Thomas College athletic director David Roussel admits he didn’t have a contingency plan for replacing the school’s men’s basketball coach with four games remaining in the regular season.
But the person Thomas got for the job has a pretty decent track record.
Former Colby College Dick Whitmore stepped in this week as the interim men’s basketball coach at Thomas. Whitmore replaces Thomas alum Darrell “Texas” Alexander, who was in his first season as coach of the Terriers. Among NCAA Division III men’s basketball coaches, Whitmore’s 637 career wins rank him eighth all time.
“Given the situation Thomas was in, if we had to hand-pick someone, he would be at the top of my list — of any athletic director’s list,” Roussel said. “He’s all in. He’s already shown the energy and commitment, and shown the best interests for our student-athletes.”
Thomas was 9-12 overall and 9-5 in the North Atlantic Conference under Alexander. Roussel would not comment on the circumstances of Alexander’s departure, except to confirm that Alexander is no longer employed by Thomas as a coach or in the admissions office. Assistant coaches Matt Barry and Tony Staffiere are still in their roles.
“This is an issue involving a former employee, and I’m not able to provide any specifics,” Roussel said.
“Honestly, I just wish the best for the guys,” Alexander said via text message. “They have done a great (job) improving on the court and in the classroom. That’s what’s most important in my eyes. I know those young men will be fine.”
Thomas lost 90-61 at Lyndon State on Saturday. Lyndon State ended the game on a 25-2 run, and Alexander was assessed his second technical with 31 seconds remaining.
“He got ejected in a very vulgar way,” said Skowhegan native Levi Barnes, a sophomore who leads the Terriers in scoring with 17.1 points per game. “He swore a lot. We knew that something was going to happen because of the situation that happened at the game, but we didn’t know it was going to be that serious.”
Whitmore retired as Colby coach in 2011 with a 637-341 record over 40 seasons. He has been an adjunct faculty professor at Thomas for the last three years.
“He offered to do whatever he could do to help us with this situation,” Roussel said. “Our follow-up to him was, â€˜Would you consider being our coach?’ As an avid basketball person, he’s followed our team, so he’s familiar with our current team and with our program.”
“Thomas has been very good to me, so I’ve been very happy to do it,” Whitmore said. “Anytime I go on the court, I’m excited. My life is basketball.”
Barnes said he was aware of Whitmore’s accomplishments, but still had no idea he would be playing for the Colby legend.
“I was shocked,” Barnes said. “When I was at the Pine Tree Camp in eighth grade, he was like the God of Division III basketball.”
Whitmore’s first practice with the Terriers was Tuesday night. His first game is Friday night, as the Terriers host Castleton at 7:30. Castleton is 12-2 and in second place in the North Atlantic Conference, while Thomas is in fifth place.
“They’ve had a journey that’s been very successful,” Whitmore said. “I want them to continue to have success in their conference, and find out how good we could be. This is a really positive group of people. They really worked exceptionally hard (Tuesday). The excitement was palpable, to be honest with you.”
“Practice went extremely well with him,” Barnes said. “He’s positive, gives us a lot of input in our game. It’s going to be an honor and a blessing to play for him.”
Whitmore is clear that this is not a permanent position. He said he does not have any interest in coaching beyond this season.
“I have a lot of granddaughters to watch play basketball,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I retired.”