By Noah Love
When the new athletic season begins next fall, one of the department’s most recognizable faces will have vanished.
On March 20, Bob Marsh, the assistant men’s basketball coach, was notified by David Dubois, the director of sports and recreation at Ryerson, that his contract with the team would not be renewed for next season.
Dubois and head coach Terry Haggerty will now begin a search for a new recruiting chief and emotional motivator.
“I got wind that David was talking to players about what they wanted changed,” Marsh said from his home, early Tuesday afternoon. “He has to appear he’s listening to the students, and apparently the bottom line is that the onus is on me for the team’s faults this year.”
Ryerson president Claude Lajeunesse contacted Marsh after the decision to tell the former assistant that he did not support Athletics decision.
Marsh was a firecracker on the court. He would scream himself hoarse when the game was close. He cracked jokes with the players at every meal they are together and he checked on their physical conditioning during long bus rides.
“[David] said he wanted to use what we were doing with recruiting as a model of success,” Marsh said. “In February, he told Terry nothing was going to change. A few weeks later he informed me my contract would not be renewed.”
The former boxer had a great relationships with his players, who were shocked at the news of their coach’s departure from the program.
“Of all the people in the organization that I had contact with, he’s the one that cared the most,” Jan-Michael Nation said during a casual shoot-around in the Kerr gym. “I think we’re all shocked.”
While Nation’s praise for his former bench coach may be high, there have always been questions about Marsh’s player-coach relationships.
As a recruiter at Durham College, he helped the school to a national championship, but in his final year he received 44 charges of recruiting violations. He was acquitted of all but one.
“Everybody makes mistakes. I’m disappointed with the decision,” Nation said.
Haggerty had little to say about the decision, because it was not his, and the move came as a surprise to him.
“The athletic director informed me the contract would not be renewed,” Haggerty said in his office on Monday, surrounded by accolades Marsh helped him to collect. “He was very well liked by the players.”
Marsh’s departure could have a dramatic effect on next year’s team. In a typical summer, the assistant coach handles the majority of the recruiting effort. In the past three years, Marsh brought college stars Bill Crowdis (from Durham) and Errol Fraser to Ryerson, as well as securing last year’s acquisition of high school phenoms Karlo Villanueva and Sandy Brar. Brar and Villanueva lived at Marsh’s house for the latter half of last season.
The only trouble has been the staying power of these top ranked prospects. Brar and Villanueva both flunked out, and Crowdis was only eligible to play for two years.
“I met with David and he threw up numbers about the low number of graduating members on the team, and I pointed out that Dwight and Sasha were both on track to graduate within the timeline,” Marsh said. “He pointed out Jan as an example, but they watched and cheered while Jan broke the scoring record.”
Dubois has been working with players all year in an attempt to find ways to improve the program.
“I look at what we want, and he doesn’t have the skills,” Dubois said. “We want someone who has strong ties to the basketball community, strong leadership skills, and has a strong commitment to player improvement.”
Marsh thinks Dubois created an unethical double-standard in Athletics this season.
“If players were having problems with their coaches, they went to Dubois,” Marsh said. “Dwight Chambers couldn’t make practices because he had to work, so we benched him. He went to Dubois, who pulled some strings and got him a bursary to pay for his fees. It’s like asking mom when dad says no.”
And while player turnover has been high in the past few years, the quality on the court has been consistent for most of Marsh’s tenure. His abrupt departure is more difficult because this is the time of year when recruiting is all important.
“It makes things complicated,” Haggerty said. “I haven’t been given any idea of when I can fill the position or how much money I have to do it.”
The Rams will need someone in place in the next few weeks if they hope to secure talented high school prospects for next season.
“We’ll do it quickly,” Dubois said. “We won’t rush into it, though. We’re going in a new direction and we want someone who can take us there.”
Marsh doesn’t think the Rams will secure the same kind of talent they would secure with himself in the fold.
“Ryerson and York were scouting Phil Hahn, and OFSAA silver-medalist from Oakwood Collegiate, and now he’ll probably go to York,” he said. “The [college] transfers, they’ll probably lose. Terry hasn’t called them. That’s not really his forté.”
For now, Marsh is weighing his options, but says he isn’t without opportunities.
“Brandon’s [University in Manitoba] given me a nice offer,” he said. “I’ve had an offer to coach in Hong Kong, where they’re starting a league. But after this I’m not really going to have the support of my wife and family for a while. I’m probably not going to do any basketball next year.”