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College basketball

WMU's McCullum the pick to run Bulls

Robert McCullum, who turned the Western Michigan program around and led the Broncos to the NIT this season, is the choice to replace Seth Greenberg as USF basketball coach.

By PETE YOUNG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 18, 2003


TAMPA -- Wednesday night, Robert McCullum said he had a meeting with Lee Roy Selmon but the South Florida coaching job had not been offered to him. He said there were no plans to talk with Selmon again. He said the next move was Selmon's.

Selmon made that move Thursday -- decisively.

The USF athletic director concluded a two-week coaching search by reaching an agreement with McCullum, 48, who has revived Western Michigan the past three seasons. The hiring is scheduled to be announced at a news conference at 2 p.m. today at the Alumni Center on campus.

McCullum is expected to sign a six-year deal with base pay of $200,000 annually plus $50,000 a year for radio/television and other extras, including a country club membership and basketball camp revenue. The package is worth more than $300,000 a year, plus incentives.

Seth Greenberg, who left April 3 for Virginia Tech, earned a base salary of about $160,000 and total compensation of roughly $250,000.

In a statement released by Western Michigan, McCullum thanked WMU for the opportunity. He declined comment when reached by phone Thursday.

"I'll save all of that for (today)," he said.

McCullum spent 18 years as an assistant before getting his first head-coaching job in Kalamazoo. The Broncos improved from 7-21 to 17-13 before going 20-11 and earning an NIT bid this season, the school's fourth postseason appearance in 90 years.

McCullum was an assistant under Lon Kruger at Kansas State, Florida and Illinois from 1989-2000 and has several Sunshine State connections. He spent 1990-96 at UF and helped the Gators to the 1994 Final Four with a local player he started recruiting while at Kansas State, Countryside High graduate Andrew DeClercq. Another Countryside product, Jeff Bronson, plays for WMU. McCullum, a graduate of Birmingham Southern, also has a degree from Seminole Junior College in Sanford.

"I've recruited the (Tampa) area and had various ties there for a number of years," McCullum said Wednesday night. "My first year in college coaching I was at South Alabama, and South Florida was a member of the Sun Belt (Conference).

"I feel like I'm knowledgeable about (USF and the area). How knowledgeable is all relative. Just a few years ago I was in that area recruiting Nick Smith from (Bloomingdale High for Illinois)."

According to the Kalamazoo Gazette, McCullum earned $123,000 in base pay and nearly $200,000 total at WMU, and athletic director Kathy Beauregard was renegotiating his contract before Selmon expressed interest. McCullum and Beauregard met late Wednesday and early Thursday, but Selmon's pitch prevailed. At about 4 p.m., McCullum met with his team to say he was leaving.

McCullum might have been weighing multiple offers. He said Wednesday he was in contact with at least two schools besides USF.

Reaction from several USF boosters ranged from support for whoever Selmon brought in to disappointment that longtime assistant David Zimroth was not selected. USF guard/forward Jimmy Baxter met Thursday with Selmon, but Selmon did not reveal the new coach to the team's top returning player.

"I really wanted Coach Z. I think all of us did," said Baxter, who reaffirmed he will play his senior season despite his aspirations to compete in the high jump at the Olympics. "Mr. Selmon's a good guy, he's great role model. I'm sure he did this for our best interests.

"We've got a stranger coming into our house. This may be for the best, I don't know. We've got to be even closer to each other than we've ever been. I just hope things go up instead of down."

McCullum's WMU assistants, Clayton Bates, Steve Hawkins and Tommy Deffebaugh, are expected to accompany him to Tampa. Bates is a Gainesville native who played at Florida during McCullum's tenure, and he joined the WMU staff three years ago.

"Obviously, returning to Florida is an interest of mine, but I don't want to speak before Coach does," Bates said.

Hawkins and McCullum also coached together at South Alabama in the 1980s. Deffebaugh has been with WMU for one season after three at Southwest Missouri State.

USF assistant Brian Yankelevitz, who declined to go to Virginia Tech with Greenberg, said he would welcome the chance to join McCullum's staff. Zimroth said he spoke with Selmon about working at USF in a different capacity.

"Though I am disappointed in the decision, I am deeply honored I had the opportunity and privilege to work at South Florida the past seven years," Zimroth said. "I'm really very touched by all of the support from people in the athletic department. I wish the best to the next staff. They're inheriting good people who are good players."

Selmon's field of candidates included Florida assistant Anthony Grant, Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard, Butler coach Todd Lickliter, Maryland assistant Dave Dickerson and Kentucky assistant Scott Rigot.

NEW USF COACH

NAME: Robert McCullum.

BIRTHDATE: June 20, 1954.

RECORD: 44-45 in three seasons at Western Michigan.

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE: Eighteen years as a college assistant, at South Alabama (1982-83, 1984-87), Samford (1983-84), Southern Illinois (1987-89), Kansas State (1989-90), Florida (1990-96) and Illinois (1996-2000), plus two years at Council Junior High (1976-78) and four at Ramsay High (1978-82).

EDUCATION: Seminole Junior College (associate); Birmingham Southern (bachelor, 1976); Alabama State (master's, 1980).

FAMILY: Wife Cheryl, children Darius and Richelle.

-- Compiled by Pete Young.

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