Summer is supposed to be a slower time of the year for athletics directors, but Jim Cole has been busy recently.
With good reason.
The Mercer athletics director reached contract extensions in the past couple of weeks with baseball head coach Craig Gibson and basketball head coach Bob Hoffman. Both contracts run through the 2017 school year.
Gibson is 277-233 in nine seasons as the Bears head coach, and he is the programs third winningest coach. The Bears really have hit their stride the past three seasons, going 115-65 for the best three-year run in the programs history. The 2011 team tied the programs record with 39 victories a year after the 2010 team won the A-Sun title and made the programs first trip to the NCAA tournament.
Hoffman is 75-61 in three seasons as the Bears head coach, and the Bears set the program record for wins in a season last year with a 27-11 finish. Mercer won the CollegeInsider.com Tournament championship for the programs first non-conference postseason title.
In short, based on recent success, both extensions are well deserved.
But Cole was focused on the future, as well, in getting these contracts done.
Hoffman has changed the culture around the Bears basketball program and continues to grow excitement around his team. Not only is he a terrific coach, but he has been a strong, outspoken salesman for his program. Thats the kind of person a program like Mercer needs running its program, and Hoffmans efforts have paid off on and off the court.
Last years team took a big step forward, but this years squad should be able to take that to the next level. Hoffmans Bears have plenty of returning talent and experience from last years postseason run, and that can only help this years team. With Belmont no longer in the A-Sun and the conference tournament again being played at Mercer, Hoffmans team should be favored to win the conference title and an NCAA berth that goes with it.
Gibson knows exactly what it feels like to win the conference title and earn a trip to the NCAA tournament, and those feelings could be returning soon for his program. The Bears lost only three seniors off last years team and have a solid recruiting class coming in to help this years team be even stronger. The 2011 Bears were young, and they got better as the season went along, and the lessons learned from that will make them better players.
Gibson has built a strong, steady program that looks like it could be at the top of the A-Sun for the next few years, and thats something Bears fans should be proud of and excited about.
And Cole has to be excited to know he has both coaches locked up for years to come.
Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org