Hey, remember when the Northern Illinois athletic director said that he wouldn't require the man he hires as Ricardo Patton's replacement to come to campus before being hired. Welp! That must be what convinced revered Michigan State assistant Mark Montgomery to accept the NIU head coaching position.
For ten years Montgomery served as Tom Izzo's right-hand man. You could say he might've been a swell guy to replace Izzo had he gone to the Cleveland Cavaliers. But instead he's going to take over a program rife with question marks and questionable talent. They finished 9-21 and are losing a 20-point scorer. Eep.
Gone will be three guards: Xavier Silas, Jeremy Landers and Michael Patton. That's 43 percent of the team's scoring. There are some capable tall guys but Montgomery's key focus will be guiding the young guards, namely Antone Christian, into winning the winnable games. Montgomery was a point guard himself at MSU during the late 80s/early 90s, so you'll see this focus to continue with the Huskies program. Only, y'know ... better. (Read: he won't have to bogart anybody from a Big XII program to be successfull.)
But that's what happens half the time you go to the MAC. Either you're replacing somebody who just had a swell tournament run, or you're going to inherit a curious assortment spare parts. Flotsam, meet jetsam.
So is nine wins doable next year? I really don't know. Many MAC teams will be better next year, including those within the conference. NIU may not be that much better. If Montgomery can bring any impact freshman or junior-college transfers into the program, then we can talk. Until then, hopefully Montgomery can have coffee and crumpets with Tod Kowalczyk in Toledo about the patience needed when rebuilding a hustle program.
Fun Fact! Mark Montgomery served as head coach when Tom Izzo was suspended for one game against Prairie View A&M. Montgomery is the second Michigan State assistant coach this year to take a head coaching job in the MAC after serving as head coach on an "interim" basis. Miami coach Don Treadwell filled in for Mark Dantonio during his medical leave of absence.