One coach turned down the men’s basketball head coaching job before the school hired former Villanova associate coach George Halcovage III, UB Athletic Director Mark Alnutt told The Spectrum.
Alnutt said UB only handed out two official offers in a nearly three-week hiring process that drew restlessness from local fans and alumni. One offer was turned down; Halcovage accepted the other.
“One got turned down. Not for any reasons about us, Athletics, what have you. When we make decisions, it’s a family decision,” Alnutt said. “Everyone has to be all in. And unfortunately, at that time for that candidate, they weren’t ready to make that move.”
Alnutt said UB “had to take a reset,” with Halcovage emerging as the next candidate they wanted to learn more about. Once Halcovage was brought onto campus, he was UB’s second official offer.
Alnutt called the UB job “highly sought after” during his formal introduction of Halcovage on Monday. He said UB started with “30 or so” potential candidates, held Zoom calls with “eight to nine” and brought multiple coaches in for on-campus visits.
After former head coach Jim Whitesell — who finished with a 15-17 record last season — was fired on March 11, fans wanted answers. UB finally closed in on Halcovage after a 20-day hiring process, which many felt was drawn out.
“I get it, and then to see other schools name a head coach, there’s the impatience level,” Alnutt said when discussing public apprehension around the coaching vacancy. “But the thing I love about it, to be honest with you, is just the passion. People are out there, it’s not apathy — apathy is the worst.”
While Alnutt said he appreciates the enthusiasm within the community, he made a point to clear up any speculation or confusion surrounding the hiring process, insisting that there was only “one other offer.”
Halcovage — who spent 15 seasons at Big East powerhouse Villanova — claimed he wasn’t phased at any point in the process. He said rumors of candidates visiting campus and turning the job down didn’t deter him.
“I think you learn in this business, going through these processes, you never know how you’re gonna get the job that you’d love to want to be at,” Halcovage said to local media following his introductory press conference. “I’m just so happy the process went the way it did for me to have the opportunity to be there when I did, because obviously, you want to be a head coach.”
Now Halcovage will be responsible for reviving a program that struggled to break through under Whitesell, who failed to bring UB back to “the big dance” in four years on the job. The Buffalo fanbase is clamoring for a winner once again.
The Bulls made four NCAA Tournament appearances over a five-year span from 2015 to 2019 under the leadership of former head coaches Bobby Hurley and Nate Oats.
Hurley (now at Arizona State) and Oats (now at Alabama) used the UB job as a springboard for greater opportunities.
Halcovage now has that same opportunity in taking over what was once the premier program in the Mid-American Conference.
Alnutt may not have gotten the No. 1 candidate on his list, but his new men’s basketball coach has a proven track record and may be able to bring the program back to prominence.
“At the end of the day, where we landed, he was on our list — very high on our list,” Alnutt said. “And for us to be able to get him, we’re excited.”
Anthony DeCicco is the Editor-in-Chief and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Anthony DeCicco is the Editor-in-Chief of The Spectrum. His words have appeared in outlets such as SLAM Magazine andSyracuse.com. In 2020, he was awarded First Prize for Sports Column Writing at the Society of Professional Journalists' Region 1 Mark of Excellence Awards. In his free time, he can be found watching ‘90s Knicks games and reading NFL Mock Drafts at 3 a.m.