After the news broke earlier today that experienced assistant coach Larry Farmer had departed to direct player development at North Carolina State, head coach Steve Hawkins sounded nothing less than upbeat about the transition, despite losing a coach that led UCLA to 61 wins in three years among other accomplishments.
"Larry's been a friend of mine for over thirty years," said Hawkins. "We go back a long way. And it's not every day that you get to have a former UCLA head coach be a part of your coaching staff."
"But nobody's dying here," explained Hawkins when referring to the perceived 'crisis' of losing an assistant coach in July.
"I don't see this as being negative. We have a reputation here for developing coaches and helping them move on to the next level," Hawkins explained.
This has indeed been a common theme in the past for WMU assistants. Former coaches Bacari Alexander (Michigan), Cornell Mann (Iowa State), Clayton Bates (Wright State), Andy Hipscher (South Florida), and Jeff Dunlap (N.C. State) are among those who have moved to benches at other schools.
In fact, the presence of Dunlap was cited by Hawkins as one of the reasons North Carolina State was able to find Farmer. The relationship between Hawkins and N.C. State goes further, in fact, Hawkins also worked with Wolfpack head coach Mark Gottfried's father, Joe, at South Alabama. Joe is the athletic director at USA, where Hawkins graduated and worked as a student assistant from 1984-87.
Nonetheless, Hawkins says that the reputation WMU is building among coaches will help them fill this vacancy.
"Because of that, there's no shortage of interest for the position," Hawkins said.
Although the timing would on the surface seem unfortunate with basketball season not far away, Hawkins indicated that the news has actually been known internally for several weeks. He also said that Farmer was not actively looking to go, but that NCSU came looking for him.
Hawkins and the WMU athletic department has wasted no time in getting a search underway in the past couple of weeks, and Hawkins says that while there is not a specific person lined up for the job just yet, the staff is "very deep in the process" and news should be coming soon.
"You should be hearing something very shortly," explained Hawkins. "We hope that a new coach is in place by August 6th."