Don't contracts mean anything? "They do, because they're binding on the institution," says Delaware president David Roselle, "but I had an agreement with Mike that if one of the majors wanted to hire him and it was a good school, I would help. He did well by us, and we did well by him."
So what do you do if you're a successful mid-major program—the Blue Hens were 99-52 in five seasons under Brey—that wants the best coach possible, on short notice, in the middle of the summer recruiting period? Start dialing. On July 14, within hours of learning that Brey was leaving for Notre Dame, Roselle was on the phone with a couple of friends, former Kentucky athletic director C.M. Newton and Boston Celtics coach Rick Pitino. "I wouldn't do anything in basketball without talking to C.M. or Rick," says Roselle, who hired both men during his tenure as president at Kentucky. "So I called them and said, 'My coach went to Notre Dame. Do you have a good name for me?' "
Roselle posed the same question to coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, a school Roselle also knows well, having earned his Ph.D. there in 1965 and having hired Brey off Krzyzewski's staff in '95. Later Roselle rang Florida's Billy Donovan, who had been a Kentucky assistant under Pitino. Over the weekend Roselle and Delaware athletic director Edgar Johnson made a few final calls. By Monday, faster than you could say, "Assistants without pedigrees need not apply," the Blue Hens had a list of four candidates: John Pelphrey, an assistant to Donovan who had played for Pitino at Kentucky; David Henderson, an assistant to and former player for Krzyzewski at Duke; Mike Davis, the top lieutenant to Indiana's Bob Knight; and Tim O'Shea, a relative outsider as an assistant to Al Skinner at Boston College. "Things are done in this world through networking and friendships," Johnson says. "Fortunately Dr. Roselle is well connected, and I have a few friendships, too."
Still, university presidents rarely lead coaching searches, especially university presidents who have every reason to resent the role of basketball on America's college campuses. A mathematician by training, Roselle is still reviled by many die-hard Kentucky fans as the man who cooperated fully with the NCAA investigation of the Wildcats' basketball program in 1989 that resulted in the ouster of coach Eddie Sutton and three years of probation for the Kentucky team. Saying that the basketball scandal had made it impossible for him to be an effective president, Roselle resigned and left for Delaware later that year. "The agenda for the University of Kentucky is education," he said at the time, "and I had a difficult problem, which was basketball."
Nonetheless, Roselle took part in the interviews of all four candidates for the Delaware job. "It's a little unusual, but I place a high value on the basketball program," Roselle says. "It's an evening's entertainment, and it's great for the community and the university. This year we have a waiting list for season tickets for the first time."
And for the third straight time a former Duke assistant was hired as the Blue Hens' coach. One week after the resignation of Brey, who had succeeded former Blue Devils assistant Steve Steinwedel, Delaware announced the hiring of Henderson.
The men behind the minicams waited for Ryan Humphrey to blow up. What would you expect him to do after learning that Matt Doherty had just resigned after one year in South Bend? Hadn't Doherty persuaded Humphrey to choose Notre Dame when he transferred from Oklahoma, lured him like the Pied Piper, only to coldcock him with his flute? But all Humphrey said was, "It's not a problem. I understand."
What the men behind the minicams didn't know was this: Humphrey had been receiving hate mail from Sooners fans since he left Oklahoma after his sophomore season a year and half ago. And one day last year, while Humphrey was strolling through a mall in his hometown of Tulsa, a heckler had called out his name and yelled, "Go back to Notre Dame, you traitor!"
Traitor. The epithet was in the back of Humphrey's mind on July 10 when Doherty invited him into his office. Humphrey could tell something was wrong. Doherty's voice broke. His face turned red. He told Humphrey, haltingly, that he was going to interview for the North Carolina job. "Coach," Humphrey replied, "I'm your friend first and your player second. I remember when I transferred, how my so-called friends in Oklahoma turned on me. I saw how fickle people were. If you feel this is best for you and your family, then I'll support you. I won't go negative."