Karlton Creech began his job as the director of athletics at the University of Maine on Feb. 10.
Thus, he isn’t reading too much into Thursday’s announcement that two UMaine men’s basketball players are seeking to transfer.
The impending departure of former starting guard Dimitry Akanda-Coronel and nonscholarship player Mitchell Worcester of Washburn represent the first transfer requests since Creech’s arrival.
“From what I can tell, it’s an individual [Akanda-Coronel] that wanted to seek an opportunity that he felt like fit him better,” Creech said on Friday.
Akanda-Coronel, a sophomore, is the fourth key contributor to depart coach Ted Woodward’s program in the last year, joining 2013 transfers Alasdair Fraser (professional contract) and Justin Edwards (Div. I Kansas State), both of whom were all-conference players, and Jon Mesghna (Division II Montana-Billings).
Creech pointed to the national trend for numerous transfers in Division I men’s basketball, but conceded the three from UMaine last year were outside the norm. He said he is not privy to the details surrounding those situations.
“To see one [scholarship player transferring] this year is not necessarily concerning to me right now,” Creech said. “I think if we continue to see it, it’s something we’ll need to look at carefully.
”Ideally, we would want no transfers, but I think we’re kind of in a world with either players that perform well or are potentially looking for an opportunity at a bigger-name school, or players who aren’t getting playing time they think they deserve are looking to go somewhere where they can get that,” Creech added.
Woodward did not respond to a BDN request for an interview on Friday for the second straight day.
Creech explained that he did not speak with Akanda-Coronel about his desire to transfer, saying it was handled by associate athletic director for compliance Eileen Flaherty.
“From my understanding, there was no specific reason given [by Akanda-Coronel], just wanting to explore opportunities and see what else was out there,” he said.
Akanda-Coronel, through UMaine athletic media relations, also turned down a request for an interview on Friday.
Creech said he has not yet conducted postseason meetings with Woodward or any of the UMaine winter sport head coaches. He indicated that is not likely to happen until May, when he completes a 90-day transition period.
“Once I get more out of the introduction process and more into the evaluation process, then those meetings will happen,” he said.
Woodward has come under fire after the Black Bears suffered through a 6-23 season (the .207 winning percentage was the second-lowest in program history) and an eighth-place finish in the America East standings. UMaine, which went 11-19 during 2012-2013, has lost nine consecutive first-round or quarterfinal playoff games and 10 straight overall in the postseason.
Some fans have called for Woodward’s ouster. His contract runs through June 30, 2016, but UMaine could terminate the agreement by paying him one year’s salary ($100,000) in 12 monthly installments.
No athletics cuts made
UMaine President Paul Ferguson on Friday outlined the university’s plans to address a $9.7 million budget shortfall that is part of a systemwide deficit of $36 million.
Conspicuous by its absence was any mention of UMaine’s Division I athletics department.
“Athletics is not part of the scheduled cuts that were outlined [Friday] for fiscal year ’15,” Creech said. “There’s no good news. It’s tough for our whole system and our campus.”
Creech said he is still trying to learn the dynamics of UMaine’s athletics budget needs. For that reason, he is planning to work with Ferguson on mapping out the department’s financial future.
“We’ll go through a whole strategic planning process that aligns athletics with the president’s Blue Sky Plan,” Creech explained. “We’re the last major department on campus that hasn’t done that, so that’s an extremely important next step for us, one that we’ll get to work on in the late spring and over the summer.”