By Ken McMillan
WEST POINT – As a young, up-and-coming head basketball coach, Zach Spiker has been lured in the past with offers to leave his job at Army but nothing compares to his next assignment.
On Friday morning Spiker will be announced as the new coach at Drexel University, which plays in the Atlantic 10 Conference. He takes over for Bruiser Flint, who was let go after 15 seasons with the Dragons.
“It’s invigorating to be a part of Philadelphia basketball,’’ Spiker said late Thursday night. “Being there today, you could feel it.’’
Spiker leaves after seven seasons at West Point and an overall record of 102-112. During his tenure, Army put an end to a burdensome 27-year streak of losing seasons in 2012-13 and, this season, reached the national postseason for the first time since 1978. However, Spiker leaves with one big regret: not getting Army into the NCAA tournament for the first time.
There was raised hope when Patriot League top seed Bucknell was upset in the quarterfinal round, giving Army a rare semifinal home game but, like the Bison, the Black Knights also fell victim to Holy Cross in a rather forgettable outing. Army was granted a berth in the College Insider Tournament but lost at New Jersey Institute of Technology in an opening-round game, falling one victory short of 20 wins.
Army will be losing a heralded senior class that helped turn the program’s fortunes. Kyle Wilson, Tanner Plomb, Kevin Ferguson, Dylan Cox and Larry Toomey combined for 6,115 points over four seasons.
“I am excited for the future of West Point basketball,’’ Spiker said.
Spiker said the decision to leave West Point was not easy but this job was too good to refuse.
“I just haven’t had an opportunity like this,’’ Spiker said. “There have been other opportunities but not one as unique and special as one in the City of Philadelphia that has such a great tradition. … It’s an opportunity we’re very excited about and we’re jumping in with both feet very quickly.’’
Spiker said West Point will be hard to leave behind.
“That’s the one thing that I think people misanalyze, that just because you move on to another job, that it’s easy,’’ Spiker said while choking up. “West Point will always be a part of our lives, our kids’ lives. … It’s been a part of us. It’s the fabric of who our family is and that will never change.
“There’s parts that’s exciting (about leaving) and parts that’s really sad, because we’ve worked hard and built things the right way.’’