Jeff Bower came back to coach the Marist men's basketball team about 14 months ago, highly touted for 18 years in a variety of capacities in the NBA and highly respected for an inclination to come back to the mid-major level of the college game where his roots were deep.
And, now, Bower has abandoned Marist and the MAAC for, it appears, another run at the NBA.
The author Thomas Wolfe once wrote that "you can't go home again."
Bower did go home, back to Marist where he served as an assistant coach during the days of former head coach Dave Magarity for nine seasons.
But Wolfe never wrote anything about staying home for very long.
Marist administrators announced Monday afternoon that the 53-year old Bower resigned his position as the school's men's basketball coach.
Marist, which significantly upgraded its financial package to attract Bower, thought it was making a late hire last April when it brought Bower aboard.
Now, nearly two months further along in the calendar than the timetable that produced Bower in 2013 (he was introduced on April 10, 2013), the Red Foxes have to unexpectedly go through the process of finding a head coach once again.
The next head coach will be the fourth since Magarity's ouster after the 2004-05 season. And, in hindsight (at least in this scribe's mind), the program might have been better off had it kept Magarity, who has had significant success just down the road coaching the West Point women's program in recent years.
The departure comes at an inopportune time in terms of recruiting and keeping players on task in preparation for the 2014-15 season.
But, the move is understandable. Yahoo Sports reported earlier on Monday that Bower was in talks to join the Detroit Pistons as that NBA team's next general manager.
"I have a lot of respect for Jeff and the job he did in his time at Marist," school athletic director Tim Murray, who shared an apartment with Bower during Bower's previous time at the school, in a statement released by Marist.
"He laid the foundation for the program moving forward and I feel that this is a great opportunity for our next head coach. I wish Jeff the best of luck as he leaves for a very specific and compelling NBA opportunity."
"I can't comment on what everyone wants me to comment on right now," Bower told the Poughkeepsie Journal on Monday. "... it's not at that stage yet."
Bower's Red Foxes finished 12-19 in 2013-14, after an 0-9 start. He replaced Chuck Martin, who went 41-118 in his five seasons at the school.
Bower signed five recruits to join the team for the upcoming season, but there was no word on whether the incoming players would seek a release from their commitments, as is often the case with any coaching change.
Bower met with his staff and, then, Marist players during the day on Monday to reveal his move.
Bower seemed to instill a new attitude and a renewed work ethic to his players this past season with a calm, yet firm demeanor. His basketball acumen and experience at the professional level was rare for any mid-major coach.
Prior to his return to the Poughkeepsie school he had been in the NBA for 18 years, the last three as a consultant within the league and for several individual franchise. Before that he spent 15 years with the New Orleans Hornets in a variety of duties ranging from advance scout to head coach to general manager to just about every position in between.
His initial time at Marist was his second job after his graduation from St. Francis (Pa.), and he credited his previous nine seasons with the Red Foxes as his biggest early steps up the coaching ladder.
It's also where he met his future wife, then an athletic trainer at the school, and where he became close friends with current AD Murray, who was also on Magarity's staff as an assistant coach back then.
Bower's family also has a vacation home in the Oneonta, N.Y., area, just two hours away from the Poughkeepsie campus.
When the Marist job opened up last spring Bower was an eager applicant seeking a return to a place he previously called home for nine seasons.
"I've been here before and there are still people here that I know, so the comfort level is extremely high," Bower said last March..
But, it appears the lure of a return to the NBA was an even more comfortable situation, one too good, it seems, for him to pass on.
Bower was a first-year assistant at Marist the last time the program went to the NCAA tournament (1986-87), and said, last May, that he would like nothing better to get the program back to that level.
"Yeah, that's something I might have said (during the interview process)," said Bower, about a desire to be the coach that helped take Marist there before and who wants to be the one to do it again.
And, now, the chase for a return to the NCAA Tournament after a lengthy absence will be left to his successor.
School officials have indicated that a national search for a replacement will begin immediately.
"School officials have indicated that a national search for a replacement will begin immediately." Just how many do-overs does the AD there get?
Can't say that's a bad question. Bower's hire looked like a good one, though. Still, the chance that he'd go back to the NBA had to always be lingering. Tough, though, to second guess. Brady was a good hire, but they low-balled him salary wise throughout his time there. Don't blame him for leaving. If Brady had made what Bower was making ... maybe he'd have stayed.
Martin seemed like a good hire, but was a good recruiter who didn't get results. My personal thought was that they should have kept Magarity.
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