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PROVIDENCE â If Rhode Island College was going to see Bob Walsh pursue his basketball coaching dreams elsewhere, Anchormen Athletic Director Don Tencher took comfort in knowing that he was not going to lose his head coach to a Division II or III school.
âIf a Division I school comes calling, itâs his dream, but I think we had a good enough relationship and he really loved coaching at RIC,â said Tencher when reached Tuesday night, a few hours after Walsh informed him that he agreed to terms with the University of Maine. âI donât think he would have left Rhode Island College for Amherst College because even though he was brought up in a socially economic situation with his parents, he was a blood and guts type of guy.â
Walsh was also a coach who provided countless local hoopsters with the chance to not only stay home, but also thrive. He helped transform Woonsocket High graduate Mike Akinrola from a pudgy, unsure player into a lean, low-post threat who in his senior year became a First Team Little East Conference selection.
When he wasnât busy laying the foundation for his next championship squad â in his nine years with the Anchormen, Walsh captured five regular-season titles and six postseason conference tournaments â it was safe bet that he was in the stands at an Interscholastic League boysâ basketball game. Those winners were built on the backs of local products such as Antone Gray, Jake Grimes, Nyheem Sanders and Mike Neal âŠ just to name a few.
âBob will tell a funny story that when we met to iron everything out, I told him that I was convinced that we needed a mix of kids, but we wanted to get the better local kids to stay home,â said Tencher. âIf you look back to the mid 80s up to our renaissance, we were losing a lot of good players to UMass Dartmouth and Eastern Connecticut. Bob was able keep to some of those kids local and Iâm sure thatâs going to help moving forward.
âAnyone who has a little bit of smarts is going to parlay what we were successful at and not try to reinvent the wheel,â Tencher continued. âWe sat together (Tuesday) and Bob said, âI donât know if Iâm ever going to coach a tough a kid as Iâve had in the past nine years.â He had some kids who were really dedicated to the program.â
Tencher did have conversations with Maine athletic director Karlton Creech on Walshâs behalf.
âI basically told him that Bob could do the job,â Tencher said. âEven though theyâre in Division I, I think we and Maine had a lot in common and thatâs why he fits there. They donât have an enormous budget and work tremendously hard at what they do. They have a lot of tough teams in their programs.â
Regardless of when the Black Bears officially make an announcement, Tencher now has to move forward and take care of a program that is in a far better spot today than when Walsh came on the scene in 2005.
âOur search committee is already going,â Tencher pointed out. âWe keep our searches close to the vest, but ultimately it will be my decision.â
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