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Rutgers Basketball: The C. Vivian Stringer Theory

Can Rutgers just go out and hire a big time coach to save Men's Basketball?

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Flash back to 1995:  Rutgers women's basketball needs a coach, as Theresa Grentz has moved on to Illinois.  The athletic department makes a bold move and spends top dollar ($150,000 a year) to hire big time coach C. Vivian Stringer.  The hiring is a success and by the year 2000, Stringer has the team in the Final Four.  In 2007, she lands them in the title game.  Last year, she won the women's NIT championship.

So, when talking about men's basketball, people often use the Stringer Theory.  Forget facilities, hire a big name coach and be done with it.

It's not that simple, because the context of the argument is wrong.  First off, in 1995 Stringer took over probably the most consistently successful program in the athletic department.  Grentz was a powerhouse coach herself, never winning fewer than 16 games and winning 28 games or more four times.  Stringer did not walk into a program needing a complete overhaul.  Rutgers was trying to capitalize on and sustain success.  In fact, the better comparison would be if-when Greg Schiano left-Rutgers went out and landed the big name coach.  Or, like West Virginia did, hire Bob Huggins when John Beilein left for Michigan.

Secondly, when Stringer was hired, the RAC was less than 20 years old and the facility arms race hadn't truly started yet.  Stringer was able to capitalize on her success, Rutgers' history and the strength of the RAC to bring in talent and win.  When you win, and you have a history of winning both at the location and with the name coach, it's easier to sustain without brand new facilities.

It's not the same with men's basketball.  This is a program that--in case you haven't heard--hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 1991.  That is older than nearly every kid Rutgers is recruiting.  It's golden history is so far in the past, it's almost rumor at this point.  You can't build off past successes.  The biggest story Rutgers has had in the past 20 years was scandal.  Fans closer to the program also know that the program has been ignored as well, dealt with only when you've had to be.

That's why a new practice facility (for both men and women) is so important.  A coach needs tools to survive.  Eddie Jordan doesn't have those tools right now.  He's building a program from scratch, and unlike the women's program, there's little past success to point to.  And the area he can sell kids on is shared with wrestling, with women's basketball, and with whatever else needs to use the program.

We don't know if Eddie is the right guy yet.  The results on the court haven't been good, and the team is bereft of depth right now.

Building new facilities *now* as a opposed to say five or ten years from now would start to give Jordan the tools he needs to compete.  And if he's not the right guy, then you have the selling point for a new, big time coach.

Because, let's be honest, no matter how much money you throw at a coach (and this is Rutgers, so it will be within reason), who is going to come here without the tools to succeed?  Rutgers does not spend on men's basketball--4.6 million in 2013--but nearly everything over the 4 million marks in severance buyouts.  According to Basketball State, Rutgers hoops budget ranked 75th in the country and second to last in the Big Ten.

Opening the wallet would help, but right now that money needs to be spent on infrastructure.  A practice facility will not cure all ills--the right person has to be the head of the program.  That may or may not be Eddie Jordan.  But, if a new search does come, it'll be nice to actually offer the next candidate something to build on.

Rutgers men's basketball is no where near the level the women's team was when they last searched for a new coach.  The women's team was in a position to continue their success, not build it.  Hiring a C. Vivian Stringer type may have already happened at Rutgers, bringing in an NBA head coach who was once a Scarlet Hero. But Jordan's job is so much different than when Stringer started.  She had to build on success.  Jordan just needs to build.

And that's what the Rutgers administration needs to find a way to do soon.  Build--a facility.

Break ground.

Give Jordan and Stringer the tools to survive and then succeed.