UB makes right call in Nate Oats hire after Hurley's departure


He isn’t Bobby Hurley, and he isn’t some exciting outside hire, but UB’s newest head basketball coach, former assistant head coach Nate Oats, might just lead to another Mid-American Conference Championship.

Hurley’s departure is arguably the fault of Athletic Director Danny White.

White’s potential mishandling of contract negotiations with Hurley has emerged as an embarrassing blemish on his generally impressive work as director.

His decision to offer Hurley just $551,000 – according to reports made to The Buffalo News attributed to an anonymous source – to make him the highest-paid MAC coach by $1,000 and his failure to communicate with him at the most critical times, made it all too easy for the coach, who was initially, and seemingly sincerely committed to Buffalo, to justify looking elsewhere.

But hiring Oats is far from a mistake.

Oats offers both continuity and confidence as the Bulls’ head coach. He appears unshaken by the dramatic turn of events and unruffled by the somewhat undesirable circumstances that surround his promotion.

At his introductory press conference Monday, Oats appeared ready to replace the vaunted Hurley and take over in the wake of disappointment and letdown.

Hiring Oats is the Bulls’ best chance at returning to the NCAA Tournament.

Oats is an experienced coach, going 225-52 in his 11-year career as the head coach at Romulus High School, and more importantly, he’s already an established force within UB Athletics and among the players.

He’s worked with three of UB’s current players – Justin Moss, Christian Pino, and Raheem Johnson – since they played for him at Romulus High School. A new coach could never replicate that kind of rapport.

Oats also recruited Nate Navigato and Nick Perkins, and for the team as a whole, his move from assistant to head coach will reflect a slight adjustment, rather than an abrupt introduction.

Ideally, the Bulls won’t lose any players, and the odds of avoiding transfers are far better with Oats at the helm.

Oats is a new head coach but he won’t have to institute a new system. The team is more likely to continue in the three-guard offense Hurley used in the past, and with a roster that will hopefully reflect minimal change, it’s not unrealistic to expect the Bulls to continue in their winning ways as well.

When it comes to the program’s goals and the expectations placed on the Bulls, Hurley’s departure changes nothing – and rightly so.

Oats can maintain the status quo – retain the current roster and continue with last year’s system – and that status quo got the Bulls into the NCAA Tournament this year.

Now, all eyes will be on Oats to see if he can surpass that standard – and surpass Hurley’s achievements.

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