Frank Martin announced the hiring of Perry Clark this [time of day], bringing to the end a coaching search that began over a month ago with the departure of Brad Underwood to Stephen F. Austin.
The 62-year-old Clark comes to Columbia after two years away from the game. He’s been a head coach three times. Most recently, he coached Texas A&M – Corpus Christi for four years before being unceremoniously fired following a 10-21 campaign (to be fair, I may be being harsh – it’s possible there was a ceremony). Before that, Clark was also the head coach at Miami (FL) for four years. In the middle, he was a television announcer.
He landed the Miami (FL) job on the back of an 11-year stint at Tulane, where he went 236-183 (56.3%) and led the Green Wave to their only three NCAA tournament appearances in the history of the program. After putting together two winning seasons at Miami, Clark followed up in 2003 and 2004 with two straight losing seasons, and was fired.
Let’s look at his time as a head coach a bit more in-depth to see how his personality might mesh (or need to change) to adapt to the Carolina way of doing things under Frank Martin.
Clark’s success at Tulane pre-dates the Ken Pomeroy era (defined as when Pomeroy began releasing ratings in 2003), and so we’ll have to recap that era based on wins and losses, as opposed to the statistical analysis.
But my, what a run. After Tulane paid for a point shaving scandal with the death penalty in 1985, Clark brought the Green Wave back to the hardwood in 1989. Clark had a rough first season in 1989-90, when the Green Wave went 4-24, but his 56.3% winning percentage at a school with a sub-.500 overall record, while coaching 18% of the games that school has ever played, you’ve done fine work. He is responsible for the only 3 NCAA tournament berths in the history of the program, as well as their only 3 NCAA victories (one a piece in ’92, ’93, and ’95).
Clark helped the Green Wave transition from the Metro conference (which some of you older folks may remember, and which also bore a logo that rests on the coolest t-shirt I own) to Conference USA. While the Green Wave never reached the level of success in CUSA it found in the Metro, they did well enough to get Clark a job in Miami following the 2000 season.
Clark replaced Leonard Hamilton at Miami (FL) – as an aside, I’d completely forgotten that Hamilton once coached at Miami – and led the ‘Canes for 4 years, with declining levels of success (think of him as a slightly more successful Darrin Horn). Clark led Miami to an NCAA berth and a 24-8 record in his second season, but back-to-back losing seasons in ’03 and ’04 put him on the unemployment line.
After some time off, Clark replaced another successful head coach who moved up in the world, as Ronnie Arrow left Texas A&M Corpus Christi for South Alabama (where he retired 10 games into the 2012 season, for unknown reasons). Arrow spoiled the Islanders with an NCAA birth in their fifth year in Division 1, and Clark could not sustain the momentum that Arrow built around the program. Although Clark achieved two winning records in his time by the bay made famous by Robert Earl Keen, his 10-21 record in 2011 concluded his tenure (of note, the Islanders followed up with 6-23 and 6-24 records the last two years, so perhaps Arrow coached over his head and Clark was simply achieving normal results at such a challenging job).
Clark will not need Martin to explain his offensive philosophy in great detail, as it mirrors what he did at both Miami and TA&M-CC. Martin has never coached a team that has finished below 14th in the NCAA (last year’s bunch, at 38.3%, is the only sub-40% group), and Clark’s teams averaged 36.6% on their own OReb%.
Also like Martin, his teams did not mind turning the ball over, as in their twelve combined head coaching seasons since 2003, only one squad has exited the year with a TO% of under 20% (Martin’s 2009 K-State team, which escaped by the skin of a rounding error with a 19.9 TO%). His teams also went to the bucket aggressively and tried to grab points from the free throw line, though this strategy was met with limited success at T&AM-CC because the Islanders couldn’t fit their free throws.
Defensively, Clark will need to learn about the Murderball tendencies of Martin (force turnovers, prevent 3PAs, and otherwise, foul the hell out of the shooter). But of course, Clark isn’t coming in solely as an Xs and Os guy, but someone who will be expected to help Martin on the recruiting trail. He has a bit of a sordid past in recruiting, as TA&M-CC received significant penalties in 2009 for major violations committed by the basketball program under Clark. While none of the allegations were overly serious and nothing directly touched Clark, it’s certainly something you would wish was not on his resume.
In any event, Clark is a seasoned veteran on the coaching circuit who operated a system similar to Martin’s, and can hopefully bring that experience to bear in Columbia. With a complete coaching staff and a team full of newcomers that just began summer workouts, changes are rampant within the Carolina basketball program. The success of those changes remains to be seen.