Dempsey excited to guide Bearcats
By Eric Coker
A premier academic institution with outstanding resources. High-quality athletic facilities and a state-of-the-art arena. A strong fan base and a supportive community.
All were among the most important factors when Tommy Dempsey weighed leaving Rider University to become the new men's head basketball coach at Binghamton University.
"I don't know what else a coach could ask for," Dempsey said of the list. "This program is set up to be successful. It's just a matter of time. ... I couldn't be more excited about the future of the program."
Dempsey was introduced as head coach at a news conference at the TAU Bearcat Room in the Events Center in late May. The 38-year-old native of Scranton, Pa., has spent the past seven years at Rider, posting a 119-105 record at the New Jersey school in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). He has guided Rider to three Division I postseason tournaments and his program has received the NCAA Public Recognition Award four times in the last five years for having an APR score in the top 10 percent in the country. Every four-year player in his program has graduated on time.
President Harvey Stenger and Director of Athletics Patrick Elliott joined Dempsey at the podium at the news conference, which was attended by many of Dempsey's family and friends, new Rider basketball coach Kevin Baggett and Binghamton University basketball players Jimmy Gray and Javon Ralling.
"A successful athletics program is important to the University in a number of ways," Stenger said. "It can build pride among our students, staff, faculty, alumni and community, and it can increase recognition of the University's name and reputation. I believe we already have a great foundation for achieving that kind of success in our men's basketball program. Tommy Dempsey is the right person to take us to that next level."
Stenger called Dempsey "a proven winner and a competitor."
"When I met with him, I saw an educator, a basketball coach and, more importantly, a leader," Stenger said. "His track record of coaching success and academic standards reinforces my belief that he will develop the kind of student-athletes who will serve as leaders on and off the court."
Elliott, the former St. Peter's athletics director whose teams faced Rider in MAAC competition, said Dempsey stood out in a group of more than 100 candidates.
"His basketball credentials are impressive, to say the least," Elliott said. "However, his demonstrated commitment to academic excellence and student-athlete welfare is just as impressive. As we open the next chapter in our Bearcats' men's basketball program, we do so with a common goal: ensuring academic excellence, competing for championships in the America East Conference and doing so with young men who will represent the best of Binghamton University."
Dempsey thanked Stenger, Elliott, his wife, four children and other family members and friends. He even paid tribute to those at places he previously coached, such as Wyoming Preparatory School, Susquehanna College, Keystone College and Lackawanna College.
"In every instance, there was an administration that believed in a young coach who had big dreams," he said. "I like to think that I rewarded those administrators for their faith in me. I hope to do the same here."
Dempsey's coaching accomplishments include compiling a 55-8 record over two years at Keystone College and advancing to the NJCAA Final Four. At Lackawanna, he led his team to the Division II national championship game in 2003. He took over at Rider in 2005, guiding the Broncs to two 23-win seasons, one appearance in the College Basketball Invitational and two appearances in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. As a player, Dempsey was a team captain at Susquehanna College before graduating with a bachelor's degree in sociology in 1997.
Dempsey called the Binghamton men's basketball program "a sleeping giant."
"We have everything here that we need to be successful," he said. "It's just a matter of developing the players who are in the program, playing good basketball and going on the recruiting trail to let people know how special this University is."
Dempsey said he has made "great inroads" recruiting in his native Pennsylvania, but "we've got a great institution to sell here."
"We can recruit from all 50 states if it's the right kid who fits our style and fits our academic profile," he said.
Practicing and playing games at the Events Center is one aspect of campus that can impress recruits. Dempsey said he was familiar with the facility, as Rider has played Binghamton University in the past.
"I was well aware of what the atmosphere can be like," he said. "If you are going to be a successful college basketball program, it's important to invest in your facilities. The fact that (Binghamton) has made that kind of commitment speaks volumes about what type of program they want to be here."
For Dempsey, the first-year goal is to "establish a culture of hard work and dedication" and make players aware of where the program is and what it wants to be.
"If you can establish that culture, the wins will follow," he said.
Dempsey's introduction to campus marked a "day of celebration and a day to look to the future," he said.
"This is an important time for Binghamton University basketball," Dempsey said. "Our goal is to build a program that this University, the alumni base and the community can be proud of on and off the court. We will educate the young men who come into our program and we will build a program that can consistently compete for championships in the America East."