MAC Basketball Season Review: Coles, Mavunga Depart Miami After Season of Lowlights

MACsketball 2011-12 was pronounced dead on March 25, 2012. We continue our look back on the season with a series of recaps focusing on each team.

Miami
Record:
9-21 Overall, 5-11 MAC
Finish: 6th in the MAC East, 10th overall.
MAC Tournament: Lost to Toledo in opening round.

There is one thing that Miami never disappoints in doing, and this is putting on a show at the right time.

Whether it is football, and the run that Ben Roethlisberger put together, or basketball, with Wally Szczerbiak, the RedHawks can find that spotlight.

The lights were pretty dim this season, but leave it to the most interesting coach in the MAC, Charlie Coles, to turn on the charm when it mattered.

Coles picked his post-game press conference at the MAC Tournament to retire. There was no better time for the man so associated with coaching in the MAC -- and apparently for taking his vacations in Cleveland -- than at the Tournament.

Talk about using the time allotted to your advantage.

And in maybe his last greatest coaching effort, Coles transformed Julian Mavunga from a raw big man with talent into a scoring and rebounding machine in the conference.

They leave together, albeit after a dismal final campaign, but each left their mark in their own way in their time. They just might want to forget that 2011-2012 was their parting shot.

Gone: Coles decided to call it quits after 16 seasons with Miami. That move will make a big difference in the direction of the program, one that is stacked with young players.

It is likely that the next coach will be able to hold on to most of the players from this year's team. None of the squad separated themselves enough to make a jump to another team make sense.

But it is more the face of the program that is gone. Gone is the coach that helped Miami reach the Sweet 16 with Szczerbiak, gone is the man who took Miami to a .541 winning percentage, and battled a tough schedule year in and year out.

That is a big hole to fill and the RedHawks will be struggling for a number of years to re-establish themselves in the conference, especially in the tougher East division.

What makes it harder for his successor? The loss of Julian Mavunga, a 1st team All-MAC player and a difficult matchup for every team inside.

Mavunga compiled an 18.8 HOOPWAR over his four years. That includes a -1.5 mark in his first season, one where Mavunga, despite being rated as the best center in his recruiting class, didn't see the floor very much.

He more than made up for it after he cracked the starting lineup. Mavunga was a force on the boards and was worth at least 15 points on the defensive end per 100 minutes in each of his last three seasons. He might be a reach for an NBA team in this year's draft, but the 6-8 forward has enough talent to risk a second round pick.

At worst they are getting a ferocious rebounder. At best, they get a bench player who could contribute over a number of years, just based on his durability and court sense.

Mavunga didn't just rebound. He had assists (255 over his dour years), and shooting ability. If someone can get him to ignore everything outside of the 3-point line, he could be even better. Mavunga might not have the blocking ability you would like to see from a bigger inside guy in the league, but his contributions as a power forward outweigh the deficiencies that might be evident in his defensive game.

Adam Thomas (-0.9 career HOOPWAR) also departs.

Bright Spots: It is hard to pinpoint something that went well for Miami this season. Maybe it was the overtime win over Dayton to start the season. Perhaps it was beating everyone's favorite -- and incorrect -- upset pick, Belmont.

Or maybe it was a 1-point win over Buffalo.

After all, this was a team that managed to provide Northern Illinois with one of its few wins this season.

No, nothing really went right for Miami this year, other than the play of Mavunga. It will be tough to replace the big man, who despite everything around him not working, still managed a spot on the All-MAC first team.

So maybe we should just leave it there, because there wasn't much to be inspired about on the court, or on the score sheet this season.

Questions:

1. How do you replace a coaching legend in the MAC? Miami isn't a destination job, even though it should be. Something rubs off on coaches who come through Oxford, and they turn into better coaches no matter where they end up. And yes, that holds true for football AND basketball.

The next coach has a lot of work to do to shape the program in his image as opposed to the one that Coles had established over the last two decades.

That coach also needs to make sure to retain the best talent he can on the team, one that was quite shallow during the past season.

2. Who steps up in Mavunga's absence? The lack of depth was evident for Miami this season. The RedHawks went from a team that had three or four contributors, to a team that had a singular focus and then a bunch of other guys.

No player who saw significant minutes for Miami turned in a positive HOOPWAR, and just two players -- Bill Edwards (180 minutes) and Jared Tadlock (10 minutes) -- were better than break even.

That isn't the way to build a team, no matter how young that team is.

Now a new coach will have to make his mark on these players and try to develop something out of the talent that Coles brought to the program. It could take time, and it could mean that the development is stunted.

In other words, Miami might be in the cellar of the East for at least the next couple of seasons.

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