By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – Holy D-II struggle, Batman! On paper, today’s matchup between the Wright State Raiders and the Division II Ohio Dominican Panthers appeared to be a gross mismatch. Although many in attendance expected to see a laugher, the Panthers had no intention of being WSU’s sacrificial lamb on the schedule. Ohio Dominican (0-3), winners of just five games last season, battled Wright State (2-0) to a tie game with just over six minutes to play, before a late 18-6 run secured a Raider victory.
Wright State struggled throughout the game’s first 34 minutes, trailing the Panthers 13-11 midway through the first half, and leading by only one point at halftime (32-31). A pair of Trent Weaver free throws put Ohio Dominican up 35-34 at the 18:33 mark of the second half, and the Panthers continued to hang around to the tune of a 58-58 score with 6:24 left in the contest.
Reggie Arceneaux hit a 3-pointer to ignite an 18-6 game-ending run to put the Raiders on top for good. A Mark Minch layup to cut the lead to 61-60 with 5:44 to go and Ohio Dominican appeared to still be right where they wanted to be. However, a pair of jumpers by Chrishawn Hopkins and Arceneaux stretched the WSU lead to 65-60.
Trent Weaver’s jumper with 3:41 remaining cut the Wright State lead to 65-62, but the Raiders were too much down the stretch, closing out the Panthers by scoring 11 of the game’s final 13 points for the 76-64 victory.
Hopkins led WSU with 25 points and 7 rebounds, Arceneaux and Joe Thomasson also scored in double figures with 18 and 15 points respectively. Mark Minch added 21 for the Panthers.
Wright State won the battle of the boards 28-27, although Ohio Dominican pulled down 10 rebounds on their offensive end of the court.
The Raiders embark on a six game road trip before returning home to battle another Division II opponent, the Urbana University Blue Knights, on Sunday December 7. Tip-off at the Nutter Center is scheduled for 7:00 pm.
Photos © and Courtesy of Tim G. Zechar
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – It may have been just the first contest of a 30-plus game season, but the Wright State Raiders topped the Belmont Bruins on Friday night, in what may turn out to be one of the most exciting games of the year. After trailing 70-66 with 2:41 left to play, the Raiders scored the game’s final seven points to pull out a 73-70 “instant classic” in front of the home fans.
Afterwards, Wright State’s Reggie Arceneaux described the last two minutes as intense and tough. “It was two great teams going at it in a great atmosphere,” he said. “We found a way to get it done.”
Belmont, a traditional mid-major power, entered the contest having come off of a season in which they went 26-10, including a win against North Carolina on the Tar Heels home floor. The Bruins also put on a nice performance in the postseason NIT, advancing to the quarterfinals before falling to Clemson.
The Bruins held the upper hand early by jumping out to leads of 6-0 and 15-7. The Raiders fought their way back to claim their first lead of the night 23-21 after a Reggie Arceneaux pass found Michael Karena under the basket for two points.
The Raiders stretched the lead to 30-25 with 4:20 left in the half. It was Wright State’s largest advantage all night. The lead changed hands three more times until the halftime scoreboard read 40-37 in favor of Belmont.
Both teams battled to a 55-55 tie midway through the second half. The score was knotted at 59 all until a pair of Evan Bradds free throws put the Bruins on top 70-66 with 2:41 to play.
A nice cross-over dribble drive by Chrishawn Hopkins made it 70-68 with 2:09 to go. After a stop on the defensive end of the court, Reggie Arceneaux was fouled on a drive to the hoop. He converted both free throws at the 1:10 mark to even things at 70-70.
On Belmont’s next possession, Grant Benzinger stole an errant Belmont pass in the middle of the lane, and Arceneaux was fouled from behind. Reggie made the first of two free throws to put WSU up 71-70 with 29.5 seconds to play.
With the Bruins looking to retake the lead and possibly the victory, Belmont’s Evan Bradds received the ball and began to back down Benzinger under the basket. Benzinger hit the floor, a whistle had blown, and Bradds was called for a charging foul with 10.3 seconds remaining.
“I was just playing tough,” Benzinger said. “It just so happened that he put his shoulder down and I took it.”
WSU pushed the ball down court on the ensuing play and Arceneaux found Steven Davis under the basket. Davis went up for the lay-in, but Belmont’s Bradds was whistled for an intentional foul with 3.9 showing on the clock. Alone at the line, Stevens missed both free throw attempts.
Because of the flagrant foul, the Raiders still had possession under their own basket. Benzinger hit Hopkins under the hoop on the inbounds pass for a layup, capping an exciting 73-70 Wright State win.
“I’ve been a part of a lot of games,” Wright State head coach Billy Donlon said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been more proud of a team in a single game, than what just took place out on that floor. And I would have said that regardless of the final score. What those guys did to find a way to win was incredible.”
“You will never see a better effort on a basketball floor. And Belmont gave an incredible effort too. There were scrums everywhere, but it was the right way. The sportsmanship … there was never anything nasty. It was just two teams playing hard.”
Hopkins led the Raiders with 21 points and grabbed 5 rebounds. Arceneaux (15) and Karena (11) also scored in double figures. Joe Thomasson pulled down a team-high seven rebounds.
Kendall Griffin scored seven points in 13 minutes before leaving the game in the first half with a concussion.
“What Kendall Griffin did in the first half gave us the opportunity to win the game,” Donlon said. His drives, his physicality, his layups at the rim, and his defense gave us a chance to win. He was as good as anybody on the floor in the first half.”
Reece Chamberlain recorded a double-double for Belmont with 18 points and 12 boards. Evan Bradds, from nearby Greenview High School, scored 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field. Bradds also had seven rebounds.
The Raiders host the Division II Ohio Dominican Panthers on Sunday November 16. The Panthers finished last season with a record of 5-21. Tip-off is slated for 5:00 pm.
Photos © and Courtesy of Tim G. Zechar
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – Wright State University head coach Billy Donlon got everything that a coach could want from an exhibition game, against the University of Findlay, on Wednesday night. Nearly every player who dressed played double-figure minutes. His team had a chance to handle adversity, and they eventually came away with a 68-59 victory over the Oilers at the Nutter Center.
Findlay scored the game’s first six points before the Raiders tied it at 8 all. The lead changed hands seven times until a Steven Davis jumper made it 20-20 midway through the first half. The Oilers controlled the next five minutes with a 16-4 run to go up 36-24, and eventually into the halftime locker room with a 40-32 lead.
Findlay stretched their advantage to 48-37 with 16:26 left to play. It was at that point when Wright State turned up their defensive intensity and scored the next 20-straight points, en route to a 27-3 run to go up 64-51 with 4:04 to play. Chrishawn Hopkins was phenomenal during a 90-second stretch, in which he scored six-straight points on two free throws and two layups, putting the Raiders up 52-48 at the 11:41 mark, after trailing 48-46.
Four Raiders scored in double figures: Steven Davis (14), Kendall Griffin (13), Chrishawn Hopkins (12), and Joe Thomasson (11). Davis and Griffin also led their team with six rebounds apiece.
The Raiders open their regular season at home on Friday November 14 against the Belmont Bruins. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 pm.
Photos © and Courtesy of Tim G. Zechar
By Mike Klingshirn
Dr. Michael Cusack recently sat down with RaiderRoundball.com to talk about his many experiences as Wright State Athletics Director from 1982 through 2008. He was only the second director for WSU since the start of intercollegiate athletics in 1967 and led a period of dramatic growth and transition for Raider athletics.
This is part two of a two-part interview. In this part, I asked Dr. Cusack to tell some stories and talk about many of the athletes, coaches, and personalities associated with Wright State athletics throughout the years. Here are his comments.
