San Francisco concluded its monthlong search for a basketball
coach, hiring Jessie Evans away from Louisiana-Lafayette on
"I knew they were committed to building a winning program when
I saw them go after Gene Keady. That opened my eyes certainly,"
Evans said. "That was the main reason I got involved."
The Dons settled on Evans after their highly publicized run at
Keady failed. While Evans lacks Keady's high profile, he has won a
national championship as an assistant at Arizona and led
Louisiana-Lafayette to the NCAA tournament this season.
"Jessie's a proven winner who's a proven recruiter," athletic
director Bill Hogan said. "You don't get much better than that."
Now his task is rebuilding the tradition at San Francisco. The
Dons went 17-14 last season, losing to Santa Clara in the second
round of the West Coast Conference tournament. Phil Mathews was
fired March 9 after nine seasons with the Dons. He took the team to
one NCAA tournament.
"We'll always have great goals," Evans said. "Each and
every year we'll set out to make postseason play. That will never
change. We'll reach for new heights."
Evans spent seven years at Louisiana-Lafayette, leading the
Ragin' Cajuns to two NCAA tournament berths and four 20-win
seasons. The school went 20-9 and won the Sun Belt Conference
regular-season and tournament titles last season before a
first-round NCAA loss to North Carolina State.
Evans was an assistant to Lute Olson during Arizona's run to the
national championship in 1997. He also has been an assistant at
Texas, Wyoming, San Diego State and Minnesota, earning a reputation
as a talented recruiter while coaching 26 future NBA players.
"He knows what it takes to win," Dons guard John Cox said. "I
haven't been to the postseason before and he's won a championship.
He's a proven winner."
Evans said his first priority recruiting will be trying to keep
some of the talented players in the San Francisco Bay area home.
San Francisco's administration expects Evans to build a program
capable of competing with West Coast Conference power Gonzaga, the
league's perennial champion. San Francisco recently made an
aggressive financial commitment to its athletic programs, and
Evans' hiring is considered a key element in the revitalization.
"First we have to make the postseason and then we need to do it
consistently before we get to that level," Cox said. "Maybe it
won't happen next year but within five years we should be there."
San Francisco boasts such prestigious basketball alumni as NBA
greats Bill Russell, Bill Cartwright and K.C. Jones. The Dons won
NCAA titles in 1955 and 1956, and the NIT in 1949.