There were plenty of reasons for Athletic Director Gene Doris to renew Head Basketball Coach Tim O’Toole’s contract. In addition to the fact that O’Toole’s league record was the best of any Fairfield coach in 25 years, Doris has known O’Toole since he was a freshman at Arch Bishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, N.Y, where the former was a coach and the latter a player who would later come to Fairfield on a basketball scholarship.

But the simple arithmetic was this: eight years plus zero MAAC titles equals no contract extension.

“Eight years and we didn’t get a championship,” an emotional Doris said after the announcement. “When you take a look at it, we talk about fans and what do they want? When you take a look at the body of work and a lot of other ways with integrity and him as a person. I think I might feel worse than he does, to be perfectly blunt.”

There will be debates for weeks, if not months or years, about whether O’Toole, who compiled a 78-56 record in the MAAC (112-120 overall) since taking over for the 1998-99 season, deserved to have his contract renewed.

But now, despite the emotional trauma that came with making what may have been the most difficult decision of his professional life, Doris’ attention must turn to finding a successor to O’Toole, something he said would ideally be accomplished in early April, the week after the conclusion of the NCAA tournament.

“The optimum week to get it done would be the week after the final four. I’m a realist. I’d like to have it before then, but there are going to be dominoes,” he said.

In other words, Doris said, there will be a list of candidates, some of whom will interview for jobs at higher profile schools. What Fairfield has to do is hope that some of those candidates are turned down from those jobs and fall into Fairfield’s lap.

Fairfield, though, has to have its “bases covered,” Doris said, in the event that all of those candidates take other jobs.

The biggest names being thrown around the rumor mill right now are those of Pete Gillen, the former coach at Xavier, Providence and Virginia, who is now an analyst for CBS, and Tom Moore, the associate head coach at UConn.

Doris said that he could not talk about coaches, such as Moore, who are currently involved with teams, but did say that “we’re looking at a lot of people at that level. He added that there are “probably two or three tiers of people that we look at.”

As for Gillen, Doris said that he is a friend of his, and that the two talk at least two or three times a year.

“I don’t think Pete has decided [whether to return to coaching]” Doris said. ” I know there’s all this speculation that he wants to come back and coach. I know he hasn’t decided if he wants to come back and coach. At this point in time, he would be something we would have interest in, but he’s got to decide what he wants to do with his life.”

Doris said that the university will bring in an outside firm to develop a list of candidates who it thinks will best suit the school. The firm will be responsible for evaluating candidates and doing background checks, and for providing the university with legal services to handle contract negotiations with candidates.

The next step in the hiring process will be the formation of a committee, composed of alumni and other people with ties to the university and to the athletic program, which will narrow down the field and present Doris with the finalists.

Doris said on Tuesday, hours before The Mirror went to press, that an announcement would be forthcoming within the next 24 hours regarding the exact firm that the university had hired.

But what about the player input?

That part of the process will take place once the committee has narrowed the list down to a few finalists. At that time, a player, either a captain or another representative, will meet with the finalists.

Doris said oftentimes the player is a senior, because seniors do not have a personal stake in the process, but know the team and its interests well. Two such players are DeWitt Maxwell ’06 and Alvin Carter ’05, both of whom have fond memories of O’Toole, but who understand the decision that had to be made.

“It’s a business,” Carter, a tri-captain, said. “It’s the nature of the game. It happens.”

But both players said O’Toole was a good coach who cared about the players on and off the court, something they hope the next coach brings to the table.

“You have to think, over the last four years, before I got here Fairfield was in the basement,” Maxwell said of O’Toole’s job performance in recent years. “In the last three years, we were at the top of the league every year. This year we had a lot of injuries. But we didn’t really get to see our whole potential this year. But it’s like Al said, it’s the nature of the business.”

One statistic on O’Toole’s resume that was unanimously lauded at Fairfield was his 97 percent graduation rate, a rate that was twice as high as the national average and will be a tough act to follow for his successor.

“He did a lot of good in terms of building a lot of guys’ characters. You’ve got to be able to build young men out there,” Carter said. “…You come back from a bus trip and you come back at 2:00 in the morning and you have class at 9:30, you’ve got to get up and go to that class.”

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