In picking up Stan Heath, Eastern Michigan did bring a player back to Ypsilanti, but perhaps not the player many expected. Part of the thinking for a potential new hire was that Eastern Michigan might pick a player from their glory years, especially one with coaching experience at the collegiate or pro levels. There were plenty of former glory-day EMU alums in the coaching ranks who could have qualified for the job, most notably Earl Boykins, currently an assistant with the Arkansas Razorbacks.
But Heath does have both roots, having lettered at Eastern Michigan from 1984 to 1987, and a decades-long resume to fill the void left behind by Rob Murphy. Heath was firmly a 12th option in his then-Hurons career, with 87 points, 31 rebounds and 66 assists, but his experience seems to have been valuable as a coach at various levels.
After he left Eastern Michigan, he became an assistant at Hillsdale, Albion and Wayne State, before jumping into the Division I level with Bowling Green. It was his subsequent stay in East Lansing which propelled Heath to head coaching status, as he was part of the 2000 NCAA championship Michigan State Spartans.
In 2001, he was hired as the head coach of Kent State, leading the Golden Flashes to their legendary postseason run, falling short of the Final Four to basketball blueblood Indiana. In his one year at Kent State, they had a 30-6 record. Those 30 wins ties him for third most wins by a first-year coach. He also set the MAC record for most wins en route to winning MAC Coach of the Year honors.
Heath was then hired as the head coach for the Arkansas Razorbacks, compiling an 82-71 record with two appearances in the NCAA tournament, before being let go in 2007.
In 2007, he went to the South Florida Bulls, picking up a 97-129 record. He went to the NIT once and the the NCAA tournament once, before being let go in 2014 and spending a year as an ESPN college basketball analyst.
In 2015, he was hired as an assistant for Boston College and eventually left for the professional level after two seasons.
He would become the head coach for the NBA G League Lakeland Magic in 2017. While there, he amassed a 94-63 record, winning the G League championship this past season.
I have mixed feelings about this hire. While I am glad that they hired a former Eastern Michigan player, I admit to not being so sure about this one.
Kent State was a consistent 20-plus win team in the three seasons before. They were clearly building something prior to his arrival. It’s hard to say if he had a true impact, or if it was a matter of just needed a little spark. At Arkansas, he was a little above .500 and at South Florida he was below .500 in his tenures, even understanding the differences of the situation. So his total as a college head coach was 209-206.
Being absent from the college game for the last four years could also be pegged a concern, as well.
So while he has the championship pedigree, I’m not 100% sold on his overall record. He checks a box in being an alumnus. He also checks a box in having some connections to the Detroit schools.
Any coaching hire at EMU would have to be predicated in re-installing pride in the program, and having an alum lead the way is a good first step. Whether Heath's development and playing style will help fill the stands back up is to be determined.
If Heath can do that, and have enough success to ensure a steady stream of talent comes through the doors, it could prove to be a very beneficial hire in the end.
Maybe in moving from program to program, he will have that experience to navigate the new world of recruiting, which is less locally focused. So I will say this is a good hire, with a caliber of pedigree that should mark it a successful search, even if I’m not convinced it is a solid hire.