New basketball coach eager to start career with Panthers

Jonathan Jacobskind/Asst. Sports Director

He picked up the phone on the first ring.

That was Anthony Evans’ initial reaction when he saw FIU Athletic Director Pete Garcia calling him for what eventually became the call that named him men’s basketball’s next head coach. Garcia introduced Evans in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.The former Norfolk State head coach was the favorite to win the job.

“We wanted somebody that was going to come in and build on the success we had last year. Anthony Evans who we are introducing here today was the clear-cut choice.” Garcia said. “I actually spoke with him last year and I am a big fan of him as well as what he was done at Norfolk State by going to the NCAA Tournament last year, the success he has by going undefeated in his conference, being Coach of the Year and having one of the biggest turnaround in APR scores. So, he gets it done both very well in the classroom and on the court.”

Evans is 99-94 overall at Norfolk State in six years as a head coach and is coming off a 21-12 record with no losses in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference boasting a 16-0 record.

Along with being given the honors of the MEAC Coach of the Year, Evans was voted a finalist for the Jim Phelan, the nation’s top Division I coach as well as the Ben Jobe Award for the nation’s top minority coach.

Evans was in serious consideration the last time this position was vacant, losing out to former Head Coach Richard Pitino a year ago. Pitino is now heading the University of Minnesota program.

“I am extremely humble and grateful for this opportunity to take this basketball team to new heights. [FIU] is a sleeping giant and I am truly excited about this,” Evans said.

Evans wasted no time in talking to his new players and expressed the direction he plans on implementing for this program moving forward.

“Last night [April 15] I had the opportunity to meet with the team and I love their energy. Their message to me was that they wanted to continue to ride the success they had last year and I told them we will be able to do that,” Evans said. “We going to play a similar style and to be up-tempo and work hard, but I also told them if we’re going to do it on the court we need to do it in the classroom. We have raise our standards and understand that if we are going to push to be great basketball players, we need to push to be great students.”

Education and grades will play a huge factor during the Evans era, as the Panthers are facing a possible 2013-14 postseason ban after receiving low APR scores when the program was under the Isaiah Thomas regime two years ago. Evans dealt with similar sanctions during his tenure at Norfolk and pledged to raise the team’s grades along with their win total.

“It’s about implementing a plan that gets students to understand the importance to go to class,” Evans said, “I think that us putting a plan in place for student athletes and understanding the seriousness will help us improve.”

Norfolk State’s 2009-10 multi-year academic progress rate score (APR) of 894 resulted in the NCAA removing two scholarships and reducing the team’s practice time. Evans’ team bounced back in 2010-11 with a 926. The 2011-12 scores are not available.

If players transfer out because of the change of regime, it will negatively affect the program’s APR score.

Garcia reiterated the importance of education after Evans made a request for his players before the start of the press conference.”

“Nobody wants to win more than myself, our president and our chairmen of the board but we are a university and our number one business is to graduate these young men and even today before the press conference, Anthony told me to invite [the players], only, if they’re not supposed to be in class.”