RRB: Don Mohr (Athletic Director, 1968-81)
Dr. C: I met Don when I got the job. He’s a big burly guy, barreling around, and everything like that. When I finally got the job, his office was in the old PE building. The first thing that happens is I get into his chair — and he was huge — and I lean backwards and go flying on my back. Nobody was in there, so I got up, picked everything up, and called somebody into the office. It was Susie Gayle, and I said, “What’s with this chair?” She said that Mohr was always flopping back, and she showed me a little thing on the wall, where his head kept hitting. It was all shredded up. He was funny, but he was really good.
I came here in 1982 and we won the national basketball championship the following year. We brought Don to Springfield (for the championship). There is a whole montage of pictures near the locker rooms with a picture of him and me. I was sort of able to bask in the glow, but he was the guy. He was interesting.
Don probably enjoyed retirement as much as anyone. He went up to Cape Cod and was on Martha’s Vineyard, which is like being on the Riviera. It’s a great place. He fished all of the time.
RRB: John Ross (Head Men’s Basketball Coach, 1969-75)
Dr. C: John was also the head baseball coach. I think that he may have been our first one. Don Mohr coached, but I’m not sure which was which. Then they hired Ron Nischwitz.
I didn’t get to work with John because he was already retired, but I got to see him a little bit. He had a camping trailer, and during the first or second year that I was here, he, Ralph (Underhill), Jim Dock, Bobby Grote, and I went down to a place near Rocky Fork where we spent the night and played golf.
John always remembered things and had all sorts of stories. He had been in Florida all of these years, but he’d come to a basketball game or so here, and we would introduce him. Towards spring, I’d always get a note from him, saying that you’re doing a good job and he’d have a suggestion or two. John was really good like that. He always maintained a connection with us.
RRB: Bob Grote (Basketball & Baseball, 1972-76)
Dr. C: When I got here, Grote was an assistant basketball and assistant baseball coach, so when the basketball season would end, he’d go back out to baseball. He was really a dynamic coach. Being a younger guy at the time, he was really aggressive and tough on those guys. Had Nischwitz retired earlier, before Bobby left, he would have been the head baseball coach. There came a time when he came to a crossroads and decided to go into business. He has done very well. He was excellent.
Bobby was a good athlete, but I never saw him play. However, I got to know his dad, and his dad ironically, was best buddies with Don Zimmer (MLB infielder, coach, and manger). They were all out of Cincinnati. Bobby’s dad played in the Dodgers farm system, and of course, the Brooklyn Dodgers were my team. So there was a connection and I got to know his dad really well.
RRB: Jim Kordik (Wrestling, 1975-79)
Dr. C: I only got to know Jim after he was here. He’s a very good lawyer in town.
RRB: Jodi Martin (Women’s Basketball, 1979-83)
Dr. C: She’s our all-time leading scorer on the women’s side. I got to see her in ’83, her last year and my first year here. She was different because she wasn’t as big as they are now. She got all of her points underneath and never missed a foul shot. Over the years, she’s always brought kids back because she is a teacher over in Xenia. I think that her husband is a policeman. She’s been great.
RRB: Bob Schaefer (Basketball, 1975-79)
Dr. C: I know Bob a little bit. I never got to see him play. If I were to do it again, I probably could have done a better job at getting those guys back. I think that I did a good job, but I probably could have done a lot better. He’s a good guy who has always been supportive.
RRB: Patti Coots (Swimming & Diving, 1978-82)
Dr. C: Patti was married to Jim Dock when I got here. She was a great diver and All-American three or four times.
RRB: Gary Monroe (Basketball, 1981-83)
Dr. C: He’s an interesting guy. Gary had the flattest shot that you’ve ever seen in your life. At the Division II level, it wasn’t a big problem. But when we played Louisville in Freedom Hall, he did well, but one of his shots was so flat that one of those great leapers they had got up and blocked it halfway between the shot and the basket. It was so flat that it wasn’t goaltending. Gary was one of those quiet assassins. He could play.
RRB: Mark “Bo” Bilinski (Baseball, 1972-74)
Dr. C: He had a childhood disease or something that affected his ability to run, but it certainly didn’t affect his ability to hit, from what I am told. He was Nischwitz’s right-hand man forever. He’s a detective in Dayton.
RRB: Carol Westbeld (Volleyball, 1979-82)
Dr. C: Carol was first team All-American for us. She could play for anybody. Carol could jump and hang in the air. She was outstanding.
RRB: Tim Begley (Wrestling, 1982-86)
Dr. C: A couple of years ago, my wife and I went to Brio at The Greene. It was happy hour, pretty empty, and we were just sitting there. I saw a strong-looking guy, not too much bigger than me, sitting at the end of the bar. Next thing that I know, the bartender asked if there’s anything that I’d like to drink … it’s on the guy at the other end of the bar. I looked down there and he says, “Tim Begley.” He’s gotten into the import-export business and is still involved with wrestling.
Then one night, about a year or two ago, we’re down at a place called Franco’s. A couple of nice-looking women come in and sit down with some kids, but there are no guys. The next thing I could hear were some Harleys come down the road, and I’m thinking, “Oh, man. I know how this is going to be.” Then some guys come in with helmets on. They took them off and there’s Timmy. He’s a good guy who has done very well.
RRB: Hylton Dayes (Soccer, 1982-85)
Dr. C: He’s four time first-team All-American. Hylton might be the best athlete that we’ve ever had here. He’s been a coach here and at George Mason. He’s coached our women. He coached our men. And now he has been at Cincinnati for a long time.
Hylton was tough on his teammates. He was demanding as a player, and probably as a coach. He might be the only coach that I can remember, who would come in if they weren’t playing well and be apologetic. I never felt that any of the coaches had to be. I’m assuming that they’re doing the best job that they can. If it’s not working, they don’t need to apologize to me.
Hylton was such a competitor and perfectionist. He was always a good guy and a great player. He had something that you hardly ever see, but great athletes have it … he had a second gear.
RRB: Stamat Bulugaris (Head Wrestling Coach, 1974-86)
Dr. C: Stamat started the wrestling program here. He wrestled at UD and officiated. He was an engineer, and probably still is for Delco … a brilliant guy.
His big thing was being in charge of testing the brakes that were going to be a couple generations down. I never saw this, but he told me that he’d be driving a cheap mid-sized car, but it could be worth $400,000 because it’s got all of these brakes in it. He’d be taking them down Pikes Peak and checking them out.
They had a very good wrestling program and he devoted all of the time that he could to it. When he left, we weren’t able to get a coach of that caliber. It got to the point where you had to have somebody there. Wrestling is not a sport that you can just dabble in.
RRB: Mark Vest (Basketball, 1983-86)
Dr. C: I saw a high school picture of Mark. He had a big fro. It was funny.
Mark was freshman-of-the-year at VMI, and he had just less 2,000 points at Wright State without the 3-point shot. This guy could shoot the ball from the ozone layer.
You look at him and he seems like the nicest, most mellow guy, but he was vicious. Ralph’s team used to run a play where they would pass at the baseline. I happened to be down that way one time, where they went through and Mark would stick his hand out as they went by and BOOM!
Mark was a great competitor. He’s as good of a guy as you’re going to meet, but once you go between the lines …
RRB: Fred Blair (Baseball, 1981-83)
Dr. C: Fred was probably the best hitter that we ever had. I think that he had Big League ability to hit, but he was one of those guys that they didn’t have a position. Personally, I think they should have taken a shot at him as a catcher, but it was one of those things where he was sort of a tweener.
