Anthony Evans coached Norfolk State’s men’s basketball team to the NCAA tournament in 2012 and the NIT this season. This year’s Norfolk team became the first team to go undefeated in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
FIU would take that. Which is why Evans officially will be announced as the school’s next men’s basketball coach Tuesday afternoon at U.S. Century Bank Arena.
Two weeks after FIU’s first winning season in 13 years propelled rookie head coach Richard Pitino to the Minnesota job, FIU replaces Pitino with a coach who also pumped life into a flat program.
Norfolk hadn’t had a winning season since 1998-99 when Evans, an assistant at Norfolk from 2003-07 under Dwight Freeman, took over. A 16-15 initial season was followed by three losing seasons. But the last two years, Norfolk went 26-10 and upset Missouri in the NCAA tournament and this year went 21-12, losing to Virginia in the NIT. They were 29-3 in the MEAC over the last two seasons.
After the 2011-12 season, Evans received the Clarence “Big House” Gaines Award as the top minority basketball coach in Division I. He also signed a contract extension that reportedly boosted his pay to $175,000 and ran until 2016-17. FIU’s last two coaches, Pitino and Isiah Thomas, each made $250,000 per year in base salary.
Evans coaches an up-tempo, high-pressure defensive style that FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said he enjoyed seeing FIU play under Pitino. The Panthers were No. 8 in the nation in steals and regularly gave significant minutes to 10 players in a game.
This year, Norfolk ranked 99th nationally in steals per game, 49th in blocked shots per game as part of a defense that ranked 13th in three-point percentage and 57th in total field goal percentage. Their 26-win 2011-12 season saw Norfolk rank 40th in blocked shots and 43rd in three-point percentage defense. Orlando Magic draft pick Kyle O’Quinn led that team offensively.
After Pitino left, junior guard Malik Smith and freshman forward Jerome Frink initially indicated they would request release to transfer. An FIU source said leading scorer Tymell Murphy would wait until the new coach was hired to make his decision. Monday night, former FAU guard Ray Taylor, who transferred to FIU with one year of eligibility remaining, Tweeted he’d met Evans and would be staying.
The number of transfers will affect this year’s Academic Progress Rate. Evans inherits a program that probably will be held out of postseason play after the 2010-11 APR was an abysmal 833 and the yet-to-be-made-official 2011-12 APR also is expected to be subpar between low grades and transfers.
Norfolk got hit with NCAA sanctions -- three scholarships taken away, a lower limit on practice time during the season -- after an 840 2009-10 APR resulted in a multi-year APR of 894. The 2010-11 APR was 926, a score that’ll keep a school from NCAA censure.