When your blogger spoke to new Niagara coach Chris Casey exactly a week ago, all seemed well at Monteagle Ridge, at least in personnel terms.
Casey believed then that there would be none of the occasional player defections that often accompany a program's coaching change.
But, now, that's no longer the case. As Bob DiCesare reported yesterday in the Buffalo News, all-MAAC first-team guard Juan'ya Green and team rebounding leader Ameen Tanksley, both sophomores, have been granted transfer-request releases and are leaving the program.
DiCesare reports that the two are Philadelphia natives and lifelong friends.
Their departure is a blow to Niagara which, now, not only faces the transition of its first coaching change in 15 years, but the loss of two very key players. It means that Niagara, the early choice to be this coming preseason favorite to win the MAAC title, probably will fall to the middle of the pack in the preseason prognostications.
Green, in this scribe's opinion, was the MAAC's best player this past season although the top individual award, as voted on by league coaches, went to Iona's Momo Jones.
The 6-foot-1 Green averaged 16.5 points, 5.0 assists and 1.9 steals per game this past season. Tanksley, an athletic 6-6 swingman, averaged 11.3 points and 6.0 rebounds.
Traditionally there are restrictions placed on a release related to programs players cannot transfer into. Typically schools block players from transferring within their geographic footprint and within their conference (although transfers within the conference are not unprecedented). The likelihood is that Niagara will also prohibit the players from transferring to Hofstra, where former Purple Eagles' coach Joe Mihalic moved to several weeks ago.
But, player defections don't always indicate a considerable drop in success will follow.
When Siena fired Rob Lanier after the 2004-05 season, guard Jack McClinton transferred out (he eventually became a 2,000-point career scorer after three seasons at Miami) and three committed recruits opted out of their scholarship agreements.
Siena had a 6-24 record when McClinton was a freshman and, then, finished 15-13 the following year after he left the program when Fran McCaffery took over the program after Lanier's firing.
And, the Saints lost another key player to transfer the following year when all-league guard Kojo Mensah left for Duquesne, yet the Saints improved again, finishing 20-12 the following year.
Losing players, even ones as good as Green and Tanksley don't necessarily mean the proverbial bottom will drop off for Niagara. Three other starters from this past season's 19-win team are expected to return as well as the team's top two reserves.
And, when we spoke to Casey he was on the recruiting trail seeking out players to join Niagara.
Still, there are more holes to fill at Niagara now than there were just a short time ago. But player defections after a coaching change are relatively common place. And, despite the loss of Green and Tanksley, the cupboard is far from bare at Niagara for the coming season.