Without conducting a search or interviews with outside candidates, St. Francis has hired Rob Krimmel, a longtime assistant and graduate of the school, as its new men's basketball coach.
Krimmel also is the son of the athletic director, Bob Krimmel, who was involved in the hiring process but did not make the final decision on his own.
Both Krimmels knew they would be getting questions about potential nepotism being involved in the decision, which comes a day after Don Friday was forced out after four seasons and a 32-86 record with the Red Flash.
Mirror file photo by J.D. Cavrich
Rob Krimmel will take over a Red Flash program that went 6-23 last season.
"This wasn't a Bob Krimmel decision," the AD said of hiring Rob, an assistant at SFU the past 12 years. "This was a university decision. So it was one that was made by the university.
"I was part of the process, obviously, because I'm the athletic director, but we looked at the challenges, we looked at the realities, and the consensus was that he was a good fit for us at this point in time."
Rob Krimmel will be the head coach for the 2012-13 season, and while he did disclose that contract terms are being worked out, he did not confirm if he will be given a multi-year deal. University officials also declined to discuss the length of the contract, citing school policy, but Krimmel is expected to get more than one season to try and prove himself.
The son rises
Rob Krimmel's profile:
Playing career: Played at St. Francis from 1996-2000 and was a three-year starter and two-time team co-captain; he led the NEC in 3-point shooting percentage (43.5) as a senior and is fifth on the school's career 3-point percentage list (39.8 percent); two-time ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American
Coaching career: Has been an assistant at St. Francis the past 12 seasons
Personal: Resides in Duncansville with his wife, Aileen (also an SFU alum), and 2-year-old son, Alex
Rob Krimmel, 34, addressed the potential criticism about nepotism by saying, "For the people that don't know me and don't know my father, absolutely that's going to be their response initially. But I will just ask those people to give us a chance.
"When I accepted the position," he added, "I understood that was going to come with the territory. The one great thing about it is it was a university decision. It just so happened that my father was part of that decision."
In many ways, though, there was no decision to be made since the school did not have a coaching search. So whether Rob Krimmel, who has never been a head coach at any level, is the best candidate for the job or not, the university has opened itself up to potential scorn because it never considered any other outside choices.
The move was made so quickly -- one coach out, the next one in just hours later -- that it could give some people the impression that Bob Krimmel simply wanted to hire his son rather than search for a potential better candidate.
"However it was presented, most likely there are going to be people that are going to be critical of the direction we went," Bob Krimmel said. "But we were of the consensus this was the best thing for St. Francis at this time."
University president Father Gabriel Zeis and vice president Frank Montecalvo were among the other school officials involved in the decision. Zeis was not available for comment Thursday but backed the hiring in a statement released by the university.
"Rob Krimmel is the right man to lead our men's basketball program," Zeis said in the statement. "His career as both a coach and a student-athlete at St. Francis demonstrates a long-standing commitment to his faith and to academic excellence, concern for student-athlete well-being, as well as strong character and moral values, validate my belief that he will develop student-athletes who will serve as leaders on and off the court."
Zeis went on to add, "I fully believe that our university community will support Rob in his new position as he works to re-establish a culture of winning basketball at St. Francis."
Friday, who acknowledged he was not able to accomplish that goal in his four years, chose not to comment on the situation when told about the university's decision to hire his former assistant.
Several components of Rob Krimmel's career would indicate he is qualified for the job.
He was a three-year starter for St. Francis in the late 1990s, a two-time ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American and has 12 years of experience as an assistant.
However, all 12 years have come with a Red Flash program that has struggled mightily and consistently finished near the bottom of the Northeast Conference.
"There are going to be some people that might not feel that I'm qualified because of the relationship with my father," Rob Krimmel said. "But again, the people that know me on campus and in the coaching community, I think those people can certainly support me -- or I don't know if maybe validate me is the right word -- but certainly understand why I'm in the position I am today."
One of the reasons he's in the position is familiarity with the current basketball roster, said Bob Krimmel, who believes the team can make big strides next year after finishing 6-23 this past season
"It was looking at what we feel we have returning," the AD said of hiring Rob. "I think he's someone that definitely fits within the framework of the institution and the values of the institution, and if you look at the reality of our situation from a financial standpoint as well."
St. Francis had a great basketball tradition from the 1950s until the late '70s but has struggled since then, posting only five winning seasons in the past 34 years. The school has been to just one NCAA Tournament -- the Mike Iuzzolino-led team in 1991 -- and typically struggles just to finish in the top eight of the NEC to qualify for the conference tournament.
Rob Krimmel understands the challenges better than anyone else the school could have hired, since he faced them as a player and on the staff for 12 years.
"We can win here," he confidently said. "We can win in Loretto, Pa. We can win with the group of guys we have in that locker room right now. Some things have happened, and we have to do better, but I'm excited about things moving forward."
Ultimately, Rob Krimmel hopes the program will move forward enough to return to the NCAA Tournament, which has always been his objective.
"As a player, I believed it. It didn't happen," he said. "As an assistant, I believed it. It didn't happen. As the head coach, that's going to be my vision."