RRB: Peg Wynkoop (Coach & Administrator, 1973-98)
Dr. C: In those days, you wore a lot of hats. She may have been volleyball coach before I got here. She even coached men’s volleyball for one year and some tennis. Peg was very successful but wanted to get out, and became a tremendous SWA (senior women’s administrator). She wrote the book. She was so good at the rules, regulations, and compliance. She was excellent. Look at the early pictures on the walls … she’s in them.
RRB: Kim Holmes-Fawcett (Volleyball, 1980-83)
Dr. C: When I went down to Northern Kentucky University (interim AD in 2013), there was a Liz Holmes. She was Kim’s aunt.
She was an All-American for us. I wasn’t there, but they tell me that she was a great basketball player too. Her daughter was a three or four time first-team All-American at Penn State. She comes from a very athletic family.
RRB: Cathy Kronauge-Jefferson (Softball, 1973-74)
Dr. C: Cathy was married to Fred Jefferson, our golf coach. If you made a list of the top ten women golfers in Ohio, she’d be in there. She might be closer to the top five.
RRB: Greg Gahris (Broadcaster, 1980-95)
Dr. C: It’s funny how things have come around. I’ve got Greg’s daughter in my classes. He was a Major League voice. If you did a 1 to 10 on how good he was … he would be a 10. Gahris had the smoker’s voice. I called him Moose.
There was a time when Kentucky Wesleyan always got to host the tournament. Then one year, we got it. The reason that we got it was because I knew what they were going to bid, so I just bid more. They could bid what they bid because they had 5,000 seats. We only had 2,800. So I bid $55,000. They usually bid $50,000. I figured that we’d get it, but I had to charge more for the tickets.
So before one of the playoff games, we’re doing a TV interview along the floor and Greg goes, “Well Mike, you can’t say anything more, but you guys really did a really great job of bidding.”
I said, “No, we bid $55,000, Moose.” He’s never at a loss of words, but he goes, “O, O, O, OK.”
RRB: Jennifer Horn-Claypool (Women’s Basketball, 1982-86)
Dr. C: She was interesting because early on in her career, I think that she had a difference in opinions with Pat Davis, who was the coach. I loved Pat, but she could be tough. So Jennifer kind of sat at the end of the bench. By the time that she finished, I think she had about 1,500 points. She is in the Indiana or Ohio sports Hall of Fame.
RRB: Frank Lickliter (Golf, 1988-91)
Dr. C: I didn’t get to know Frank very well, but he may have been the only guy that I know who cried at his induction (WSU Hall of Fame), even though he was already a pro golfer. Frank wasn’t always the number one golfer when we were here, but he was a great competitor and just kept getting better and better. So he ended up making a good living at it.
RRB: Don Bosway (Baseball, 1985-88)
Dr. C: Don was a left-handed pitcher for us. I think it was the year that we went Division I … we got to the semi-finals in Troy and he must have thrown 220 pitches in a game.
RRB: Brian Anderson (Baseball, 1991-93)
Dr. C: He was not only first-team All-American, but he was first-team academic All-American. He was just a first class guy. He also pitched for the Angels, Indians, Diamondbacks, and Royals.
RRB: Bill Edwards (Basketball, 1989-93)
Dr. C: I don’t know how we got him, but I think that Bob Grote did it. Bill had a tough background situation. As a freshman, he came out and was just really good. He had outstanding skills and could have played at any level. We happened to get him, sort of like how Butler got some of their guys. Guys like him are hard to keep any more with the way that they transfer all over the place. It wasn’t like Bill was just good. He was good in big games. He was just so talented.
RRB: Jon Sbrocco (Baseball, 1990-93)
Dr. C: He is the only guy in all of the years that I was here, who had no problem strolling into my office whenever he felt like it. He’d sit down and say, hey boss how are you doing. He was a helluva player and a funny guy. Sometimes he’d send me some sort of gross stuff and I’d go back to him and say, “You can’t be sending this stuff.”
In his first year, he was with Brian (Anderson) and played in the outfield. It was second base after that. He played in the minor leagues several years.
RRB: Vitaly Potapenko (Basketball, 1994-96)
Dr. C: It’s funny and I’ll never forget. Vitaly did something that really had me ticked off. So I called him in and I’m reaming him out. And of course, he’s sitting in one of my chairs, covering up the whole thing. Newman’s sitting in the couch over there.
So I said, “OK, go ahead. You can go now.” Vitaly gets up and goes out. I said to Newman, “Why were you all the way over there?”
He said, “Because if Vitaly jumped up and picked your desk up on you, I wanted to be out of there as fast as I could.”
He was so big that the floor shook when he went by. He was a really, really, nice young man.
RRB: Greg Andrulis (Head Men’s Soccer Coach, 1985-96)
Dr. C: When we hired Greg, there was an interview process that a guy developed, where he went around the country and interviewed the most successful coaches — the Dean Smiths, the Bobby Knights, and all of these guys — about certain traits. Greg is the only guy that we used it on. He was the guy who emerged and he was one of the best coaches that we ever had.
RRB: Pat Davis (Head Women’s Basketball and Softball Coach, 1976-90)
Dr. C: She was here when I got here. Pat did a very good job and was very solid. She was also a big-time athlete in her own right. I think she was the goalie for our national field hockey team, and wasn’t far behind Cathy Jefferson as far as how good she was in golf.
RRB: Ralph Underhill (Head Men’s Basketball Coach, 1978-96)
Dr. C: People thought that Ralph was this wild guy, doing all of this stuff. I’m telling you that I never heard this guy say a cuss word. I was out with him in places and never saw him seem lewd in any way. He’d come to our house if we had a function, and he might be the first one there and the last one to leave. At Fourth of July, he’d pull stuff out and play with the kids. I had absolutely no concerns about this guy. He had the DUI. It was one of those things that happened. We took care of it, admitted it, and got it out there.
As a coach, Ralph was a tireless recruiter. He loved going to places to recruit. When we got to Division I, it was really hard to transition from II to I. In Division II, it seemed like an easy life because we’d beat the crap out of people, the season would end, finish up some recruiting, and have the summer off.
Now, it would be like a professor who comes in next September and they say, “Look, you’re going to have to teach four courses a quarter. We’re going to pay you a little bit more, but you’re going to have to do this and do that.” But the professor might not want to do it. You’re going from taking a nice check into the summer and playing in golf outings. Well, they can’t do that anymore. The world changed when we went Division I. It was at a stage in his life, that even though he had some successful years toward the end, it was harder.
RRB: Mark Myton (Soccer, 1980-84)
Dr. C: Mark is a guy that was struggling with a couple of courses when I got here. He was in engineering and everybody was trying to tell him that he shouldn’t be. He said that he was going to stay in there. He’s been an engineer ever since, and is a true success story. My feeling at that time was … if you want to be an engineer, be an engineer.
RRB: Mark Woods (Basketball, 1989-93)
Dr. C: He’s a special guy because of the story with him finishing school. On those rare occasions when the ball would get stolen from him, he would get it back, like right now. I remember a play when a guy stole the ball from him. Mark’s going this way. The guy who stole the ball is going that way. Mark turns around, comes up, catches him, and hammers it off of the backboard. He was good. He was tough.
RRB: Dr. Carl Benner (Basketball Official Scorer, 1978-2003)
Dr. C: He was the chair of the athletics council when I was hired. He did all of the scoring and was the guy in the striped shirt. He was a wonderful guy and a professor here in the College of Education.
RRB: Rick Miller (Swimming & Diving, 1980-84)
Dr. C: Rick is Harold’s son. Harold is at all of games and has been a volunteer assistant since before I came here.
