The UNH men's basketball team won four games and lost 23 last year, and then was decimated by defections of players and the head coach. Putting it nicely, the program has had a rocky history. What's more, the new coach was brought on too late to allow him much time to restock the roster. The schedule this year is brutally tough, including national powers Florida and Stanford, along with Boston College of the Big East conference.
And Phil Rowe's reaction to what could be the long, long season ahead? Bring it on. Now. He can't wait.
That attitude went a long way towards landing him the job.
Phil Rowe was a big UNH hoops fan growing up in nearby Exeter, N.H. He attended Plymouth State because he would have a better chance of playing there, but he always kept an eye on Durham. He coached at the high school level, at New England College and Plymouth State, and most recently, at Keene State. Once before, he applied for the UNH job and was told he needed experience at the Division I level, so he went off to get it as an assistant at Boston University.
In the spring, he threw his name in for the newly vacant UNH post. To the surprise of many, he beat out former Dartmouth and Fairfield University coach Paul Cormier '73, among others, and got the job.
He was picked because he has a history of turning programs around—such as Plymouth State and Keene State—and because he takes on these challenges enthusiastically and with great vigor.
Don't try telling him this one, with its lack of a successful past and a succession of people unable to mend the program, is a particularly tough job.
He's . . . not . . . listening. Doesn't want to hear it.
Rowe notes that "some people will say to me, 'Congratulations, I guess.' And I'll see them saying to themselves, 'I pity you.' Don't pity me. Everyone should be happy for us. Support us. We've got to have an attitude that it's going to be fun. But if anyone thinks one person can do it, they're mistaken."
So Rowe beats the drums for support across the state. In late July, he and his staff conducted a team camp at UNH. They visited other camps and clinics, distributing some 4,000 fliers about their Paw-Pals program. They plan five regional clinics around the state this fall. They formed a 'Cats Who Care club, and have events planned throughout the season.
Maybe UNH men's basketball was a mess last year. But Rowe and Co. have something to sell recruits: playing time. They have it precisely because players jumped ship, but they will have it even when the team is back to full strength because Rowe plans to play a running style of game that requires a lot of substitution. It's a style he says will keep things exciting for players and spectators alike.This year, he has only 10 players on his roster as the school year starts. "It doesn't bother me a lick," Rowe says. "I knew what I was getting into. This is the best job in America as far as I'm concerned. We have the opportunity to build something here." Return to UNH Magazine Campus Currents