Paul Evans, who coached Navy's basketball team to an academy-record 30 victories this season, today was named basketball coach at the University of Pittsburgh. His top assistant, Pete Herrmann, appears to be the leading candidate to replace him here.
Herrmann spoke with Navy Athletic Director J.O. (Bo) Coppedge today and will meet with the Naval Academy Athletic Association Board of Control Thursday. Coppedge heads that group, which, along with the academy superintendent, Rear Adm. Charles R. Larson, decides on a new coach.
"The ground rules are that I have to present at least two candidates, and possibly more," Coppedge said, declining to name the other candidate. "Obviously we like Pete or we wouldn't interview him."
In taking the Pittsburgh job, Evans became one of two coaches moving into the Big East conference today. Boston College hired Jim O'Brien, captain of its 1970-71 team and 67-51 as coach the past four years at St. Bonaventure of the Atlantic 10.
Herrmann, 37, came to the academy in 1980 with Evans, who endorsed him for the job today.
Said Evans, "Pete knows the system, and it might be a problem if someone changed the system, especially with David Robinson, Navy's all-America center in his senior year. And he's a good academy person who has the insights. It takes two years to get used to how things are done, like with admissions and congressmen, and how you can handle the kids."
"The meeting this morning was more to let me know that Paul had signed, but of course I'm very enthusiastic about the possibility of coaching Navy ," Herrmann said. "It's a great situation and can continue to be a great situation. He Coppedge did say he wanted to have a coach by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.
"If I were here only one or two years I could see where the board might be hesitant," Herrmann said. "But I've been here since Paul came, which is six years. And Paul was great in letting me be involved and have some authority in game situations, practice, recruiting, everything. I'm confident here and happy here, and I hope things work out here."
Evans, 41, guided the Midshipmen to the East regional final, in which they lost to top-ranked Duke on Sunday. He has said he wanted to test himself at a more competitive level, and his tune was no different today.
"I had great kids at Navy," Evans said at a Pittsburgh press conference. "But I consider this season a fluke thing. Year in and year out, it is unrealistic to expect a military academy to have a chance to finish in the top 10 and go to the Final Four. I'm a perfectionist and that's the goal I have."
Later in the day, Evans returned to the area before heading to Dallas for the Final Four. He also clarified his reference to this season as a "fluke."
"It wasn't a fluke, in the sense that we knew we could do it," Evans said. "But you're not going to have all the things that we had this year come together year in and year out. But if you do your job, recruit and coach, it can at Pitt. It happens every year at Georgetown, St. John's. You have a shot of doing that at Pitt."
Evans signed a four-year contract, reportedly worth $200,000 a year, incorporating a television/radio package and other fringe benefits, including a country club membership. "Except I'm the worst golfer in the world," Evans said.
Evans finished his six-year Navy coaching stand with a 119-60 record, three consecutive 20-win seasons and two consecutive NCAA appearances.
Evans returned to Annapolis Tuesday night after four or five hours of discussions with Pitt officials, during which he accepted their offer. He spoke with Coppedge, and by phone with some of his Navy players. Later Tuesday night, he flew back to Pittsburgh.
"I hate to lose him," Coppedge said. "He's a good coach, a good friend and a good man for the Naval Academy. Paul said it was a career move and his stock isn't likely to go much higher than it was now. Anyone in America would've hired him."
Evans also interviewed at the University of Houston, and considered making a visit to Southern California but could not fit in a visit. Reports from Los Angeles make Iowa Coach George Raveling, who also talked with Houston, the leading candidate at USC. Evans' name was also connected with openings at South Carolina and Northwestern.
Evans said he enjoyed some of the people and the facilities at Houston, but at the Pittsburgh news conference added, "At Houston, they told me the five most important things were football, spring football, church, family and something else I don't remember. It wasn't a positive situation that I wanted to get involved in."
Evans departure had been rumored for months, so his decision came as no surprise to Navy players.
"He told us after Sunday's game there was a pretty good chance he wouldn't return," said senior Vernon Butler. "It was a career choice, a chance to move on and get into the Big East. Plus, you figure he had $200,000 staring him in the face. How can you turn that down?
"But at the same time, I don't think it was a material decision. It was the next step in coaching."
"It was a better job opportunity and had nothing to do with the returning players," said senior Kylor Whitaker.
"There's a good foundation and whoever comes in can build on it," Butler said. "Coach Herrmann should be a candidate. He knows the system and the players. He also knows the type of player to recruit and how to get the most out of the players here."
"Coach Herrmann has to be the leading candidate," Whitaker said. "Coach Evans put in a program that obviously has been successful, and the only person in line to take over is Coach Herrmann. He understands what it takes to win here."