Men’s Basketball: Revisiting the hiring of head coach Michael Curry

Curry’s Owls have won 17 total games in his two seasons as coach.


Head coach Michael Curry shares his plan of attack to the FAU players during a media timeout against Old Dominion on Jan. 28. Mohammed F Emran | Staff Photographer

Brendan Feeney, Sports Editor

Florida Atlantic appointed Michael Curry as the head coach of the men’s basketball team in April of 2014, but was he the right choice?

“Curry beat out North Carolina Central’s LeVelle Moton and [University of] Florida assistant coach Matt McCall for the job, which will be his first in the collegiate ranks,” wrote Dieter Kurtenbach of the Sun Sentinel after FAU announced the signing of Curry.

While Moton has struggled to find success, McCall is making the decision somewhat questionable.

Two seasons later, we look back to see if FAU made the right call.

Under Curry’s reign, which started in the 2014-2015 season, the team won 10 games the year before he got there, nine in his debut and eight this past season, 8-25.

Curry’s first year as head coach was also the Owls’ first season in Conference USA.

McCall remained on the Florida staff for one more season, before taking his first head coaching job at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in the 2015-2016 season.

This year Chattanooga won 29 games, only losing six. The team won 18 and 22 games respectively in the two years before he joined.

He led the Mocs to their first Southern Conference Championship since 2009 and an NCAA Tournament appearance, which ended at the hands of the Indiana Hoosiers on Thursday, March 17.

According to RPI — a measure of strength of schedule and the team’s/conference’s success against that schedule and one of the key factors in determining the NCAA Tournament field — McCall’s Chattanooga team is the 50th best team in the country, while Curry’s Owls are the 300th.

There is no clear answer as to who is in the tougher conference as Conference USA has won 7-of-9 intra-conference matchups, but the Southern Conference holds the better conference RPI.

McCall also inherited a team whose youngest starter is a junior.

This year’s FAU team started two true freshmen, guard Nick Rutherford and forward Jeantal Cylla, and redshirt freshman center Ronald Delph. The three look to be cornerstones in Curry’s program, which he says he’s trying to build up.


Both Curry and McCall entered the debate with highly touted resumes. Curry played in the NBA from 1993-2005 for six different teams.

Three years after his playing career ended, he re-entered the NBA and became the assistant coach of the Detroit Pistons; the team named him the head coach the following season. The Pistons won 53 games the year before he was hired.

His first year as an assistant the team won 59 games. However, in his first season as head coach, the Pistons won 39 — they traded six-year starter Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson two games into that season.

Curry found himself out of the league for one year following that season before he signed on as an assistant coach for the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers made the playoffs twice in his three years, pulling off one series’ victory — a No. 8 seeded Philadelphia upsetting the No. 1 Chicago Bulls, who lacked their star guard Derrick Rose.

During that time, McCall worked under Billy Donovan at the University of Florida from 2004-2008. He was the team’s director of basketball operations when the Gators won back-to-back National Championships in 2006 and 2007.

Following the 2007-2008 season, McCall became the assistant coach at FAU. In the three seasons prior to his arrival, the Owls won 15, 17 and 15 games respectively.

In 2008-2009, with McCall and fellow new acquisition head coach — Mike Jarvis — the team won six games.

In the two years after, FAU improved to 15 wins, followed by a record of 21-11 in 2010-2011. When McCall left FAU to become assistant coach for the Florida Gators in 2011, FAU won ten fewer games and finished 11-19.

The Florida Gators went on to make it to the Final Four in 2014, along with winning the 2013 and 2014 SEC titles with McCall on staff. Both were their first since McCall left in 2008.

Ultimately, Curry won the the gig.

According to Kurtenbach, FAU Director of Athletics Patrick Chun said, “He’s in alignment with core values on what we’re trying to do.”

Curry’s job is not currently in jeopardy, but was he the best choice? You decide.

Did FAU make the right choice in head coach two years ago?

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Brendan Feeney is the sports editor of the University Press. To contact him regarding this or other stories, he can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter.