Referring to how much USF improved this season, coach Robert McCullum said last week that the term “significant” is relative. What that comment really means is that the future of the fourth-year coach depends on Athletic Director Doug Woolard’s definition of significant improvement.
The Bulls closed out their season Saturday with a 70-54 loss on the road to DePaul, and they’ll miss out on a spot in the Big East Tournament for a second straight year.
The term “significant” aside, USF (12-18, 3-13) won five more games than last season, in which the Bulls set a school record with 17 straight losses and didn’t win in conference play until the final game of the year against Georgetown. This season, USF won three Big East games and finished 14th in the conference – two spots ahead of its last-place finish a year ago.
The highlight of the Bulls’ season was an upset against then-No. 21 Notre Dame on Feb. 3. However, USF hasn’t come out on top since its victory over the Irish.
“I think we made some improvements,” assistant coach Greg Gary said. “(But) for all of us, I think it’s more of a disappointment just because we ended the year on a seven-game losing streak.” Gary, an assistant at USF for the past three seasons, said “there’s no reason to speculate” about McCullum’s future. Gary then made it clear he has full confidence in McCullum.”I have three daughters, and if I had a son there’s no question in my mind I would send him to coach McCullum,” Gary said. “He does an unbelievable job of preparing (players) for experiences for the real world, and he makes players better. He understands the game.”
McCullum’s six-year contract runs through the 2009 season. In his first four years at USF, the Bulls have won just 40 games and are 4-28 in the Big East. Along with losing 76 games since coaching the Bulls, McCullum has lost several players to season-ending injuries. In 2005, guard Bradley Mosley lost a battle with cancer.
“(McCullum’s) records might not show, but he’s been through an awful lot here,” Gary said. “He’s been around successful programs and successful people, so that’s not unfamiliar territory to him – knowing how to do things right and to build a winning program.”
An announcement from Woolard on McCullum’s job could come as early as this week – but regardless of who is the Bulls’ coach next season, USF has one of the Big East’s best returning centers in junior Kentrell Gransberry, who got his 12th double-double of the season Saturday.
Gransberry reached career highs in points (26) and rebounds (23) against the Blue Demons, and with senior Melvin Buckley being held scoreless for the first time in his career at USF, Gransberry finished the season as the Bulls’ leading scorer with 15.6 points per game to go along with a Big East-best 11.4 rebounds per game.
“He’s starting to feel more comfortable in the game, so he’s only going to get better over the summer,” Gary said of Gransberry. “When you’ve got that in the post, that’s something you can definitely build around.”Attempts to reach McCullum on Sunday were unsuccessful.