NEWARK — It was easy to believe that the writing was on the wall.
As he made his traditional speech after Delaware’s last home men’s basketball game of the season, coach Monte’ Ross ended with the quote, “Man plans and God laughs.”
Given that many Blue Hen fans assumed that Ross wasn’t going to be hired back as UD’s coach, it seemed to be his way of saying goodbye.
“It just means, we always think we’re in control as people,” Ross explained afterward. “But we’re not. God has the last laugh.”
But sometimes, things that seem inevitable really aren’t.
On Thursday, Delaware announced that it was keeping Ross after all, giving the ninth-year coach a contract for three more seasons. No other details of the deal were announced.
Ross was excited by the turn of events. His future had been lingering in uncertainty since Delaware ended its season on March 7.
“There’s a foundation that we built, that we started,” said Ross. “This allows us to just continue on that road that we’ve worked so hard to build.
“These guys have been just unbelievable throughout this entire year,” he said about his players. “I can’t say enough about their character, the way that they played throughout situations. The future is very, very bright and I can’t wait to work with these guys and help them to achieve all of their goals and all of their dreams.”
According to the school’s press release, Ross’ contract extension was announced by athletic director Eric Ziady. But no comment from Ziady was included in the statement.
There was a quote from school president Pat Harker, who recently announced that he is leaving Delaware.
“We are confident that Coach Ross has the passion and drive to build on the momentum of the past two years and to help our student-athletes become leaders in the game, in the campus community and in their lives going forward,” Harker said in the statement.
Ross’ overall record is only 125-161. But Delaware has finished with winning records in three of the past four seasons.
A year ago, the Hens went 25-10, won their first conference title in 15 seasons and Ross was named the Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year.
This past season, Delaware finished just 10-20. But the Hens had only one senior and one junior — both of whom were sidelined by injuries early in the season.
Delaware ended up winning nine of its last 16 regular-season games, beat the four teams who tied for the CAA’s regular-season title and finished sixth in the league — two places higher than they were predicted.
With so many returning players, the Hens hope they can keep that momentum going. Freshman guard Kory Holden was considered one of the top newcomers in the CAA while Chivarsky Corbett also made the conference’s all-rookie team.
Delaware fell to eventual champion Northeastern, 67-64, in the Colonial quarterfinals.
“Coming down the stretch, I thought they played about as well as any team in this conference,” Huskies coach Bill Coen said about the Hens after the contest. “They have a very young roster. That’s a credit to their coaching staff. We knew coming in today that we were going to have our hands full.”
“The way that we started and the way that we finished were two entirely different things,” said Ross. “That’s what you want. You want your teams to grow and to be playing their best basketball towards the end of the year. You want to continue to see development from the group.
“That’s what we saw. That’s what makes us so excited.”
Delaware has the best league record in the CAA over the past four years.
Ross and his staff still have three available scholarships with signing day coming up on April 16.
There’s been a good deal of Internet speculation about the status of highly regarded New Jersey recruit Eli Cain. A 6-foot-5 small forward, Cain verbally committed to Delaware in preseason only to change his mind because of Ross’ uncertain future.
Within the past month, Cain verbally committed to DePaul but Blue Demons’ coach Oliver Purnell was then released after the season.
Ross, of course, can’t comment publicly on Cain or any high school recruit. But he said he felt good about where the Hens stand in their recruiting.
“We’ve built enough relationships with people that we’ll be able to secure some commitments,” said Ross. “And not just any commitments but the high principles that we set for our guys, there will be guys of that ilk.”
If there are lingering hard feelings about the way this whole situation unfolded, Ross didn’t sound like it on Thursday. He said he’s looking ahead, not behind.
“I’m extremely happy,” said Ross. “I’m excited that we can just move on and continue the work that we started and have the opportunity to continue it for some time now.”
Sports editor Andy Walter
can be reached at 741-8227
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