invested enough in salary that this isn’t a lesser job than that person is striving to do.”
Whoever lands the job won’t be among the highest-paid coaches in the league.
“Four coaches are making $2.5 million or more, so no,” Dannen said. “But we are going to pay at a level that is competitive to the point that I can get the type of coach here that I know we need to get.”
Dannen hopes to hire someone by the time the Final Four rolls around the first weekend in April. It will be his second major hire in four months.
Fritz got started Monday.
“We’re creating good habits, trying to over-exaggerate effort,” he said after the first practice. “We have a lot of things we have to clean up, obviously.”
Fritz used a tape recorder to dictate notes to himself during practice. He ended up with about 40-something notes after practice, where players focused on some of the details, like taking care of the football.
He was referring to his offensive line when he used the term “work in progress.”
But he very well could have been referring to the Tulane football and basketball programs, both of which on this day began major reconstruction.