Coach’s heir up in air

NKU administrators have found themselves in a bit of a quandary in their search of a replacement for men’s head basketball coach Ken Shields.

The apparent front-runner for the job, current assistant coach Dave Bezold, might face some stiff competition for the position.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that NBA hall of famer Dave Cowens contacted the university about the head coaching position.

NKU Athletic Director Jane Meier would not comment on who has applied for the job, but expects Cowens to get serious consideration if he is one of the 50 applicants for the position.

If Cowens has applied, then NKU’s dilemma is this: Do you go with loyalty and hire Bezold, or do you go with the big name in Cowens?

The university hopes to narrow down the candidates by the first week of April and name Shields’ successor by mid-April, according to Meier.

“The university wants to continue to be able to compete at or near the top of Division II basketball,” she said.

“It will be important that the new coach interact postitively with the student-athletes on the personal and academic levels.”

A native of Newport, Ky., Cowens starred at Newport Catholic in high school. After playing for Florida State University, he went on to a stellar NBA career spanning eleven seasons.

He averaged 17.6 points and 13.6 rebounds per game in his career, and was named one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time in 1996.

Cowens has also experienced coaching success at the NBA level. He led the Charlotte Hornets in two back-to-back 50-win seasons and finished with a 161-191 career coaching record.

As hard as it would be to turn down Cowens, it would be just as hard (if not harder) to do the same to Bezold.

After playing underneath assistant coach Pat Ryan at Holy Cross High School, Bezold has been an assistant to Shields for the past 14 years.

Shields attributes much of the success he has had to Bezold.

Shields became aware of Cowens having a possible interest in the job about two and a half months ago when members of the Cowens family contacted him about the position.

“I don’t know if he (Cowens) has applied, all I told them was that if the university searches for replacements, anyone can apply. I think Dave is the one and that is how I feel,” said Shields. “I know that the administration will go about the search in an appropriate way.”

So will it be Bezold, Cowens, or some other third party candidate?

It’s a tough question to answer, one that could determine whether the NKU program will have the same success it has had under Shields.

“Everyone’s worked very hard to be successful,” said Meier.

“We have had success during Shields’ tenure and we expect to continue that success with the new coach.”