Carmel native Randy Dunton, the former men’s varsity basketball coach at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., has applied for the University of Maine men’s basketball job.
Ten-year head coach Ted Woodward was fired with two years remaining on his contract after going 6-23 last season.
It is a job Dunton covets and he believes there is no reason Maine can’t win the America East championship and earn its first NCAA tournament berth.
“This would be a unique opportunity to connect with the people in Maine and rally the program,” said the 53-year-old Dunton, who played at Bangor Christian for former Patriots and Bangor High coach Roger Reed.
“They need a problem solver at Maine right now and I’m a problem solver.”
Last season, the Black Bears lost their first America East playoff game for the ninth consecutive season and seven players, including six prominent players, have left the program prematurely in the last year.
Dunton’s plan includes “getting the program in position, structurally, where it can facilitate a championship-level team that can compete consistently for America East championships.”
He is no stranger to taking over a program in turmoil. He was the architect behind rebuilding projects at Liberty as an assistant and as a head coach, at Marshalltown Community College (Iowa) and with the women’s basketball program at the University of Virginia-Lynchburg.
His first recruiting class as an assistant at Liberty produced an NCAA tournament berth in 1994 when they were seniors.
Dunton left Liberty after going 11-17 as an interim head coach in 1997-98 then returned in 2002-03 and guided the Flames to a 14-15 season. They had gone 5-25 during 2001-02.
He transformed Marshalltown from a 13-17 team to a 21-9 club and Virginia-Lynchburg went 23-8 in his first full season. The program started 0-7 the previous season but went 11-3 after he took over.
Dunton would embrace the community and try to capitalize on the state’s love of basketball.
“How many states shut down school for a week for the high school basketball tournament? We need to tap into that passion and make the program relevant in the marketplace,” he said.
“How would the state respond when the Black Bears get into the NCAA Tournament? It would be euphoric,” he added.
Dunton said it is important for the head coach to be involved in the community and the state to build support for the program and raise money for it.
He said recruiting for Liberty, a private Christian college, had similarities to Maine. He insisted that he will leave no stone unturned to attract in-state players he feels can help the program.
“I want blue-chip [in-state] players to want to come to Maine. I will do everything I can to keep them here,” he said. ”Maine is the flagship university in the state. It should be an easy sell.”
He added that playing in a brand-new facility such as the Cross Center will be a valuable tool in rebuilding the program.
Dunton compiled a 77-102 record in six seasons at Liberty but his teams were 47-41 in Big South play. That included a 3-13 mark in 2005-06, when he had to dismiss two players prior to the season for disciplinary reasons.
“I would not jeopardize the integrity of our program [to win games],” said Dunton.
Dunton did not have his contract renewed after the 2007 season when Jeff Barber took over the AD position in January 2006.
He was an assistant coach at America East member Binghamton for two years (2000-2002). More recently, he coached AAU girls teams in Virginia (17-Under, 16-Under) to national championships in 2009.
He took last year off after his stint at Virginia-Lynchburg to watch his daughter, Emilee, play her senior year at Randolph College.
Dunton said the foundation of winning begins with ball possession, defense and rebounding. He is confident he has the communication skills to attract talented players and get them to implement the system while also making sure they are active in the community and maintaining a strong academic standing.
“He’d be an excellent choice. He can coach and he can recruit,” said former Bangor High star Mark Reed, the coach at Hermon High, who played for Dunton at Liberty. “We were always very well prepared. And he’s a very good recruiter. He has connections everywhere. I had teammates from Texas, the Midwest and the West Coast.”
Reed said Dunton was a trustworthy coach and an effective motivator.
“He would make the Maine program better in a hurry,” said Reed.