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Walsh makes leap from Div. III RIC to Div. I Maine

May 6, 2014

Bob Walsh

PROVIDENCE — 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.

“If a Division I school comes calling, it’s his dream, but I think we had a good enough relationship and he really loved coaching at RIC,” said Tencher when reached Tuesday night, a few hours after Walsh informed him that he agreed to terms with the University of Maine. “I don’t 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.”

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 wasn’t busy laying the foundation for his next championship squad – in his nine years with the Anchormen, Walsh captured five regular-season titles and six postseason conference tournaments – it was safe bet that he was in the stands at an Interscholastic League boys’ basketball game. Those winners were built on the backs of local products such as Antone Gray, Jake Grimes, Nyheem Sanders and Mike Neal … just to name a few.

“Bob 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,” said Tencher. “If 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 I’m sure that’s going to help moving forward.

“Anyone who has a little bit of smarts is going to parlay what we were successful at and not try to reinvent the wheel,” Tencher continued. “We sat together (Tuesday) and Bob said, ‘I don’t know if I’m ever going to coach a tough a kid as I’ve had in the past nine years.’ He had some kids who were really dedicated to the program.”

Tencher did have conversations with Maine athletic director Karlton Creech on Walsh’s behalf.

“I basically told him that Bob could do the job,” Tencher said. “Even though they’re in Division I, I think we and Maine had a lot in common and that’s why he fits there. They don’t have an enormous budget and work tremendously hard at what they do. They have a lot of tough teams in their programs.”

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.

“Our search committee is already going,” Tencher pointed out. “We keep our searches close to the vest, but ultimately it will be my decision.”

Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03

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