Drexel has a new basketball coach in Zach Spiker, but can he help take Drexel to the next level and the NCAA Tournament?
While most of Philadelphia is being swept up in Final Four fever and the chance that the Villanova Wildcats could win a National Championship, Drexel University took a step toward their future.
On Tuesday, Dr. Eric Zillmer, the Director of Athletics for Drexel University introduced Zach Spiker as the new head coach of the Drexel Dragons men’s basketball team. He replaces Bruiser Flint, who was fired earlier this month after 15 seasons with Drexel.
Spiker joins Drexel after seven seasons as the head coach of Army, where he led the Black Knights to 102 wins over that span and finished the 2015-16 season with a record of 19-14, the most wins by Army in more than 30 years.
In Spiker, Drexel gets a young, talented head coach who was named 2013 Patriot League Coach of the Year.
But the question remains: can Spiker help Drexel turn the corner and earn the respectability they so desperately crave among the other Big 5 programs? Drexel has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 1996 and when discussing Philly college basketball, the Dragons’ name never even comes up most of the time.
Much of that will depend of Spiker’s ability to recruit talented players and get them to attend Drexel. One of Flint’s biggest failings was an inability to effectively recruit, partially due to the fact that Drexel has to compete with the likes of Temple and Villanova, but also partially due to his own failings as a coach.
In his 15 years at Drexel, Flint never went to the NCAA Tournament and only came close twice. When trying to convince a young man to be a part of your basketball program, telling him that you “almost” made it to the Big Dance a couple of times just isn’t enough.
With Spiker, Drexel gets a fresh start with a younger coach who has a proven track record at West Point to talk up. There is no question Spiker has the skills to help Drexel improve, he just needs the players to be able to do it.
Drexel finds itself in a very similar situation to Temple and their football program. It took a few years of patience, but this season everything paid off and suddenly, Temple was making national headlines and was ranked for the first time in ages.
There is no reason to think the same thing can’t happen at Drexel. There is no doubt they want to be taken more seriously as a Division I basketball school and raise their profile both locally and nationally. It might take a few years, but Spiker has shown with Army that he can do it and incrementally improve a program given time. All he will need is that one winning season and then the dominos should start to fall.
The turnaround at Drexel won’t happen overnight, but with the hiring of Zach Spiker, it looks like things are headed in the right direction.