The man most directly responsible for bringing Division-I athletics to the University at Buffalo is now taking over one of the school's most struggling programs.
UB President William Greiner, who announced that he will be stepping down from that position later this year, has decided to take over the school's men's basketball team. He and current head coach Reggie Witherspoon will, in effect, be switching jobs, as Witherspoon was named as Greiner's successor as president in a press conference Sunday.
"It's about time UB had a black president," Witherspoon said. "The president gets a sweet house with all those butlers and stuff. I know I can throw a better Christmas Party than Greiner did. I'm going to be the best president ever."
Witherspoon reveled that he really has no plan for the direction of the university.
"I don't know what I'm going to do yet, I don't have a plan or a course of action, but I didn't have a plan for the basketball team either and look how well I did with that," Witherspoon said, garnering a less-than-modest laugh from the media gathering.
Witherspoon, who compiled a 5-156 record in his five seasons as head coach, seemed upset that people were mocking his basketball accomplishments.
"Hey, I was named the best dressed coach in the Mid-American Conference by collegeinsider.com, so as far as I'm concerned, I have accomplished all there is to accomplish in college basketball, now it's time for me to take on another challenge," Witherspoon said.
Meanwhile Greiner went from a cushy Fifth Floor Capen job where he didn't really have to do anything right into the pressure cooker of college basketball.
"As President, I could do whatever I wanted and nobody noticed," Greiner said. "Like I had a radio show that nobody listened to, nobody even knows about it. It was a call-in show about the state of the university, and we used to pretend people were calling in; we'd use fake voices and stuff. One time we were trying to kill that last five minutes of the show, and we couldn't think of anything to say, so I had my wife call in and jibber jabber about the A-Team episode she watched that day."
"Making the transition to college basketball is going to be very difficult. In sports people watch your every move, and they know as much about your program as you do, especially the media. I'm sure glad that the Spectrum Sports Editor is graduating; I heard he is a real asshole. He made Kate McMeeken-Ruscoe (of the UB women's basketball team) cry!"
Unlike Witherspoon, Greiner does have some semblance of a plan for the team.
"First I'm going to come up with nicknames for everyone, it's going to boost team morale and make us like a family," Greiner said. "I already thought of a few: Calvin 'Brick' Cage, Mark 'White Guy' Bortz, 'Turnover' Turner Battle, B.J. 'BJ' Walker, stuff like that."
Battle, who will be a junior next season, led the team in scoring this season and was a co-captain. He expects to maintain his captain status, and is excited about the possibilities with Greiner.
"He kind of looks like (Arizona head coach) Lute Olsen, so maybe we'll have as much success as the Wildcats have had," Battle said. "I've always wanted to play basketball for a stuffy white guy who has no idea what it's like being a black man growing up. You know, a man that I have nothing in common with, it should make for a good relationship."
UB's top 3-point shooter, Jason Bird, was asked his opinion but mumbled something about ice cream and walked away.
Not all of UB's players were excited about the coaching change.
"Just when I thought this program couldn't get any worse, now I'm expected to learn college basketball from Greiner," Bortz, a 6-10 center, said. "I'd rather have that guy covered in blue paint that yells and stuff as our coach, now there is a guy with some passion."
Oddly, UB Athletic Director Bob Arkielpane was absent at the press conference. The Spectrum caught up to him at his Alumni Arena office as he was in the process of stealing office supplies.
"It's only a matter of time, they are going to fire me for sure," Arkielpane, who did not make the decision to hire Greiner, said. "None of our programs are doing well; we are the laughing stock of the conference. I have to take as much as I can before they throw me on the street."
Arkielpane was indifferent on Greiner's decision to take over the team.
"Who cares, hey, there is nowhere to go but up," Arkielpane said. "I wish him luck. He is going to need it."
Greiner plans to retain all of Witherspoon's assistants and will begin working on his first recruiting class right away. Witherspoon will officially take over as President in the summer.