By The Associated Press
TROY, Ala. — Troy has hired Phil Cunningham, an assistant at Sun Belt Conference rival Western Kentucky, as men’s basketball coach.
Cunningham was introduced in a news conference Tuesday at Trojan Arena to replace Don Maestri, who retired at the Sun Belt tournament after 31 seasons and 500 wins. He said he wants the players and coaches to be “10 for 10” on the effort scale in practice, games and recruiting.
“I’m not going to be the best coach in this league, I’m not going to be the smartest coach,” Cunningham said. “I’m obviously not going to be the most experienced coach.
“We may not have the most talented team. But from an effort level we control how hard we play, we control how aggressive we are. We control hard we work in the offseason. We control as coaches how hard we work to prepare for an opponent. Everything we do has to be 10 for 10.”
Cunningham said Maestri called him about 90 minutes before his news conference. He met with the team early Tuesday morning.
“One of the first thing he gets across very clearly to our team — and they all perked up when they heard this — was we will not have any ‘me’ in this group , it will all be ‘we,'” Troy athletic director John Hartwell said.
Hartwell said Cunningham was “heads and shoulders above the rest” of the candidates for the qualities he was looking for.
Cunningham spent five years as an assistant under Lefty Driesell at James Madison and Georgia State and worked for 12 seasons at Mississippi State. He spent one season at Western Kentucky, which lost to No. 1 seed Kansas in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Cunningham was part of teams that made seven NCAA tournaments and 11 postseason appearances at Mississippi State and Western Kentucky.
Hartwell worked with Cunningham at Georgia State in the 1990s. A few months ago, Hartwell had taken Cunningham on a tour of the $40 million Trojan Arena, which opened last year.
“It’s unbelievable the detail that went into this, how nice this place is,” Cunningham said. “This just shows the kind of commitment there is to athletics, particularly men’s basketball and women’s basketball, here at Troy. That’s something you can’t put a price tag on. This facility is going to sell itself.”