Mike Young, back in Charleston for the first time since participating in the College of Charleston’s oddly extended coaching search last August, is too busy for bitterness.
The Wofford head basketball coach is preparing for Thursday night’s Southern Conference game at The Citadel.
Young is striving to keep the Terriers (13-4, 4-0 in the SoCon) in prime position for another conference championship and NCAA Tournament run.
He just sent an encouraging note to Cougars head coach Earl Grant.
“I’m happy the way it worked out,” Young said of his College of Charleston ordeal. “They never offered me a job so I didn’t have a decision to make. But when it was all said and done it worked out best for Mike Young, and it worked out best for Earl Grant and the College of Charleston. The College of Charleston got a heck of a coach in Earl.”
“It’s amazing how things work,” Young said.
Wofford is a lofty No. 34 on the NCAA’s Rating Percentage Index list. The Terriers are likely to steadily drop in the RPI as relatively inferior SoCon competition chips away at strength of schedule math.
But Young loves his team, led by guards Karl Cochran (15.1 points per game) and Spencer Collins (10.5).
“I knew we would be good,” said Young, in his 13th season as Wofford head coach. “We had a lot of guys coming back who had played a lot of minutes — special guys. These guys coming off the (SoCon) championship last year were chomping at the bit to get back. But I couldn’t have expected, in my wildest dreams, to be here at 13-4 with the schedule we’ve played: Duke, Stanford, West Virginia, N.C. State.”
‘Huge Earl Grant fan’
That explains why it was such an emotional drive down I-26 from Spartanburg on a hot day last summer. Young met with the College of Charleston’s search committee, publicly confirmed his interest and put up with the process for a week before finally withdrawing the same day former Cougars and NBA guard Anthony Johnson surprisingly backed out.
Grant, a North Charleston native and former Clemson assistant coach, accepted the job a week later.
“I’m a huge Earl Grant fan,” Young said. “I want him to win. He’s going to win.”
Considering he was hired in September and a Colonial Athletic Association more rugged than most people at the College of Charleston anticipated, Grant has built-in excuses. But the contrast of Young streaking toward what might be a fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in six years and the Cougars’ last-place standing is impossible to ignore.
Young is still accepting congratulations for Wofford’s 55-54 victory at N.C. State on Dec. 14. Adding texture to the upset, the game was played at Reynolds Coliseum. It was a rare return to the Wolfpack’s former campus home, the famed site of the ACC Tournament from 1954-1966 and 12 NCAA Tournament regionals.
N.C. State, ‘best win’
Since moving off campus in 1999, N.C. State was 14-0 at Reynolds before the Wofford game. Young led the Terriers to wins over Clemson, South Carolina, Purdue, Cincinnati, Auburn, Georgia, Virginia Tech, Xavier and Wake Forest.
N.C. State was different.
“The best win I’ve ever had,” said Young, 51. “Non-conference doesn’t compare to winning conference championships, but as far as non-conference goes, it’s N.C. State. The tradition, and Reynolds, Tobacco Road and David Thompson … It just doesn’t get any better.”
Wofford has upside beyond 2015, some of which is tied to Wando High School in Mount Pleasant. Head coach David Eaton, a former Wofford guard who guided Wando to a state title in 2014, has sent guards John Swinton and Eric Wagenlander to play for Young. Matthew Pegram, a 6-10 Wando senior and one of the top players in the state, has signed with the Terriers.
“David has a program that’s about the same things that we’re about: Doing the right things, character, unselfishness, toughness,” Young said. “If David calls me and says I need to take somebody, I’ll take them.”
Whether it’s recruiting, setting the tone for another fun postseason or a short vacation, Mike Young will keep returning to the Lowcountry. But he doesn’t have time for second-guessing about the College of Charleston.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff