AU Coach Has Done All He Can

Article excerpt

Chris Knoche does not expect to be the basketball coach at American University next season.

The evidence against the seven-year coach is fairly incriminating. His record is 72-112, counting the team's 6-10 start this season. He has posted only one winning season at the Ward Circle school, a 15-14 effort in 1990-91, his first as coach. He never has advanced beyond the semifinals of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. His program does not register a blip on the Division I basketball screen.

Those are the bare facts against Knoche, and they are not pretty.

But the case against Knoche is not so simple or clear-cut.

Knoche's problem is a basic one.

It's not his coaching philosophy. It's not his knowledge of the game. It's not his ability to think fast and devise a winning play or defense in the final minutes of a tight game. In fact, he's pretty good in this area. His team already has won three games in overtime this season. He's regarded around the league as a coach who gets the most out of his players.

No, Knoche's problem is that he needs better players. He knows this. Lee McElroy, AU's athletic director, knows this. Anyone who follows the Eagles knows this. Identifying the problem is easy. Fixing it is another matter.

It's not that Knoche doesn't land blue-chip players. Of course, he doesn't get those players. Why, he doesn't get close to those players. Those players wind up in the Atlantic Coast Conference or the Big East or Big Ten. They go to the conferences with national television packages. Knoche is merely wasting postage when he sends a letter to a top 100 player.

Knoche, though, doesn't even attract the best-of-the-rest national players. He's happy when he lands an all-state player from high school, a Tim Fudd at one time or a Darryl Franklin.

Knoche has to deal with a number of frustrating realities when he's recruiting a player.

He can't sell a potential recruit on the program's television package. He can't compare itty-bitty Bender Arena to the Patriot Center at George Mason or the Robins Center at the University of Richmond or the Scope at Old Dominion University. …