American University filled its men's basketball coaching vacancy Tuesday by hiring Mike Brennan, who was an assistant during the program’s most prosperous seasons and part of Georgetown’s staff the past four years.
Brennan was introduced during a news conference at Bender Arena, where he helped direct the Eagles to consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, the only two in school history, under then-coach Jeff Jones. Jones departed in early April after 13 seasons in Spring Valley to take the same position at Old Dominion.
“As an assistant, you always think you’re ready,” Brennan said. “You always want to be the head guy, but I think that I wanted to work at a place like American University. Because of my background, I think it sort of tailored to me. I saw the positive impact of working at a place like this, the type of kids you can attract nationally and internationally. It’s a unique place.”
Brennan was among three finalists for the American job, according to several people familiar with the hiring process. The others were Virginia assistant Jason Williford and former Ball State and Lehigh coach Billy Taylor.
All three candidates conducted final interviews on campus Monday, and first-year athletic director Billy Walker informed Brennan he was the choice hours before the announcement was made official in front of family, school officials, players and friends, including Hoyas Coach John Thompson III.
“We've definitely been a little restless just waiting to get a new coach and get back to working out and preparing for next season,” Eagles sophomore guard John Schoof said. "It's definitely been a transition. We were kind of sad to lose Coach Jones, but now that we have Coach Brennan, we're definitely excited for next year."
In 2007-08, Brennan was part of a coaching staff that vaulted American to its first Patriot League tournament championship after it won the regular season title. The Eagles lost to Tennessee, 72-57, in the first round of the NCAA tournament to complete the season 21-12.
The following year, American secured a second straight NCAA bid after going a program-best 13-1 in the Patriot League. The 14th-seeded Eagles took a 10-point lead over Villanova into halftime during the first round of the NCAA tournament but struggled in the second half of an 80-67 loss.
Thompson lured Brennan across town the next season in a reunion of former colleagues at Princeton. Thompson coached the Tigers from 2000 through 2004, and Brennan was a top assistant at his alma mater for seven seasons, including his first four with Thompson.
Together they helped Princeton win three Ivy League titles.
“I’m extremely happy for him,” said Thompson, who watched the proceedings from the stands while his protégé spoke at center court. “It is a great fit. I know he’ll do a terrific job. His world is changing today.”