New Hoops Coach Determined to Contend for NCAAs ‘Every Year’
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
New LIU-Brooklyn head men’s basketball coach Derek Kellogg has a clear, and very ambitious, vision for the Blackbirds’ future.
After all, he’s fulfilled a few of his own in his time.
“We want to contend for NCAA Tournament bids every year, that is our goal as a team, as a community and as an administration,” Kellogg insisted Tuesday morning at the Barclays Center, moments after LIU Athletic Director Brad Cohen introduced him as the 14th head coach in the long, storied history of the program.
“I’m an energy guy,” Kellogg added. “What a better place to bring energy than to Brooklyn, New York.”
He will need plenty of it if he hopes to turn the Blackbirds into a notable national brand, something he helped accomplish as a player at UMass in the 1990s, and as an assistant coach and recruiter at Memphis during the 2000s, both under the guise of legendary hoops coach John Calipari.
“Coach Kellogg has a proven track record as one of the nation’s top recruiters who understands player development and how to build a winning program,” Calipari, now the long-time head coach at Kentucky, said.
“The future is bright for LIU with Derek Kellogg at the helm. I have witnessed firsthand his heart and love of the game as a player and a coach.”
While LIU has enjoyed a strong resurgence in the past decade, becoming the first Northeast Conference squad ever to win three consecutive league titles from 2010-13 under former head coaches Jim Ferry and Jack Perri, the Blackbirds are still not nationally recognized as a national basketball powerhouse.
According to Kellogg, who arrives here after a nine-year stint at UMass, where he helped get the previously struggling Minutemen back to the NCAAs after a 16-year hiatus, the Blackbirds will one day be playing before sell-out crowds at Barclays Center against some of the nation’s elite programs.
"Brooklyn is the beating heart of basketball and is a great place to build a championship-caliber program," Kellogg said.
"I take a tremendous amount of pride in this opportunity and the challenge of taking Brooklyn to the next level,” he added. “I want to make this program a consistent title contender, year in and year out. That begins with recruitment, and I have already begun."
During his eight years under Calapari at Memphis, Kellogg was instrumental in building the team that got to, and ultimately lost, the 2008 NCAA Championship Game.
He went 155-137 during his head-coaching stint at UMass before getting the hook this past season after missing out on the NCAAs in each of the past three years.
Now he’ll take over a team that is coming off a 20-win season, but failed miserably to carry that momentum into the postseason, suffering a brutal 69-68 home loss to Robert Morris in the opening round of the NEC Tournament last month, a defeat that cost Perri his job.
The Blackbirds also lost NEC Player of the Year Jerome Frink and senior floor leader Iverson Fleming from last season’s squad, meaning Kellogg will have to develop the players currently on the roster and bring in new talent quickly if he hopes to compete for an NCAA bid in 2017-18.
“I’m here 24/7, we’re going to give you the utmost respect that this is a players-first program,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting to work very quickly when we get out of his press conference.”
The 43-year-old Springfield, Massachusetts native insists that his squad will provide 40 minutes of hell for its opponents, pressing the issue from the moment the opposition “gets off the bus” to the final buzzer.
“You will love how we play,” Kellogg said to the media gathering and some of his new players seated in the Barclays’ Geico Atrium.
“Our brand will be recognized on a national scale. We have a lot of work to do. We need to hit the recruiting trail to put a first-class product out there immediately.”
Perri’s firing predictably drew some ire from some former Blackbird players. It also led to a few unsubstantiated rumors regarding his replacement, none bigger than the one that had Hall of Fame coach and Brooklyn native Larry Brown getting the job.
But Cohen firmly believes that his first major hire as A.D. will lead LIU-Brooklyn back into the national conversation when it comes to college basketball, something the Blackbirds haven’t sniffed since legendary coach Clair Bee led the school to over 400 wins and a pair of then-coveted NIT titles between 1931 and 1951.
“Coach Kellogg has experienced success as both a coach and a player at the highest levels of college basketball,” Cohen said. “Derek Kellogg is exactly the kind of coach we were seeking to elevate Blackbirds basketball and create a championship program for years to come in Brooklyn.”
“Since Barclays Center opened in 2012, LIU Brooklyn has been a great partner,” CEO of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment Brett Yormark added. “We’re proud to be aligned with such a first-class institution and we are looking forward to seeing Derek Kellogg on the sidelines for LIU basketball at Barclays Center next season.”
Even though his roots are firmly planted in Massachusetts, Kellogg does have a strong connection to the Big Apple.
“This is also a great opportunity for my family,” he said. “My wife Nicole is a native New Yorker, and after many years in my native Massachusetts, she is excited to come home.
“My family looks forward to making Brooklyn our home for many years to come and bringing lots of success to Blackbird basketball.”