Opinion: UNO misses the mark with statement on basketball program

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Mark Slessinger

I like Tim Duncan, I really do. UNO’s director of athletics is a terrific person.

However, the statement put out by the University and Duncan about the future of the men’s basketball program was poorly done, at best.

Duncan pledged to address “all facets of the program” while saying that the basketball program “fell below the standards” we expect for the men’s basketball program.

That sounds great.

But now let’s dribble our way into some reality.

Mark Slessinger has done a solid job, at times a very good job, at one of the toughest jobs in Division I college basketball. This is UNO, no garden spot.

Several very good basketball coaches have walked through the door at the University of New Orleans and walked out with less than distinguished records.

Big West champion Cal Santa-Barbara will play Baylor Friday in the NCAA tournament. The Gauchos are coached by former UNO coach Joe Pasternack, who is an outstanding coach, by the way.

In Joe Pasternack’s three years on the Lakefront, he won a total of 17 games in the Sun Belt Conference regular season. The attempts of the school leadership at the time to drop down from NCAA Division I competiton did not help his cause.

This season, Texas A&M basketball coach Buzz Williams was 15-3 in the Southeastern Conference. The Aggies play Penn State Thursday night in the NCAA Tournament.

At UNO, in one season during the Hurricane Katrina aftermath, Williams was 14-17 overall and 9-9 in the Sun Belt.

In Mark Slessinger’s last six years in the Southland, his record is 54-49. While UNO is “evaluating,” here’s one thing that the school could do that would help the basketball program tremendously.

That is, quit taking pay-day games, you know the ones where you go on the road to top ranked Purdue and get your doors blown off, but walk out with a nice paycheck.

Instead, fundraise.

Do everything you can to make your basketball program competitive in amenities for athletes, be competitive on the NIL landscape and pay coaches wages that sends a message that you are serious about basketball.

This season, UNO basketball closed with a flurry of wins. The Privateers, the 7th seed in the league tournament, defeated 6th seeded Houston Christian and 3rd seeded Southeastern before playing the two seed, Northwestern State, to the wire, 74-70.

What that tells me is that the head coach weathered adversity and kept his team together through some real turbulence that included a nine-game conference losing skid.

Tuesday night, I watched UNO’s baseball team lose at No. 1 LSU, 16-0. The game didn’t change my opinion of Privateers head coach Blake Dean. He is a talented coach in a very difficult situation. So is Mark Slessinger.

Before leadership at UNO publicly sanctions its coaches, it should do something else: Get serious about being a Division I athletics program.

Let the record show, that over the years, from Slessinger to Pasternack to Williams to Monte Towe to Joey Stiebing, the coaching at the University of New Orleans has not been the problem.

The University, and its lack of commitment to athletics, has.

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Ed Daniels

WGNO Sports Director/106.1 FM

Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…

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