Schmidt to replace Solomon as coach

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Mark Schmidt paid tribute to St. Bonaventure's rich basketball history as he took over the struggling program Tuesday.

Now comes the hard part: Rebuilding after four straight 19-loss seasons and a 2003 player eligibility scandal that led to NCAA sanctions.

"I didn't take this job to lose," said Schmidt, who spent the previous six seasons at Robert Morris, where he went 82-90 with a 17-11 finish last season. "We're going to have to have some patience. We're going to build this thing brick by brick. And we're
going to do it right. ... We're going to bring St. Bonaventure back."

Schmidt was introduced at a news conference held on the school's Reilly Center court, a place once considered among the most intimidating and raucous of Atlantic 10 Conference settings before fans gradually lost interest in a team that went 24-88 in four
seasons under former coach Anthony Solomon, who was fired last month.

The Bonnies' prominence on campus hasn't been the same since the scandal, which led to the team boycotting its final two games of the 2002-03 season and the dismissal of coach Jan van Breda Kolff.

It's a remarkable fall for an 87-year-old program that was led by Bob Lanier in the late 1960s and made four postseason appearances -- including a 2000 NCAA Tournament berth -- from 1998 to 2002.

"There is tradition here, it's not like it's a graveyard," Schmidt said. "It would be different if nobody had ever won. But guys have won."

The 44-year-old Schmidt has several things going for him. Unlike Solomon, he comes in with experience as a head coach. He is familiar with the Atlantic 10 after spending seven years as an assistant at Xavier. And he's a noted recruiter who helped Xavier land several future NBA players, including David West and James Posey.

"He is a proven successful head coach who impressed us with his attitude, desire and passion," first-year athletic director Steve Watson said. "Mark also has a firm understanding of what it takes to compete in the Atlantic 10 Conference."

Watson sidestepped questions about Schmidt as a second choice after Albany's Will Brown rejected St. Bonaventure's offer last month.

"The fact that we got a successful Division I head coach, you can't put a price tag on that," Watson said.

Schmidt's first priority will be filling a depleted roster after guards Jermaine Calvin and James Williams quit the team this season. Another junior guard, Zarryon Fereti, was dismissed for what Solomon said was his failure to follow team philosophies.

Schmidt said he will rely on recruiting players out of high school rather than junior college, as Solomon did.

"We're not going to bring in 25 jucos," Schmidt said. "This is a new era, and it begins today."

Schmidt also worked as an assistant at Loyola of Maryland, Penn State and Saint Michael's College in Vermont. He played at Boston College, reaching the NCAA Tournament's round of eight as a freshman in 1981.