Anthony Evans doesn’t come off as the giddy type, but he had no trouble expressing his joy Tuesday at getting FIU’s men’s basketball head coaching job.
Evans said he had never seen his wife Keisha so happy. The ex-Norfolk State coach thanked more folks than an Oscar winner.
Evans — whose five-year contract pays $225,000 per year in base salary, a $50,000 bump from his salary at Norfolk State in 2012-13 — might be the first FIU basketball coach who has waited a year to be the FIU coach while in another head coaching job.
FIU introduced Evans as FIU’s eighth men’s basketball coach Tuesday in a suite overlooking the new beach-themed U.S. Century Bank Arena court. Except for the funky court, the scene could have taken place exactly one year ago.
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On April 16, 2012, in the same place in the same room, FIU athletic director Pete Garcia introduced Richard Pitino as coach. Also in the running for that job: Evans, just off a 26-win season and a trip to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I thought I was close,” Evans said. “Obviously, Richard has a great reputation as a recruiter. I know that’s something Pete was huge on.”
Garcia said Pitino edged Evans “by a nose.” According to both, Pitino talked up Evans this year in the search process, as did former Miami High coach and current South Carolina coach Frank Martin and Marquette coach Buzz Williams.
Evans met with the team Monday night and several players — including Tymell Murphy, Malik Smith, and Tola Akomalafe — attended Tuesday’s media session.
“Their message to me is they wanted to continue to ride the success they had last year, and I told them we’ll be able to do that,” Evans said. “We want to play a similar style, to be up-tempo, to work hard. But I also told them that if we’re going to do it on the court, we have to do it in the classroom. We have to raise our standards and understand that we’re going to push to be great as basketball players and push to be great as students.”
Norfolk’s Academic Progress Rate bounced around during Evans’ time as assistant coach (2003-07) and head coach (2007-13). Evans worked the 2011-12 season under scholarship reductions. But in two seasons, including the last one reported, Norfolk’s APR was 962, a number most programs would celebrate.
“Just implementing a plan where our student-athletes understood the importance of going to class,” he said in explaining the turnaround. “We had gone through a process before I took over which affected us later on. But us putting a plan in place helped the student-athletes understand the seriousness of academics.”