Team preview: Delaware

Blue Ribbon Yearbook previews the 2006-07 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.

Updated: October 24, 2006, 1:11 PM ET
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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

COACH AND PROGRAM

Looking at the 2006-07 season for the Fightin' Blue Hens is a scary proposition. And it's not scary in the good sense.

Delaware lost one of its all time best players in Harding Nana. All the Cameroon native did last season was average 19.0 points and 10.9 rebounds while being the major focus of opposition scouting reports. This was on the heels of a junior season in which Nana averaged 18.5 points and 10.4 boards. Both seasons he was first-team All-CAA.

What's more, the Blue Hens also lose two-year starter Rulon Washington, who chipped in 9.0 points per game but was also Delaware's best three-point shooter (39.6 percent). The graduations meant two of the best players were leaving a nine-win team.

But Delaware, after several seasons of futility, also fired its coach, David Henderson. The former Duke Blue Devils star had presided over a Blue Hens program that had regressed in his six seasons. The final two years Delaware had finished 11-20 and 9-21 despite having one of the league's best and most versatile players in Nana.

The search for a new coach wasn't easy. Kevin Willard, an assistant on Rick Pitino's staff at Louisville and one of the most respected young assistants in college basketball, traveled to the Delaware campus for an interview. Willard, the son of Holy Cross' Ralph Willard, was open in his interview about a previous DUI arrest. He admitted it was a stupid mistake and that he had learned from it. With that knowledge in hand, Edgar Johnson, the athletics director at Delaware, offered Willard the job. Less than 24 hours later, though, Johnson took back that offer.

After that, the school offered the job to Billy Taylor, the head coach at Lehigh. Taylor turned it down.

Finally, the reins of the Delaware program were turned over to Monte Ross, who had been an assistant under John Chaney at Temple and comes to Delaware after 10 seasons on Phil Martelli's staff at Saint Joseph's.

Ross wasn't worried in the least that he wasn't Delaware's first choice.

"You don't have to look any further than [West Virginia coach] John Beilein," Ross told the News-Journal of Wilmington. "He was West Virginia's fifth choice, and now he's the toast of the town. I'm glad to take advantage of the opportunity."


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