Billups takes full control of DU Hoops

Photo: Courtesy of Denver Athletics

With the newly announced departure of assistant coach Dan Ficke to assume head coaching duties at Belmont Abbey College, Rodney Billups is now surrounded by staff and players he has selected. In Addition to Ficke, also gone are senior assistants Ricardo Patton and Steve Snell who left earlier this year.

Dan Ficke’s landing spot, Belmont Abbey College, is located just 10 miles west of Charlotte, NC.. Ficke’s father, Bill, played for the Crusaders under legendary head coach Al McGuire. Dan Ficke was always a good friend to LetsGoDU and wish him, his wife Jordan and twins the very best. 

Ficke Named Head Men's Basketball Coach

The departure of Ficke was the final coaching connection to the past regime of Joe Scott, Billups predecessor. And the same goes for the players – all Rodney Billups picks.

So, Billups will be surrounded by staff he hand picked and the players he wanted to play in his system. The two most challenging issues facing Billups will be integrating new players into his system and managing an inexperienced squad with only one senior and no juniors. By nearly any measure, this will be a challenging season but Billups should be able to operate comfortably with his hand selected staff and senior coaches Bacari Alexander and Roman Sposato.

Since recruiting is largely over for now, our guess would be that either Dwight Thorne II (Director of Player Development) or Zach Ruebesam (Director of Basketball Operations) will absorb the open duties or one of them will be elevated to replace Ficke, probably Thorne.

Since our last hoops update, it looks like the roster is set with six new faces.

Early in the recruiting process, Denver booked commitments from incoming freshmen Owen McGlashan, Robert Jones, and Jaire (Roscoe) Eastmond. The mystery of prized recruit Javonni Bickham was solved when he was finally placed on the Denver roster earlier this summer. A 6’6″ power forward out of Minnehaha Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, Bickham was recruited by Memphis and other high level hoops programs but selected Denver before his injuries his senior year in high school. He missed last season in recovery. We wrote about two recent junior college recruits, 6’9″ Tristan Greene and 6’3″ guard Khalil Johnson who will need to be ‘coached up’ in order to play meaningful roles at the D-1 level. So, this staff will be tested to quickly develop players – several without high level CV’s.

While it may be easy for some to be cynical when viewing the teams inexperience and talent level, it should be remembered that mid-majors rarely get gems. They find diamonds in the rough and try to polish them. South Dakota’s Mike Daum and John Konchar from Fort Wayne were two such stars that blossomed in the Summit League.

In year four, it will be up to Rodney Billups and his hand-picked staff to polish those gems.

6 thoughts on “Billups takes full control of DU Hoops”

  1. His first staff was hand picked too. Rodney could’ve sent ficke packing when he took the job. Nice to see you guys will continue to make excuses in 19-20. Here’s to a 10 win season and an RPI >250.

      1. It was Rodney’s team from day 1. He owns the results the day he took the job. Stop making excuses.

      2. I don’t think anyone here is making excuses for Rodney. Every coach deserves a full four year cycle to get his full team in place and Rodney is now going into year four of his tenure with a grand total of ONE upperclassman on the entire roster, and a raft of new assistant coaches — presumably he was told that changes needed to be made after last year, and that first bunch of assistants is now gone.

        We’ll see this year how he does with the new coaches and many new players, and we’re all hoping it’s better than last year’s embarrassment of a season.

        We all want to see if Rodney can be an effective head coach at this level, and we’ll all see how he does. If he can get back to about .500 with this very young group, I’d call the year 4 a success and give him another year to build on it in the final year of his 5-year contract. If he does well with that group, than extend him. If not, well, we’re back to square one….

        Finally, winning at the college level requires competent defensive play. Rodney would be the first to tell you that his defense last year was awful. The numbers confirm it, and we all saw it with our own eyes. It’s now up to him to use the many resources available to him to make the big improvements that need to be made. If he wants to be an effective D-I coach, this will be job 1, and it will determine his future here.

      3. Agree. I think everyone acknowledges the buck stops with Billups. He’s the head coach and is the face of the program. It’s up to him to prove to the fans, the administration, the athletic staff etc. that he’s the right man for the job.

        After last season’s debacle, off-season transfers, and a severe lack of upperclassmen, expectations will be low for the upcoming season. Maybe that’s a good thing.

        For me, wins and losses take a backseat, at least for the time being. What I will be looking for from Billups, the coaching staff, and the team:

        1. Can they mold this squad into a cohesive unit that plays hard at both ends, but especially defensively?
        2. Can they (quickly) groom some of the younger players for leadership roles?
        3. Will this team be better from a fundamentals standpoint? Way too many turnovers and missed FTs last year.
        4. Finally, have some fun out there. The body language last year seemed to clearly indicate guys weren’t enjoying themselves.

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