RRB: Ron Nischwitz (Head Baseball Coach, 1975-2004)
Dr. C: He’s a legend. Some coaches at the Division II level, especially in those days, wouldn’t recruit some guys because they thought that they can’t get those guys … but not Nisch. He’d go after anybody. That’s why they were so good. After he retired — and I forget how it happened — we saw some paperwork (recruiting forms) and pulled one out. It was from Derek Jeter (New York Yankees). Jeter filled it out when he was seventeen years old. It was likely a courtesy, being as good of a kid as he probably was.
RRB: Keion Brooks (Basketball, 1995-99)
Dr. C: When he played, if you looked out to the parking lots toward the baseball facilities, there would be a semi out there. That was his dad. His dad was a semi truck driver. He’d come to the games, maybe because he was in the area. He’d pull that truck in there and come to the games. Keion was a great talent.
RRB: Matt Liddy (Head Swimming & Diving Coach, 1989-2005)
Dr. C: Matt was an assistant to the swimming coach He took over the program, did a great job, and obviously won all the time. Then he was an assistant for awhile. I know he wanted to retire and get into administration, and I thought frankly, he wasn’t ready to retire. Matt seemed to agree and was happy that he stayed a year or two. He was remarried, had a younger son who was a pretty good athlete, and wanted to spend more time with them, so he was able to do that. Matt was good to work with.
RRB: Jim Brown (Basketball Coach, 1970-97)
Dr. C: Jim was here forever, and still teaches here. He had been in Vietnam and I’ve heard a lot of those stories. I am really impressed with the very good job that he does on radio … an excellent job. If you can get a mature guy to be your assistant coach forever, you got it made, which leads to the next guy …
RRB: Paul Newman (Associate Athletics Director, 1985-2006)
Dr. C: I had it made by having him. I used to kid him about us being married for 23 years. When I was at Mercyhurst — a little school where we did everything — he was the SID at Edinboro, where you felt like they had everything. After I was here a year or two, Jim Dock decided that he wanted to have his own shop somewhere, so he became the head of the Alumni Association. I called Paul and asked if this was something that he’d be interested in. He didn’t know, so I brought him and Connie down here and let them look around. Then I went up to Erie and talked to them. I had one other guy named Larry Geraciatti, who had coached at NYU. He was looking for a job too. We interviewed them both.
Geraciatti took his NYU baseball team to the final games in Omaha and got beat by Arizona State, who featured Reggie Jackson and Sal Bando.
My staff was scared stiff of Geraciatti. He was sort of a New York accent, gangstery kind of guy. They said you’ll never be able to control him, but Larry was a good guy. He went on to coach baseball at Georgetown.
I asked Paul to come. I didn’t think that he would because he was at Edinboro, but he did.
I remember asking Paul about three or four years after he was here, “When do you think you want to look for an AD job?” He looked at me and said, “I like it here.” In Paul’s case, he did so much in the community. He’s a pillar.
I’ll tell you one story that’s funny. After about the first or second year here, Paul was doing budget and he tells me that we were $50,000 over, which was a lot back then, and I had almost gone to Louisville. I’m going, “Oh my God.” So he’s saying that he’s got this system and he’s got this and that. And I’m saying, “But we’re $50,000 over.” He says, “I’ll pay it out of my own salary.” So I’m carrying on, and said that I should have gone to Louisville. I’m on his back and he keeps talking about how he’s got this all figured out. I said, “You’re figuring out all of this stuff. I’m losing sleep over the budget (which I’m not) and you don’t give a damn over the budget.” He turns to me and basically says, screw you. He opens my office door, storms out, and slams the door. Well, the Athletics Council is going to meet, and they’re all sitting there and see this. For about a week or two, we were communicating through post-it notes on the door. He and I talk about this all of the time.
RRB: The 1982-83 NCAA Division II National Champions Men’s Basketball Team
Dr. C: This team, of course, was special. They were fun to watch. There were some characters on the team from the buttoned-down Mike Grote, who was MVP of the national championship game, to Fred Moore, who got about 20 points in the Louisville game in Louisville. Louisville won the championship that year too and we gave them a good game. We had a great team. We could have played at the Division I level. That team … no question.
RRB: Joe Smith (Baseball, 2004-06)
Dr. C: Joe was an overhand pitcher with Nisch, and Greg Lovelady changed him. Not many people would have been able to do that … from Lovelady’s side or from Joe’s side. Joe was the ultimate competitor.
RRB: DaShaun Wood (Basketball, 2003-07)
Dr. C: In his freshman year, he didn’t come in as DaShaun Wood. He came in as DaShaun Lynch. His mother had passed, and during his freshman year, he had to go back and sign her death certificate.
Bob Grant and I were at Cleveland State for the softball tournament. We entered the tournament with forty losses and won that thing. We looked like Arizona State in the first game.
It’s freezing up there, so Bob and I are in the press box. We hear their SID saying that they’ve got this kid, DaShaun Lynch, who came, visited, and is going to be terrific for them. Grant and I look at each other and said, “What? DaShaun is supposed to come to our place next week.”
I called Biancardi and said, “What’s going on?” He said that he’d look into it. Paul gets back with me and says, “He’s coming.” We got him, but I don’t put two-and-two together. The following year, we played in Cleveland, and some AAU coach is carrying on and yelling at our bench. He must have promised DaShaun to Cleveland State.
RRB: Gordie Wise (Public Address Announcer, “Welcome to another exciting night of Raider round ball”, 1969-Present)
Dr. C: Gordie was a faculty rep when I came here, so we went to the NCAA conferences together. He has missed some games for family, kids, and functions like that, but he has certainly been the announcer for every season. He’s Mr. Wright State.
RRB: Rob Cooper (Head Baseball Coach, 2004-13)
Dr. C: When we were looking for coaches, we had some very good candidates. I forget how we did it, but he was an assistant at Oral Roberts, so I asked somebody to do some background work on him. If I’m not mistaking, he even said that he’d pay his own way to come out and do an interview. Of course, that’s not allowed. He’s a tough guy, who kept you on your toes. I’ve always said that the best coaches you’ll have are going to be the most demanding because they want to get to that next level.
RRB: Greg Lovelady (Head Baseball Coach, 2013-Present)
Dr. C: Greg was the catcher on the national championship teams at Miami (Florida). He did a job with Joe Smith, comparable to what Billy Donlon did with DaShaun Wood. He took a pretty good player and turned him into a great player.
Greg did a heckuva job this year. I saw him at Kroger, the day after they lost in the tournament (Horizon League). I was impressed with the way that he handled it. There were no complaints about the kids not playing well. He’s going to be good.
RRB: Paul Biancardi (Head Basketball Coach, 2003-05)
Dr. C: I wish we had gotten to know Paul, but we didn’t because there was a cloud over him. I think he would have done fine.
RRB: Brad Brownell (Head Basketball Coach, 2006-09)
Dr. C: We were looking for a coach after Paul Biancardi got caught up in that situation. We were going to talk to the coach who had just been fired at Kansas State. He had been successful, but that is when they brought Huggins in. We were going to fly out and talk to him. The guy that’s at Cleveland State (Gary Waters), who was at Rutgers at the time, was very interested in the job. Tom Izzo had called us with one of his guys — and he usually did that — because he had good guys.
One thing led to another and we found out that Brad wasn’t happy there. Will Rey (former WSU assistant basketball coach) had helped us with that. We consulted with him by phone.
Jon LeCrone (Horizon League Commissioner) was on the NCAA selection committee and Brad’s team (UNC-Wilmington) was going to be in the NCAA tournament. They were Jon’s assignment. I said to LeCrone, “If you see the guy, would you tell him that Wright State is a good one to look at?” He ended up in the room next door to Brownell and he opens up the door to get his papers, and Brad opens up the door at the same time.
So I called the AD and got permission to talk to him, and we talked to Brad. He came in to be interviewed at Ball State and here. I think that our Pavilion and all of that had a lot to do with it, so that’s how we got him.
