By BEN JOHNSON
Larry Gipson announced his impending retirement on Feb. 16. Gipson’s final game as Northeastern State’s basketball coach ended up being on March 8.
Now, nearly a month since the RiverHawks were ousted from the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association tournament in Kansas City, Mo., NSU is still in search of Gipson’s successor.
But NSU Director of Athletics Tony Duckworth said the hire of a new coach isn’t too far off.
“The middle of April is my goal,” Duckworth said in a recent interview with the Tahlequah Daily Press. “With spring break, the search was practically ‘on hold’ due to everyone’s schedule.”
Asked if he could divulge any possible names related to the ongoing search, Duckworth opted to remain mum. Instead, he offered up an overview of how things are going.
“The search is progressing nicely,” said Duckworth, who added that he was going to conduct more interview via Skype this week.
Since taking over at NSU in 2011, Duckworth has hired coaches in baseball (Travis Janssen), softball (Clay Davis), tennis (Amanda Stone) and football (Rob Robinson). Now he’s set to hire a coach in a sport he’s very familiar with. Duckworth coached basketball at Belhaven College in Mississippi and at Huntingdon College in Alabama.
But does Duckworth’s background in basketball have any impact in his hiring process?
“Perhaps,” he said. “The biggest difference is how I drill down on candidates’ philosophy, given my background. I have to be convinced that our next head coach is grounded in a sound philosophy in running our program.”
All of Duckworth’s coaching hires at NSU have included candidates with credible coaching experience. He’s sticking to that same guideline in the men’s basketball search.
“Coaches from every level have expressed interest in our position,” Duckworth said. “(Division) II experience is certainly a plus, but I have little preference on intercollegiate level beyond full-time college basketball experience.”
The ideal candidate will also have an admiration for what Gipson was able to accomplish during his 17-year career at NSU.
“I want someone who not only wants the position, but has an appreciation for being our head coach,” Duckworth said. “I need to have great chemistry with my next head coach, and the person needs to fit into NSU, NSU athletics and northeast Oklahoma.
“I have a great relationship with Larry Gipson, so I would like that to continue with his replacement.”
Speaking of Gipson, is he in any way assisting in the hiring process of for whom he’ll hand the reigns over to?
“Larry is not in the business of lobbying for anyone to be our next coach,” Duckworth said. “However, Larry and I have had several conversations about the position and the potential candidates.”