TUBBY SMITH NAMED PHELAN AWARD
April 1, 2003
season Mark Slonaker and Mercer won just six games. This season the Bears
won 23 games claimed the first regular conference championship in school
Mercer and Slonaker can also lay claim to the best single-season
turnaround in NCAA history, going from 6-23 to 23-6. Mercer also cracked
the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 for the first time ever.
One could easily argue that Slonaker has one of the toughest jobs in
division I college basketball. In addition to very high academic
standards, their home court has a capacity of just five-hundred people.
Despite the disadvantages, in six seasons the Mercer program has shown
steady improvement, with Slonaker at the helm, culminating this season
with a school-record 23 wins (Mercer won 22 games in 1923-24 and 1984-85).
The Bears semi-finals loss, to Central Florida, snapped a 12-game winning
streak, which was fourth best in America.
Mercer has an enrollment of 2,300 and is widely regarded is the Ivy League
of the South.
Slonaker is the first recipient of the Jim Phelan National Coach of the
Year, which was recently renamed to honor the retired Mount St. Mary's
coach. Phelan, who coached for 49 season, is currently third on the
all-time win list with 830.
Previous recipients of the CollegeInsider.com National coach of the Year
include Rob Barnes (Mississippi), Rob Evans (Mississippi), Bob Huggins
(Cincinnati), Greg Kampe (Oakland), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke) and Bo Ryan
The four other finalist were Lute Olson (Arizona), Skip Prosser (Wake
Forest), Bo Ryan (Wisconsin) and Tubby Smith (Kentucky).