RRB: Billy Donlon (Head Basketball Coach, 2010-Present)
Dr. C: I always felt that he was going to be the next coach, and of course, Bob Grant hired him for that. I saw him working DaShaun, and it was the only time that I saw anyone be able to wear DaShaun out. If you remember, DaShaun was a very good player, but if he had a weakness, he may not have been the greatest shooter in the world. By his senior year, he was a helluva shooter. When we played Butler (Horizon League tournament) we were down ten … he just erased it.
RRB: Lisa Lemmon (Dr. Cusack’s long-time secretary)
Dr. C: I had her about the whole time. Lisa was always the smartest person in the room. She was so far ahead with the computer that there was nothing she couldn’t do. It was phenomenal. Some people used to say she’s not working so hard. Every time, my answer was, “She always got the work done … always.” It wasn’t like there’s all of this work left and she’s out of here. We couldn’t give her enough work to challenge her completely.
Early with the Nutter Center, when there were all sorts of ticket problems because of the way that the thing was organized, she was the front line. A lot of people don’t realize that. She handled that stuff and could remember where peoples’ seats were. Not every single one, but most of them. She could have been anything she wanted.
Lisa was my secretary for 22 years. Talk about luck … I had Paul (Newman) and her the whole time. I was just lucky.
RRB: Dr. Cusack, thanks again for taking the time to talk with us.
Dr. Michael Cusack recently sat down with RaiderRoundball.com to talk about his many experiences as Wright State Athletics Director from 1982 through 2008. He was only the second director for WSU since the start of intercollegiate athletics in 1967 and led a period of dramatic growth and transition for Raider athletics. At his induction ceremony into the Wright State University Hall of Fame, Paul Newman, who introduced Dr. Cusack, said that there is one word that best describes him. That word is architect. Dr. Cusack managed the school’s move from NCAA Division II to Division I in 1987, and its move to the Mid-Continent Conference in 1991 and to the Horizon League in 1994. He oversaw construction of the Nutter Center in 1990, the Setzer Pavillion/Mills Morgan Center state-of-the-art training facility in 2005, the Alumni Soccer Field, Nischwitz Baseball Stadium, WSU Softball Field and the WSU Tennis Courts. His tenure also included the formation of such programs as the Athletics Director’s Club, Captain’s Club (now the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee), LifeSKILLS program and the Hall of Fame. This is part one of a two-part interview. In this part, we’ll talk about the early years of Wright State athletics and some of the major changes that occurred during Dr. Cusack’s tenure as AD. In the second part, he will tell some stories and talk about many of the athletes, coaches, and personalities associated with Wright State sports throughout the years.
RRB: Tell us a little about yourself before you came to Wright State.
Dr. C: I got a chance to start out at a private school in 1967, called Queens College. It was part of the City University of New York. I stayed there for nine years, until 1976. I was coaching and teaching, and was an assistant basketball coach and an assistant baseball coach. In 1973, I became the head baseball coach and coached there for four years. That was the year that Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford for president. The city was in all sorts of trouble. They wiped out all of our positions, so that year I focused on my doctorate and finished that. Then I got the chance to be the athletic director at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania. I went up there in the middle of the summer. About the end of spring, they called me and asked if I’d also like to be the baseball coach, and so I said, “OK.” I was the AD for three years, and gave up the job in the fourth year.
RRB: You became just the second athletic director ever at Wright State in 1982. What brought you to here?
Dr. C: What intrigued me about Wright State was that they were one of the top Division II programs in the country. They were a public school and I was at a Catholic school. They were large and we were small … we did everything. We had a student doing an internship for sports information, my secretary and me. That was about it. We had no equipment room or any of that stuff, but it was fun. I had heard about this place because there was a guy named Roger Glaser here, who partnered with Jerry Petrofsky. Petrofsy did most of the telemetry for the Nan Davis paraplegic project. Roger and I took our masters degree, back east. I even had him in some classes because I was teaching and doing my masters. So I thought that this would be a good place to come. When I was at Queens, I coached with a guy whose wife came from a little town called Fletcher. We used to come out here to visit, so we always came through Ohio State University. The first time that my kids stepped on that campus, they were little, looked around and said, “We want to go here.” Well, four of the five did. When I went to Mercyhurst, they were NAIA and moved to NCAA Division II right away, so I knew about Wright State. You know who’s good and who isn’t. This happened to be one that was good. There were a whole bunch of things that came together, way, way back. So when the job opened up, I applied for it. I got the job and started April 1, 1982. It was clearly a move up. I wasn’t thinking about Division I at the time. They had everything going. They just did things right.
RRB: What did athletics look like at WSU when you arrived in 1982?
Dr. C: To be honest about it, it didn’t look much different than when we went to Division I. The equipment room downstairs was excellent. We had good trainers. The gym looked like a high school gym that sat 2,800. The programs were good. They wanted to win and were well-funded. Just about every sport had done well. It was excellent and a great opportunity for me because I didn’t have to rebuild the program. I got to build it more. You can’t ask for anything more than that.
RRB: What did the staff look like?
Dr. C: They had a sports information director, Dave Stahl. The trainer and SID guy were here a long time. There was an older guy named Tommy Roush, down in the equipment room, who was a retired military guy. He was running it and right under him was Mike Zink. They had about four or five people down there. Two or three of them were here before I got here and they were here after I left. A lot of them were Wright State graduates. They had given their lives to the place, so it was great.
RRB: There were several major changes during your tenure as AD. Let’s talk about some of them:
RRB: Wright State was one of the best NCAA Division II programs in the country. In 1987 the program moved from Division II to Division I. What were the reasons behind the move? Who played major roles? What were the biggest obstacles?
Dr. C: We looked around. There was this big fish in a smaller pond and all around us was Division I. Central State was NAIA, but we had Miami, Cincinnati, Ohio U, Ohio State, and UD. We looked at the University itself. We had a medical school, engineering, and great art and theatre. We had all of this stuff that was really top draw and we felt like athletics really needed to be at that level too. The first time that we said that we were going to go Division I was in 1985. The faculty actually had a meeting and voted against it. That wasn’t binding, but I thought it was. I thought, oh well, what we were going to do now was to be the best Division II program … not among the best, but the best. Dr. Kegerreis, who was president at the time, said to me, “Forget about it. We’re going. We’re going to do it the politically right way and get the support of the faculty.” The faculty and staff had strong opinions, but the next year, in 86, it was voted to go. I got up and said a couple of things and I remember — and I don’t know who said it — one faculty member said something that impressed me. He said, “Whether I agree with it or not, if we’re going to do it, let’s do it right.” That was the sentiment and it said a lot.
RRB: The Nutter Center was built and hosted its first event on December 1, 1990. Walk us through the process of building that facility. What were the major obstacles involved with getting it built? How was it funded?
Dr. C: For a long while, we were thinking about building a 7,500 seat medium-sized facility. We looked at North Texas State, and flew around in Louisiana and looked at places like New Orleans. Then when Dr. Mulholland came, he said, “We really need to build a full-size one.” We had the PE Building, which is now the Student Union. There was a sense that they wanted to build a Student Union and I think he must have made an arrangement saying that we’ll build this, and then we can take them (athletics) all out of there and make that a Student Union. So that is what happened. It also coincided with about the time that Ervin Nutter sold his business. He was such a great Greene County supporter. They went to him and he said that he’d be the kind of seed money to get people. After that, there was a whole bunch of funding combinations. President Mulholland said that we’d have to go out and sell premium seats and corporate boxes. We raised a few million dollars there. Because Physical Education would be in there, the state anteed-up some money for education and then they sold the bonds. The whole thing came together pretty quickly.
