USF made wrong call

Though former USF coach Stan Heath had just two winning seasons over seven years, those two seasons have been the best basketball the Bulls have played in over 15 years. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/GOUSFBULLS.COM

Stan Heath was fired as the USF men’s basketball coach in March of 2014. 

Since then, it’s been all downhill for the Bulls. 

Though Heath was afforded seven seasons to improve USF, the team’s regression from a 22-win season and NCAA Tournament berth in 2012 to back-to-back 12-win seasons was enough to bring about his exit. 

Now, with the Bulls at the bottom of the AAC and much worse off without him, it’s clear USF made the wrong call. 

The year he was fired, Heath had brought in one of the best recruiting classes in USF history.

Ranked 22nd in the nation by ESPN, the Bulls added a class that featured two 4-star players (John Egbunu and Chris Perry) who were expected to become the faces of the program. 

Now, they’re both excelling at different schools. 

“My freshman year coaching staff was everything I could ask for,” Perry told The Oracle. “We really had a family oriented team with the Stan Heath crew. I just wish they gave him an extra year or two.

“Coach Heath was on the right track, but when we got (athletic director Mark Harlan), he was big on changing things when he got there, so out the window that went basically.”

Now playing for Division II Lincoln Memorial (22-4), Perry is averaging 18.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

Despite recently tearing his ACL in his left knee, Florida center John Egbunu has been a critical piece of the No. 13 Gators. 

The 6-foot-11 junior has averaged just over 22 minutes a night while scoring 7.8 points, grabbing 6.6 rebounds and blocking 1.5 shots per game. 

If that wasn’t bad enough, several of the players who departed along with Heath flourished into talented players who were sorely missed at USF.

Just take a look at what some of Heath’s other former Bulls are doing across college basketball. 

As a senior playing for Virginia Tech (19-8, 8-7), former Bull Zach LeDay has evolved into the leading scorer for an ACC team that ESPN college basketball expert Joe Lunardi has as a 10th seed in the NCAA Tournament. 

As a Hokie, LeDay is scoring 15.3 points per game on 51.7 percent shooting while grabbing the second-most rebounds per game (7).

Heath’s son, Josh, has also been a factor on a potential NCAA Tournament team, scoring 5.7 points and dishing out 4.4 assists in just under 30 minutes per game for Georgia Tech (16-12, 7-8).

Others such as Musa Abdul-Aleem (16 points per game at Troy) and Javontae Hawkins (13.8 points per game at Fordham) have also found success, albeit at smaller schools. 

“So many people left because they weren’t certain on how their careers would end up if they stuck around,” Perry said. “I wanted to stick around because I was a native and I wanted to be close to mom, but if I would have done it again, I probably would have left after Stan Heath got fired as well.”

But regardless of what Heath’s former players are up to, what he accomplished as a coach will be difficult to recapture at USF.

Even though he only had two winning seasons in seven years, those two years resulted in a trip to the NIT (2010) and then the NCAA Tournament (2012). 

Before Heath, the last time USF had been to the NIT was in 2002, and its last NCAA Tournament berth happened way back in 1992. 

It’s always much easier to assess decisions with hindsight than it is to look forward to the future, but it’s abundantly obvious that USF made the wrong call when it fired Heath.