Reggie Witherspoon fired at Buffalo; why now?

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

After 13-plus seasons and no NCAA tournament appearances, a new athletic director decided to let Witherspoon go. But what a weird time to end the marriage.

I truly felt bad when I said Reggie Witherspoon was a toss-up to be fired last month. Our friends at Bull Run put me in my place. They pointed out the Jeff Quinn extension. They indicated how far this program has come under his watch. And then they beat Akron. They beat Ball State and reached the MAC quarterfinals. Things were looking rosy in Buffalo.

He was fired anyway today.

The raw numbers: this was his third losing season in the last 10 years, and the first time in five years on the heels of losing four great seniors, including MAC POY Mitchell Watt. His Bulls won 20 teams in each of the past two seasons, 18 before that, and 21 before that. They're graduating two seniors: starting guard Tony Watson and reserve Riche Sebuharara.

But here's the biggest number of them all: 0 NCAA tournament appearances. They were one game away from it once. That's the number everybody is looking for. There are 68 teams in the Division I tournament and everybody wants their name in those office brackets so badly. Buffalo never got close to that. It's hard to, really, when you're stuck in the MAC East while Kent State, Akron and Ohio have been on a tear lately. The battle for fourth place in that division became an eternal struggle.

These are decisions that ultimately go to athletic director Danny White. This was his first chance at firing him since taking the job, and he did. He didn't fire Jeff Quinn, who has NEVER had a winning season, and gave him an extension. A five-year extension. If you gave Spoon five years he'd probably produce an NCAA tournament team, but we'll never get to find that out. Personally I would give extensions to those whose teams are competitive and not place undue importance on outcomes in championship games, but I am not an athletic director, nor am I Danny White, and perhaps that's a good thing.

He will get another coaching job very soon, no doubt. It was almost 14 years ago but I can still remember when Witherspoon, plucked from nearby Erie Community College, had to suddenly coach this new team against top 10 North Carolina — and the Bulls led at halftime. Some lean years followed but quickly they began competing the way a MAC team should.

Soon we will discover, however, who wants to coach Javon McCrea and this team next year. It will not a be a short stack of resumes.

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