RRB: Wright State began as an independent in Division I and eventually joined the Mid-Continent Conference in 1991. They moved to the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (MCC) in 1994. How did those moves come about?
Dr. C: That was kind of a drag. Before we were even Division I — probably my first year here — I sat in a meeting with a group of schools. Cleveland State, UIC, and a few others were there. In those days, UIC wasn’t UIC. They were the University of Illinois – Chicago Circle. They were going to form a conference with some other schools like Northern Iowa, Eastern and Western Illinois, and another one. They had football programs and that’s when they put together the conference called the AMCU (Association of Mid-Continent Universities). We were sort of looking at it, saying this was a good time to make a move. But once we made a move, it was a little hard. We kept getting turned down. The first conference we got into was for the women and it was called the North Star. We did pretty well there. After a few years, we got into the Mid-Con and hosted the tournament the first few years, mainly because we could draw so well. After a while, it got frustrating because some of the schools were really aggressive to move forward, while others were stuck with ADs that didn’t want to do anything. It was at that point that the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (MCC) was falling apart. Butler, Loyola, Detroit, and LaSalle were kind of left hanging. So I talked to Jon LeCrone (MCC Commissioner). Paul Newman and I got him to come to Dayton. We met with Jon in the conference room down the hall from Lisa’s office (Dr. Cusack’s secretary) and we outlined for him on a grease board and I said, “What do you think of this? How about we combine these two?” Not too long after that, we met in Indianapolis and we formed the MCC. After a few years, we felt like we wanted to step out of the pack a little bit, have a different name, not be geographic, and be more specific. So we changed the name of the conference to the Horizon League. RRB: Let’s talk about Wright State, athletics, yourself, and some of WSU’s people over the years:
RRB: You’ve probably had opportunities to leave Wright State. Why did you stay so long?
Dr. C: I almost left three times. When I came here, it’s Division II, then we get a chance to go Division I, then we get a chance to build an arena, and we move into an arena. In between we get in a conference and then another conference. If you look at it, my job changed five or six times over 26 years and I never had to change houses. If the job hadn’t changed, I probably would have been gone by the end of the 80’s. No question. There were opportunities. I thought about some and actually talked to the president, Dr. Mulholland, about others.
RRB: As AD, what was your biggest responsibility?
Dr. C: One obviously, is to set the vision and to dream. You can do that if you’ve got really good people who can do the nuts and bolts … and I did. I had (Paul) Newman with me for 23 years, and Lisa (Lemmon) for a little less than 23 years. I had Peg Wynkoop, who was tremendous, when I got here. We had good coaches and I always considered myself to be the coach of the coaches. I had coached and knew what they were going through. So when things were going bad, I knew how bad they felt. I talked with them and encouraged them. I never entered locker rooms … didn’t believe in it. I felt like it was their family and I didn’t want to interfere. In fact, until the last year or two, I never attended a press conference. You have to evaluate coaches, make decisions on staff, demand, expect, and evaluate. But a lot of it related to the vision, what we were trying to accomplish, and giving help to the coaches and staff.
RRB: What was your most important consideration when making a big decision for WSU athletics?
Dr. C: We always asked the question, “What’s in the best interest of the students?” For example, when we offered a student-athlete a scholarship, our rule was that it was for four years. Even though you have to renew them every year, it’s four years. I talked to a person last night who played for me — one of my first players — who was the number one shortstop picked in the ‘76 draft. He was first-team All-American. He’s got a son who’s at Hofstra, getting $20,000 in aid, but he’s hurt. He’s worried whether he’s going to keep the scholarship. His coach has said, “What have you done for me lately?” Well, what can I do? I’m hurt. Our position was to never put parents in that position. Even when we’ve had to suspend athletes for doing something detrimental, I let them finish the year on scholarship, not because of them, but because of their parents.
RRB: Wright State is still a relatively new university. Are there any traditions that you are happy to see develop during your time as AD?
Dr. C: One tradition for us is to maintain a 3.0-plus grade point average. Another is to win conference championships on a regular basis. We didn’t have a year when we didn’t win something. Graduating our students is important. The University helped me over the years, especially Lillie Howard, to go out and help students who didn’t graduate. Mark Woods and a bunch of them came back. I believe that Bob Grant is now doing that with Bill Edwards. That’s a tradition that I like … the fact that we don’t forget about these people. The traditions that we tried to set up were all related to our students.
Dr. C: There are a lot of them. I’ve always enjoyed looking at our men and women wearing the Wright State colors and “Wright State” on their jerseys, swimming caps, or golf slacks. Being so competitive, I felt just as good or bad, if we won or lost in cross country, as I would in basketball. Winning is winning and I really love to win. One reason that I love it is because I think they learn more. You don’t learn a lot if you win every time. You learn a lot if you win enough to know how good it is, and lose enough to know that I have to do better and this is what went wrong.
RRB: What is your fondest memory of your time at Wright State?
Dr. C: Twenty-five years ago, one of our daughters got married and had the reception over in the Upper Hearth Lounge (Student Union). Opening up the Nutter Center and cutting the ribbon at Nischwitz Stadium are two. The highlights are obviously the graduations, various tournaments, and being with the students. One of the things that stand out, for example, is one Friday night. We were putting lights in at the soccer field. Newman called me and said, “They’re going to turn the lights on.” They had to burn them for 100 hours to get them burned in. So I went out there and was all by myself. I walked out to the middle of the soccer field with the lights on, and I’m thinking that this is so great. And a car with soccer players drove up from the highway, heading toward the campus, yelling out something to me like, “That’s great Dr. C.” Then while I’m there, a couple of soccer players who had graduated came out and said that they’d love to play under these lights. Highlights on a general basis were the Academic Recognition nights. Those are my absolute favorites. The first time that I ever saw that was at Louisville. I saw them do it and we stole it from them right away. The thing that’s so cool about it is your paying attention, shaking their hands and stuff, so you don’t realize it, but when it all ends, you look around the court and it’s ringed with these kids that are breaking their chops to play Division I — or whatever their sport is — and they were able to get a 3.0. That’s fantastic. Academic recognition is a tradition that I really like.
RRB: What makes you the most proud of your work at WSU? What was your biggest accomplishment?
Dr. C: The only thing that I tried to do was to give the coaches and players everything possible to be successful, whether it was facilities — which we did a lot with — or whether it was academic support or scholarship aid. I never looked at it as one or two of the proudest moments. There were just so many.
RRB: What was the biggest contributor to your success at Wright State?
Dr. C: From an administrative standpoint within the department, we had some good coaches already in place. Ralph Underhill, Jim Brown, and Bob Grote were here in basketball. Ron Nischwitz was here in baseball. We had to make a change in swimming because our swimming coach left … Jeff Cavana was here for a while and then he ended up at LSU. We started golf and cross country again. Pat Davis was here for women’s basketball and softball. Peg Wynkoop was here. We had a good group. When I first got here, Jim Dock was the number two guy. After a couple of years, Jim had a chance to run the Alumni Association. He wanted to run his own show and I didn’t blame him. That gave me a chance to look for a number two guy. There were two people: one I knew who had been the head baseball coach at NYU, and the other was Paul Newman. I knew Paul from Pennsylvania. He was the SID at Edinboro when I was at Mercyhurst. I talked to him a year before the job was open because I knew Jim was looking around. I said, “Come on down, you and Connie, and take a look at the place.” Paul had been at Edinboro for a long time when the job came open and I didn’t think that he was going to take it, but I offered it to him. He said that he was going to take a retirement at Edinboro. He came here and retired two years before I did. We got Lisa (Lemmon), my secretary, a little after that. She was unbelievably smart and had a great temperament. Those two were closest to me. Peg Wynkoop was absolutely the best SWAD (senior women’s athletic director) that you could get and one of the best coaches that we ever had here. Susan Gayle did a wonderful job setting up the business systems. Once we got Bob Noss in sports information, he stabilized things there. We got Tony Ortiz as a trainer for a long time and he set the stage for the next folks. When Tom Roush retired, Mike Zink took over. If you run an organization and you don’t have to worry about everybody doing their job, and you have people willing to stand up to you and not just “yes” you to death, it’s great. Having really good people allows you to do more. It allows you to sit in your office and just think about what you want to have happen. You plan it out and ask, “What do you think?” And they’ll let you know what they think.
