The Basketball Diaries
It's been an interesting year for Miami Dade College sports.
The women's volleyball team came up short at the national tournament. The women basketball team’s Cinderella run came up short after an early loss at states, and the fate of the softball and baseball teams is still uncertain.
But the most head turning event wasn’t determined by record, an on court miracle or a post season run.
Matthew Eisele's departure from the men's basketball program amid allegations, overshadowed them all.
Eisele was the glue that brought together a talented, albeit young group of basketball players. At times playing up to three freshman at a time, his style of coaching and leadership embodied the successful pattern of discipline and tough love seen at top Division I programs.
He celebrated success at MDC. During the 2008-2009 year, the Sharks were 26-3. Eisele’s record was 77-37 during four years at the College.
Several of Eisele’s players transferred to prominent Division I schools such as the University of Cincinnati, the University of Kentucky, the University of Memphis, and Kansas State University.
But everything is different now.
Eisele is gone, having stepped down after claims surfaced that he called a player a “dumb ass” and threatened to have him removed from the premises. That move started the fall of the Miami Dade College men’s basketball program.
That program, the program Eisele helped bring to prominence is now left in shambles, forced into rebuilding mode.
The core of freshmen from last year’s team, including guard Xavier Munford, who led the team with a 17.2 scoring average, forward Kendal Jennings, guard Darwin Ellis and red-shirt freshman Ryan Steed all bolted after receiving their releases from the school.
But who’s to blame?
The college puts “students first,” and when it came time to pulling the trigger, the college stuck by their motto.
None of the teams nine players have commented in detail about Eisele’s situation. Not Darwin Ellis, who proclaimed himself as the “most likely to conflict” with the coach and not the sophomores who put in extra time enduring the coach’s vigorous and intense practices.
Athletics at the college have always seemed to be a side dish. Something we have just to have and to appear more legitimate in the landscape of higher education.
But with the ferocity Eisele handled the program, you’d think we’d be playing in the Final Four on any given night.
The school never really seemed ready for that.
Not that I’m condoning the action’s Eisele is accused of, but it appears strange that simply using profane language or asking a student to clear his locker, not uncommon in college sports, would be enough reason to part ways.
Bob Knight, former national championship coach at Indiana, was relieved from his duties as head coach of the Hoosiers in 2000 after an altercation with a student. To some, it would appear something of this nature was a possibility with Eisele, but nothing is concrete, and the lack of transparency from school officials leaves a lot of unanswered questions.
Unless there was something else.
The Matt Eisele era at Miami Dade College has ended. Now it seems like the only certainty for the program going into the future is uncertainty.