Vautour: Kellogg’s firing likely marks a departure from UMass basketball program’s history

  • UMass coach Derek Kellogg shouts instructions during his team’s loss to Richmond in its regular season home finale, March 1 at the Mullins Center. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass coach Derek Kellogg shouts instructions during his team’s loss to Richmond in its regular season home finale, March 1 at the Mullins Center. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

Published: 3/9/2017 6:55:44 PM

From the moment Travis Ford arrived at UMass, most people knew that it was a relationship, not a marriage.

Ford had roots in the south and with big-time programs, having played at Kentucky and Missouri. It took enormous imagination flexing to envision him staying in Amherst longer than a few seasons.

Be prepared for something similar coming up. The next UMass coach won’t necessarily be from the south or even outside the region, but firing Derek Kellogg means the Minutemen will almost certainly have a coach who looks at UMass like a good job, not a destination job.

That doesn’t make it different than most jobs outside the Power Five or even many inside the Power Five. But, if UMass hires someone successful, it could be coach hunting again before too long. Traditional powers look at the Atlantic 10 as a place to harvest coaches from.

The move likely marks a break from the school’s past too. Kellogg was from Springfield and was a part of the success that made people care about the program at all in the early to mid-1990s. All coaches want to be successful for themselves, their competitiveness and their careers. Kellogg wanted it for the school he went to and the region he grew up in, too.

Making UMass matter, mattered to Kellogg. There’s no school in America where that on its own would be enough to keep somebody. But unless the Minutemen hire Tony Barbee, which doesn’t seem likely, the next coach is going to be recasting UMass tradition.

That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but the days of Marcus Camby and John Calipari staying closely connected to the program are likely either over or at least on hiatus for a while.

On some level, Kellogg suffered from the overall frustration in the athletic department. Football, men’s and women’s basketball, and ice hockey, the department’s highest profile programs, have all been in the midst of down cycles. Among those sports, the men’s basketball program has had success most recently and appears to be closest to returning to postseason.

But fan frustration carried over. Had there been more to celebrate across the board in recent years, fans might have been more patient with Kellogg.

The next hire will be a key move for athletic director Ryan Bamford. He’s been popular with fans early in his tenure, but more than any previous move, this hire will define his tenure.

Despite all the attention placed on football, men’s basketball remains the athletic department’s flagship sport. There isn’t just one right guy, but picking someone who can make the program successful will affect the entire department.

It’ll be interesting to see how the coaching carousel plays itself out. With North Carolina State, LSU and Missouri already open, UMass won’t be first in line at the buffet. It’ll offer less money and prestige than some of the bigger jobs that are open. Indiana could still open and set the market. Who else is looking for coaches can have a huge affect on who a school ends up hiring.

If the key players stay, the Minutemen could be good in a hurry. If not, the program could be rebuilding all over again.

Matt Vautour can be reached at Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at

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