RRB: Who are some of the biggest success stories that you’ve seen come through Wright State?
Dr. C: There are so many over the years. Mark Myton who played soccer for us is one. He may have come here around 1981, before I got here. Mark might have been struggling with math and people were saying that you shouldn’t be majoring in engineering. He said, “No, I am going to major in engineering.” My thought was OK, although people kept saying that. That guy’s an engineer who has been working at the base for thirty years and he’s married to an MD. Mark Woods, who for various reasons you always knew was a good kid, gets himself into trouble. Then he comes back and gets his degree. DaShaun Wood went from being a very good player to a great player. The coaches had a lot to do with it. I think Billy Donlon changed him from being a very good college player into a great college player for us. And what people forget is that he graduated in four years. When he finished up and was trying to make the pros, he was also taking 24 credit hours. His mother passed away when he came. He had to go up and sign her death certificate when he was a freshman.
RRB: Who are some of the best all-around athletes that you’ve seen at WSU?
Dr. C: Hylton Dayes. He was a four-time first-team All-American. He’s the head coach at the University of Cincinnati right now. When a guy makes first-team All-American four times, you’ve got to figure that he’s a pretty good athlete. We’ve had Major Leaguers, NBA players, pro golfers, and national level swimmers. But Hylton was the most decorated. We’ve had swimmers who have been All-American 16 or 18 times because of different events, but we haven’t had anyone make first-team All-American four times.
RRB: How has stepping down from being the athletic director at WSU changed your life?
Dr. C: When I decided to do it, we had been tinkering around with the Sports Management program for a couple of years. I taught a class called The Role of Athletics in Higher Education every other year for about twenty years, and I really liked it. I can’t remember my exact thinking, other than this is a chance that I didn’t want to pass. I really felt like doing some teaching. If I had to stay a few more years … that’s no problem. But stepping away was no problem. So I thought that it was the perfect thing. This was in the spring of 2008, and within weeks of my retiring, the bottom fell out of the economy. Had I even had an inkling and some kind of crystal ball at that time, I wouldn’t have retired. For me personally, I never had to move back. We always moved forward. Bob Grant got stuck with having to make cuts, it’s not a good time, we’ve got to do this, we’ve got to do that, and so forth. How have I changed? Apparently, based on what some of my students are saying, I’ve become much laid-back in the classroom. They think I’m a nice guy. I don’t think that I would be classified as that very often. I’ve gotten better in the classroom, because when you only go in there every other year, you really don’t know your way around. Once you get in there, it’s the most natural thing in the world. So I really enjoy that.
RRB: Do you have any desire to be involved in athletics in some form in the future?
Dr. C: I wouldn’t mind if somebody would ask, “What do you think?” But I like the teaching. I’m fooling around with the idea of doing a blog because I’ve got a lot of thoughts.
RRB: If you had a crystal ball, what will athletics look like at Wright State in 10 years, 20 years, and beyond? What would you like to see it become?
Dr. C: I could answer that better if I were the one determining the future. I don’t know because it depends on what the University wants to be. Do they want to make a commitment like Xavier? The University has made a good commitment. They’re very positive about athletics, but there are other things that have to be done. What will college athletics look like in the future? It looks to me like there are going to be a lot more haves and have-nots. Right now, there have been those major guys, and some guys that are sort of just below the majors, like Conference USA and the Atlantic 10. Then there are the mid-majors, which is us, the Valley and the Ohio Valley. Then there are the low majors. I’m thinking that some of these people shouldn’t even be in Division I. It’s conceivable, although I don’t know how, that these guys could break off. I don’t think they will, because it would be stupid for them to do it. But if you’re going to start paying athletes, how do we compete? I don’t know. If it’s just football, it may not be a problem. But if it’s across all sports, then it’s going to be tough to compete here. If a kid can go either way, he’s not going to say “I can really help build a program at Wright State.” when he can play over there and make $3,000 a year. There are a lot of things happening. I think we are at a cross roads in athletics. The question is: Where do we fit into that? I’m not sure how strong our conference is right now … all the way around. I don’t know. Baseball is certainly hurt. Softball used to be really good with UIC, but they’re not very good. Women’s basketball looks pretty good. There has been talk about building the conference up. I’m hoping that Northern Kentucky can get in. If Northern Kentucky came in, then you’ve got all sorts of rivalries. Northern Kentucky and Wright State should play each other. That’s a game that would draw people down there because they’ve got beautiful facilities, and up here because we have beautiful facilities.
RRB: Dr. Cusack, thank you for taking the time to talk with us.
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – History was made at the Horizon League championship game played at the Nutter Center on Tuesday night, but not for reasons that the Wright State Raiders would like to remember. The Milwaukee Panthers became the only team ever to be picked last in the Horizon League’s preseason poll and go on to win the league tournament. They did it with a 69-63 victory over the Raiders in front of 7,784.
“I might have mentioned it a few times that we were picked last,” Milwaukee head coach Rob Jeter said. “We had ten new faces that came together. We figured out how to play together. Some leadership emerged and they really dug deep to get respect back for how we want to play as a group. Put that all together … and it produced a championship.”
Milwaukee (21-13) also became the first #5 seed to win the tournament in the league’s current format. It marked the third time in the last four years that the visiting team has won the championship game.
This one was decided early as the Panthers got off to a fast start. They won the game’s opening tip. Eleven seconds later, Matt Tiby drove the lane for two points and Milwaukee never trailed. They went on to build a 24-9 lead midway through the first half. And as things turned out, it was more than the Raiders could overcome.
“We knew that we had to come out and get that first punch,” Milwaukee’s Jordan Aaron said. “We couldn’t take the punch because the crowd would get into the game and it would be harder to play from behind.”
JT Yoho hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Reggie Arceneaux hit a jumper in the lane to pull the Raiders to within 24-17. A pair of Chrishawn Hopkins free throws made it 32-27, before the Panthers built their lead back to 43-33 at halftime.
The 43 first half Milwaukee points matched the most given up by the Green & Gold all year long in Horizon League play.
Wright State began the second half by pounding the ball inside. They hit five close range buckets to pull within 47-43 with 16:39 left to play. But Milwaukee’s Jordan Aaron, the tournament’s MVP, nailed a trey to stretch the lead back to 60-48, and another to make it 65-52 with 8:06 remaining.
“The key was the timing of the 3-pointers,” Jeter said. “They tried to speed us up. They go full court pressure, and we made an extra pass and were aggressive. Every time that they pressured us, we’d hit a three on the back side of that pressure. That really deflated what they were trying to do.”
From there, the Raiders were able to get to the rim a lot, but could not finish their shots. They clawed their way back to 67-63 with 1:03 left, but could not make enough plays down the stretch and eventually fell to the Panthers by the final score of 69-63.
The key to the game for Milwaukee was defensive stops. “We had to make sure that we could guard them,” Jeter said. “Not really worry about whether our ball would go in, but make sure that we got multiple stops. Our focus was more on the defensive end, trying to match their toughness and their discipline, so that we could be the team that got that last rebound or made that last play.”
