Binghamton men’s basketball head coach Tommy Dempsey has had his contract extended through the 2018-19 season, Director of Athletics Patrick Elliott announced Thursday. The two-year extension comes in the middle of Dempsey’s original five-year contract, signed in 2012, and will not alter any of its terms and conditions.
“Tommy has done a great job building a strong foundation for the future success of our program,” Elliott said in a press release Thursday. “I believe that it is important to ensure stability and continuity as we move forward over the next several years. With quality student-athletes, a dedicated staff and our loyal fans, I am excited as our program takes the next steps forward.”
The early extension may appear as though it were granted at a strange time, as it comes on the tail of a 6-25 season with no expiration looming near. But, of course, there’s more to a program than its wins and losses, and those extra features merited the decision.
“I think it was made very clear in the interview process that we were going to do things a certain way here,” Dempsey reflected on his hiring. “That we were going to build a program that stood for something, that we were going to bring in players that were good students and good members of the community and guys that would suit well on this campus. And we’ve done those things.”
Three years, 16 wins and 76 losses later, that way of doing things has been consistent. Dempsey followed up on a two-man recruiting class his first year with 10 scholarship additions over the next two seasons. Eight of those garnered Rookie of the Week honors at some point in their debut seasons, with former junior guard Jordan Reed, sophomore guard Yosef Yacob and freshman forward Willie Rodriguez earning all-rookie selections the past three years.
So even if you did insist upon sticking to a quantitative analysis, Binghamton produced. The team closed out its 2014-15 season with the most conference wins in five years, accruing a 5-11 record in America East play.
Yet even in the face of those tangible strides, Dempsey said that of all the changes he has implemented in the last three years, he was most proud of the people involved.
“I take pride in the people that touch the program from the standpoint of the coaches that I’ve brought in here to work with the players, to work with me; to the players that have made a decision to come here and represent this University in a first-class manner; our academic support, staff — everybody that touches our program that is on the same page now,” he said. “I think that’s something that’s really important moving forward.”
Those involved have been integral in ingraining Dempsey’s methods at Binghamton. Especially given the rather desolate program that he inherited in 2012, the brand of stability and supportive culture that the third-year head coach has cultivated is a huge step forward. Part of the reason that the Bearcats are so young — the youngest in the nation — is due to the poor player retention of Dempsey’s predecessor, Mark Macon.
Following what ended up being Macon’s last season at the helm of the Bearcat squad after his contract was terminated early, three of 2011’s newest recruits transferred, including forward Ben Dickinson, who admittedly has suited up for three schools in three years after transferring again his sophomore year. But those losses left just one senior — forward Jabrille Williams — on the roster three years later.
And that’s not all: Macon’s shaky tenure followed up on Kevin Broadus’ controversial one, which carried Binghamton to the Big Dance in 2009-10 but also saw six players suspended in the fall of 2011, charged with an assortment of infractions.
So for Binghamton, culture is important. Stability, support and character are all things that have been stressed during Dempsey’s reign, and that’s yielding results.
At this point, one may point to the transfer of a certain preseason all-conference pick, former star Jordan Reed. Is that not indicative of some hastily constructed foundations? Could we see a roster picked apart by transfers rather than injuries next season?
From Dempsey’s perspective: “We’ve worked hard to create stability in the program, but that doesn’t mean you’re never going to have some guys coming into the program, guys who choose to leave for playing time issues here and there, if they don’t feel like they can play.”
From an external perspective, one could argue that the team’s cohesive response to Reed’s departure and the solid 5-11 record the Bearcats pieced together through their conference slate settles the issue of their resolve. And already two weeks out of Binghamton’s postseason loss, no player has expressed any desire to transfer. Normally, if someone’s going to transfer, now’s the time. So evidence says no.
“They’re being treated fairly and the coaches are being honest with them, they have good teammates, where they’re around guys they like to be around, that have the same goals and interests that they do, and they’re getting a great education here,” Dempsey explained. “If you’re having that kind of an experience, there’s no reason to leave.”
That bodes well for the future, and that’s the conceivable point of the contract extension. The team endured through a trying season, and the mindset at the end was to work hard during the offseason to avoid a disappointing postseason loss next year. Rather than donning a hit-it-and-quit-it mentality, the players were committed to growing together and improving. So that’s the type of advancement evinced from Dempsey’s culture — the drive and mentality that leads to success. Do the work, and the wins will come.
“I just think everybody is excited to put this season behind us and to pitch all the experiences that we had, both good and bad, and use them to motivate us toward next season,” Dempsey concluded. “And when we got back on the court [last Monday], it was like we had never left. I think they needed a little bit of down time, just to recharge the batteries, but you know, they’re scholarship athletes, they’re hungry for success, so I think everybody was anxious to get back on the court and start working toward a brighter tomorrow.”