Skerry isn’t exaggerating. Last year, the Tigers went 1-31 and, dating from the prior season, had dropped an NCAA-record 41 straight games before they finally managed to get a win in February against UNC Wilmington. As if that weren’t enough suffering for one school, the NCAA declared Towson ineligible for postseason play this season because it had failed to meet minimum academic standards prior to Skerry’s arrival last season.
That hardly seemed to matter before the start of this season. Now, it matters. Remarkably, Saturday’s performance aside, the Tigers are good enough to make noise in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. The problem is, they aren’t eligible to play in it.
“My goal is for us to go to the [pre-tournament] banquet as the regular season champions, collect the player of the year award and the coach of the year award and then I’ll take everyone out to dinner at a great steak place,” Towson Athletic Director Mike Waddell said. “Then we’ll come home the next day on a limousine-bus. If need be, I’ll pay for it myself.”
Waddell’s fantasy isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility. Towson dropped to 3-1 in CAA play Saturday, a game behind 4-0 Northeastern. The Tigers clearly have a player of the year candidate in Georgetown transfer Jerrelle Benimon and if they continue to play at this level, Skerry will probably be a unanimous choice as coach of the year.
Towson (8-9) has already won eight times as many games as last season and found a way to win last month at Oregon State, easily the program’s best win since a victory over Louisville in 1995.
“In some ways we should be farther along than we are,” Skerry said. “But you have to take some lumps when you’re building from the ground up. We had some trouble meshing personalities early and we’re still learning to deal with prosperity.” He smiled. “Of course, that’s a brand new concept for us right now.”
Skerry arrived at Towson from Pittsburgh two springs ago, a 42-year-old Energizer bunny who had coached at nine schools in 20 years, his only head coaching experience 18 years ago at Division III Curry College. Waddell hired him over a handful of coaches with “more apparent pedigree” than Skerry because he had a plan and clearly had the kind of energy needed to take over a moribund program that had slid to the bottom of the CAA in every possible way.
“Here’s what’s most impressive about Pat,” Waddell said Saturday as one fan after another came up to him before the game to revel in the fact that Towson was on a four-game winning streak for the first time since 2000. “After we won at Drexel last Saturday, he told the players they deserved to win the game because they’ve become a good enough team to go on the road to a tough place and win.