ORONO, Maine — Bob Walsh’s Rhode Island College teams won 76 percent of their games and made eight consecutive trips to the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship — in nine seasons.
The University of Maine is hoping his coaching, leadership and motivational skills will translate to the Division I level.
UMaine Director of Athletics Karlton Creech on Tuesday announced that Walsh has been hired to fill the Black Bears’ position.
“I am excited to welcome Coach Bob Walsh to the Black Bear family,” Creech said in a press release. “His time at Rhode Island College has been the most successful in the history of the program.”
Walsh’s appointment is effective Wednesday. He replaces Ted Woodward, who was fired on April 14 after 18 seasons at UMaine, including the last 10 as the head coach.
UMaine had a 6-23 record last season that was the program’s worst since 1956-57. The Black Bears have never played in the NCAA tournament and have lost nine straight first-round or quarterfinal games in the America East tournament.
The 42-year-old Walsh has agreed to a four-year contract that will pay him $100,000 in the first year, the same amount Woodward earned in his final season. Walsh’s deal calls for a $5,000 increase in each of the next two years and a $10,000 increase in the fourth year, bringing his annual salary to $120,000, effective July 1, 2017.
“I’m excited to begin the challenge of establishing a championship culture at the University of Maine as the leader of the men’s basketball program,” Walsh said in the release. “I can’t wait to be a part of the excellent academic and athletic culture at UMaine, and to embrace the energy and passion of the community.”
UMaine expects to formally introduce Walsh later in the week, possibly on Friday.
Walsh, a diminutive point guard who did not play varsity basketball at the college level, served as an assistant coach at Providence College for seven seasons prior to taking the Rhode Island College position.
The New York native was a student assistant for two seasons at Hamilton College, where he earned a B.A. in Sociology. Walsh then spent two seasons as a graduate assistant at Iona College under Tim Welsh and while there earned a master’s degree in mass communications. He had a one-year stint as an assistant at the University of San Diego before joining Welsh at Providence.
“Bob is a true student and teacher of the game of basketball, and shares his passion for leadership through his Dynamic Leadership Academy,” Creech said. “Coach Walsh is highly respected in the college basketball community and ready for the challenge of leading and rebuilding UMaine’s Division I program.”
Walsh’s teams enjoyed tremendous success at Rhode Island College, a private school of 5,800 undergraduate students located in Providence. He guided the Anchormen to an overall mark of 204-63 in nine seasons.
RIC, which competes along with the University of Southern Maine in the Little East Conference, won six league tournament titles including four in the last five seasons.
Walsh’s teams, which played in eight straight conference championship contests, posted a 21-3 LEC tournament record and a 33-12 overall postseason mark (.731 winning percentage).
RIC even earned two victories over Division I teams — Iona in 2006 and Holy Cross in 2007.
He appears to have earned tremendous respect among his peers during his coaching career.
“Coach Walsh is one of the most well-rounded coaches I have worked with in 38 years of college athletics. He is an ‘architect’ that understands how to build a foundation that will sustain long-term success on and off the court,” Providence College Athletic Director Bob Driscoll said in the UMaine release.
Columbia University head men’s basketball coach Kyle Smith said: “Bob Walsh is one of the most intellectually curious coaches in the college game. He is not afraid to take on different challenges and always finds a way to be a part of winning. The University of Maine will benefit greatly from his hard work, determination and ultra-competitive spirit. A true winner on and off the court.”
While at Providence College, Walsh also coached All-America forward Ryan Gomes, who went on to play seven-plus seasons in the NBA.
“Coach Walsh is one of my favorite coaches that has ever coached me,” he said. “Maine has hired a great guy who (is) going to challenge his players on and off the court. Glad he’s got an opportunity to show what he can do with a Division I program.”
UMaine’s six-member search committee, headed by UMaine Associate Athletic Director for Development Seth Woodcock, sought a candidate who had substantial and successful head coaching experience, substantial experience at the Division I level, New England recruiting connections and the proven ability to build and maintain a high-achieving college basketball program with an emphasis on and record of academic achievement.
The group identified and interviewed Walsh and another “finalist,” Northeastern University associate head coach Dave McLaughlin, within 11 days of its first meeting.
“Bob Walsh is a perfect fit to lead our men’s basketball program,” Woodcock said in the release. “He is a proven winner with a successful system built on the principles of accountability, trust, commitment and good old-fashioned hard work. His blue-collar work ethic, steadfast character, toughness and drive to succeed will resonate with our fans and community, and — most importantly — motivate and position our student-athletes to achieve their goals, both on and off the court. I couldn’t be more excited about Bob being named our next head coach and about the future of UMaine basketball under his leadership.”