Hofstra's Tim Welsh Bursting With Pride
Welsh will get that opportunity to prove it as the new men's basketball coach at Hofstra University, nestled in Long Island, N.Y., and the most successful Metropolitan New York area team over the last decade. Hofstra is a member of the Colonial Athletic Association, which features members located in East Coast states from Massachusetts to Georgia -- with five schools in Virginia alone.
Welsh, 49, is not deterred by travel challenges, or any challenges, for that matter. He's excited to be back in college coaching after a two-year hiatus and excited to back in his home state of New York.
"It's great to be back, up on the horse, off and and running," Welsh told FanHouse Tuesday afternoon as he headed to a live video chat for the athletic department's Web site.
"It's a great situation -- they've always had good tradition here -- a good fit for me. I know the area. It's an easy transition for me to make and I am looking forward to the challenge."
Welsh has barely come up for air since being hired last week. His hiring came a week after coach Tom Pecora left Hofstra for Fordham, where he has been charged with rebuilding a fallen program.
Welsh, a broadcaster with ESPN the last two seasons, inherits a Pride team that went 19-15 and can be expected to contend for the CAA title next season. His best returning player, guard Charles Jenkins, is a two-time Haggerty Award winner as the league's top player.
Welsh will soon leave to recruit -- the early signing period begins Wednesday -- and he hopes to have his coaching staff in place by early next week.
One of the first congratulatory telephone calls Welsh received was from Towson coach Pat Kennedy, who hired Welsh as a volunteer assistant coach at Florida State in the late 1980s and is now reunited with Welsh in the CAA.
"This is a good job for Timmy," Kennedy told FanHouse Tuesday night.
"He can win there. It's a wonderful place to live, it keeps him close to a lot of his roots. I think it's a challenging job but, as a coach, you are always trying to find a place that fits. This one fits Tim."
Welsh won the last time he was a coach in the metropolitan area.
In three seasons at Iona, he went 70-22, reaching the NCAA tournament once and the National Invitation Tournament twice. He was named the Metropolitan New York Coach of the Year in 1996 and 1998. Welsh then spent 10 seasons at Providence, where he took the Friars to the NCAA tournament in 2001 and 2004 and had a record of 145-126 when fired after the 2008 season.
Welsh looked to get back into coaching and had opportunities, but he felt the right fit did not become available until he met with Hofstra officials.
The program grew in prominence under former coach Jay Wright before he departed for Villanova. Pecora, an assistant under Wright, directed the Pride's move from the America East Conference to the CAA. Hofstra continued to win, but the Pride have not reached the NCAA tournament since Wright left in 2001.
"They've done a nice job of getting the program to a level of consistency of winning and now we are going to try to take the next step in the Colonial and get to the NCAA tourney," Welsh said.
"It's not easy because it's a very, very good league. You look over the years and the VCUs, the George Masons, the Old Dominions have done so well -- and that's not even speaking of some of the other teams that are always right there. It's a great opportunity for us and it's a great challenge as well."
In his initial meeting with players, Welsh talked about Butler's remarkable journey in this year's NCAA tourney. The team from the tiny school in Indiana was the biggest thing going in college basketball, captivating a country despite falling to Duke in the title game.
"I told the kids you can get to top of the mountain, or near the top of the mountain from anywhere," Welsh said.
"There's a lot of good players in college basketball and the field's leveled a lot over the years. The top dogs usually get picked apart by the NBA every year so that gives everybody else a solid chance when you can build a program with younger players that are kind of under the radar and develop them over a four-year period where you have a chance to be good.
"It gives everyone in these type of conferences, mid-major pluses, a chance. We see it even up close here with George Mason in our league."
Welsh's hiring is a sign that Hofstra is committed to a competitive athletics program, this after university officials were roundly criticized for dropping football last fall after 69 seasons to save $4.5 million.
Welsh believes he will need to manage his team properly to prepare it for next season and the rigors of conference play.
"The kind of the prevailing thought was that a northern team can't win in a southern conference," Welsh said.
"From all of my experiences it's usually the best team that wins, so we've got to make sure we have the best team. And if we have the best team, or one of the top teams, you have a great, great chance. You need to be consistent, develop a homecourt advantage and go try to steal a few on the road."