Darren Kohne was buying airline tickets March 14 to go recruiting for the Central Michigan men’s basketball team when he found out he and the rest of Ernie Zeigler’s staff were fired.
“I was blindsided,” the former six-year CMU assistant coach said. “I heard from Zeigler a few days prior the opposite.”
Seven months later, Kohne has accepted the top assistant position with the Sioux Falls Skyhawks of the NBA Development League. The Skyhawks are the minor league teams for the Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers.
After 12 years of Division I college basketball experience, Kohne will be coaching in his first professional job.
“It’s a new opportunity,” he said. “I will be coaching guys from 21 to 40. It’s still very similar, basketball-wise, day-to-day. It’s an honor to be top assistant in my first professional job – I feel like the rookie.”
Up until Kohne took the position last week, he was living in Mount Pleasant and still helping CMU players.
“When I coach a player, it’s a lifetime commitment,” he said. “I still talk to the players and am there for help.”
That included helping former CMU big man Andre Coimbra sign a contract to play overseas.
Besides being shocked with his dismissal, he disagreed with it.
“I didn’t think it made a whole lot of sense,” Kohne said. “You look at our best four players; (they) were freshmen and sophomores, and they all left; I didn’t think it best served the students.”
Three of those ‘best four players’ are assumed to be Trey Zeigler, Derek Jackson and Austin McBroom – the team’s top-three scorers from last year – who all transferred after the firing.
Kohne was on staff during Ernie Zeigler’s entire tenure and never recorded a winning season.
Kohne said he thinks new coach Keno Davis should have a quicker transition and will hit the ground running.
“He dismantled the former team,” he said. “With 14 new players, it should fit his system and should be a fast transition. (It’s a) big difference from what Ernie did; he kept all seven returning players when he took over. Keno took a different route with 14 new guys; he should have a faster, more immediate transition.”
There is no information that points to the fact Davis did not try to welcome back all of the players who departed.
Kohne said the thing he will remember the most about CMU is the growth of some of the players from boys to men by the time they left. He thought the team was competitive in the six years he was there and was proud of the graduation rate.
CMU’s men’s team will begin its season at 7 p.m. on Nov. 7 in an exhibition game against Lake Superior State at McGuirk Arena.