The loss snapped a six-game Wright State winning streak and dropped their record to 20-14, after hovering around the .500 mark for the majority of the season.
“This is going to be painful for a very long time,” Wright State head coach Billy Donlon said. “I told our team last year that there is nothing like cutting down somebody’s nets on their court. This will be painful for all of us. We’ll need to use it as fuel going forward.”
AJ Pacher (16) and Matt Vest (11) were the only two Raiders to score in double figures. Kyle Kelm and Jordan Aaron led the Panthers with 20 and 18 points respectively.
The Panthers won the battle of the boards 35-28, which included 13 rebounds on their offensive end of the court.
“We’ve been getting out-rebounded all year,” said Milwaukee’s Kyle Kelm. “We knew coming into the tournament that this was something that we needed to pick up. Rebounding and getting to the 50-50 balls is why we’re where we’re at.”
AJ Pacher and Miles Dixon were voted to the all-tournament team. It was the second consecutive year that Dixon received the honor. Milwaukee’s Matt Tiby, Kyle Kelm, and Jordon Aaron were also named to the team.
Is postseason play a possibility? “Bob Grant and I will get together on that and we’ll discuss it at the appropriate time,” Donlon said.
Photos © and Courtesy of Tim G. Zechar
by WSU Athletic Communications
The Wright State men’s basketball team built a nine-point halftime lead, but had to hold off Valparaiso in the second half before defeating the Crusaders 67-58 on Senior Night Tuesday night at WSU’s Nutter Center.
Six straight points, four of those coming from JT Yoho, gave the Raiders a 14-8 advantage eight minutes into the contest and the lead grew to 30-18 on four consecutive Cole Darling points, the final two coming on foul shots at the 2:54 mark.
WSU led 32-23 at the break despite the Crusaders shooting 47 percent from the field compared to 41 percent for the Raiders. Valpo, however, attempted just 19 shots while Wright State had 27 attempts thanks in part to forcing 11 turnovers while committing only seven.
The margin was double figures at 49-39 on two AJ Pacher foul shots with 11:19 to play, only to see the Crusaders close to within four at 55-51 on an Alec Peters tip-in at the 4:07 mark.
A jumper and two foul shots by Pacher, though, push the lead back up to eight and the senior forward connected on a three from the top of the key made it 62-53 with 2:27 remaining.
Valparaiso cut the deficit to 63-58 on a three-point play from Moussa Gueye at the 18.9-second mark, but could get no closer as WSU scored the final four points of the contest on two Yoho free throws and a Miles Dixon dunk.
Both teams shot the ball well in the second half as Wright State hit 13 of 26 shots to finish at 45 percent while the Crusaders shot 46 percent the final 20 minutes to end up at 47 percent. WSU hit 15 of 18 free throws compared to 10 of 12 for Valpo.
Pacher led all scorers with 20 for the Raiders, 13 in the second half, while Darling scored all 12 of his points in the first half. Yoho added 10 off the bench.
Peters paced Valparaiso (17-13, 9-6 Horizon) with 11 points while Vashil Fernandez had 10.
Photos © and Courtesy of Tim G. Zechar
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – The Wright State Raiders kept their hopes alive for a first round bye in the Horizon League tournament, by defeating the Detroit Titans 65-61 in a late-night battle that was a rarity of sorts. In order to accommodate an ESPNU national television audience, Friday evening’s game began with an unusual tip-off time of 10:00 pm. It may be the first time in school history that a Wright State men’s basketball game started on one day but didn’t end until the next (Saturday morning at 12:15 am).
Also, rare, is the fact that the Raiders came away victorious at home in a ballgame that was promoted by a free t-shirt giveaway. Coming into the game, Wright State was 0-2 at the Nutter Center this year in contests in which t-shirts were given away. They were undefeated in their other eleven home games.
The losing streak on t-shirt nights goes back several years. The black-out nights, for example, have become so notorious for unexplainable poor performances by the Raiders that no black t-shirts were given away this year. The black uniforms worn by the team on those nights have been in storage ever since last season’s upset at home to the UIC Flames.
Wright State head coach Billy Donlon, known to be superstitious at times, was fully aware of past history.
“Oh, I thought about it,” Donlon said. “It all started when we lost to Illinois State in a home opener. I was the assistant to coach (Brownell). We had a great crowd and we lost. We had a player just throw the ball to the other team four straight times. He was a great player, but it was like nothing I had ever seen. It was like watching Poltergeist from the early eighties.”
As was the case on most other t-shirt giveaway nights, things did not start well for Wright State (16-13, 8-6 HL).
The Raiders opened the game by going nearly nine minutes without hitting a field goal. Although their first six points came from the free throw line, it wasn’t until the 11:15 mark when Reggie Arceneaux connected on a wide open attempt from the left side, beyond the arc, to pull the Raiders to within 12-9 of the Titans.
Detroit (13-16, 6-8 HL) stretched the margin to 25-16, their largest of the game, before AJ Pacher scored the last basket of the half — a 3-pointer — to make it 30-29, still in favor of the Titans.
Chrishawn Hopkins tied the score for the first time since the opening tip, at 35 all, by hitting a trey in front of his team’s bench.
A basket by Carlton Brundidge gave Detroit their final lead of the night at 37-35.
It was then when Raider fans had an opportunity to witness one of the best individual 1-minute performances in Raider history. With the help of a Hopkins steal and assist, Matt Vest scored on a dunk to tie it again. Vest followed that up by hitting a pair of treys, lighting up the scoreboard for eight points over a 73 second span. Matt’s first 3-pointer gave his team their first lead of the game at 40-37. His second 3-pointer made it 43-37 with 14:03 left to play. He followed that with a tenth straight-point by hitting a jumper.
“Matt Vest, on both sides of the ball, for about eight minutes, was the best player in the league,” Donlon said. “He’ll be showing this video to his grandkids.”
Over the next ten minutes, when Wright State needed a bucket, they went inside to 6-foot-10 AJ Pacher. He delivered either from the field or the charity stripe by scoring eight of his team’s next 14 points, helping his team build a 59-51 lead with 3:40 left.
It was then that WSU seemingly went into a “prevent offense”. In an effort to shorten the game by reducing possessions, they began taking as much time as possible off of the shot clock before looking to shoot.
As a result of that style of play, the Raiders went scoreless over the next three minutes. It resulted in turnovers, bad looks at the basket, offensive fouls, and a shot clock violation. It also enabled Detroit to creep within 59-55 with less than a minute to play.
“We’ve got to get a little smarter, late, against the clock,” Donlon said. “I’ve got to do a better job, coaching our guys a little bit late.”
A Hopkins dunk broke the scoring drought to seal game, and Wright State held on to win 65-61.
Vest finished the contest with 16 points … a season high for him.
AJ Pacher led the Raiders with 19 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. Tavares Sledge, who filled in for an injured Jerran Young, tied his career-high by pulling down 9 boards in 21 minutes of action. Reggie Arceneaux added 15 points.
Evan Bruinsma led the Detroit with a double-double by scoring 19 points and collecting 12 rebounds — 7 on the offensive end.
Detroit out-rebounded the Raiders 41-26 in the game, which resulted in an advantage of second chance points by 24-5.
After the game coach Donlon dodged the question when asked if he would have consider a ban on future t-shirt giveaways at the Nutter Center, had his team not come back to pull out the victory. “That’s way above my pay grade,” he answered.
Jerran Young is questionable for Tuesday’s game against Valpo. More will be known about his status over the weekend. Kendall Griffin will not play.
The Raiders return home on Tuesday February 25 for a rematch against Valparaiso on Senior Night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 pm. Wright State won in the first meeting between the two teams at Valpo 62-45.
Photos © and Courtesy of Tim G. Zechar