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USF men’s basketball: Brian Gregory’s (and Michael Kelly) biggest pitch this off-season isn’t on the recruiting trail, it’s to the fan base

It’s tough to acknowledge you may have made a mistake.

NCAA Basketball: South Florida at Wichita State William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s get this out of the way first. I personally like Brian Gregory. He’s always been nice to me, and the blog over the years. He even stopped by the annual TDS Watch Party in 2019. But, when you lose the highest-rated recruit in recent memory after two awful seasons, and are staring into the barrel of yet another rebuild, questions need to be asked.

Whatever Brian Gregory does on the recruiting trail this off-season is nothing compared to what he—and VP of Athletics Michael Kelly—will need to do with the fan base to prove he’s the right choice going into next season.

The Daily Stampede reported that Gregory and Kelly basically agreed to an extension after the 2019 CBI title, but due to the pandemic, the contract wasn’t fulfilled until October 2021.

Talk about your all-time bad beats. You announce the extension after the first post-season title since the 1990s, and everyone thinks it’s a genius idea. You announced the extension after 75% of your team transfers out due to the extra year/racist comments by an assistant coach, then you’re mired in the worst shooting season in nearly two decades with the new team and you’re deemed an idiot.

As unfair as the timing may seem, it’s reality. The Bulls are coming off an 8-23 (3-15 AAC) season where they ranked dead-last out of 358 D1 teams in field goal percentage (37.43%), and three-point percentage (25.27%).

USF lost by 10 or more points 16 times this season. 16. They won by ten or more points exactly two times. It was not a fun team to watch most nights, and it’s frankly tough for a fan base who has so frequently become accustomed to subpar men’s basketball to expect things to change in Year Six under Gregory.

Why should they expect different? The Bulls just lost Caleb Murphy to the transfer portal. He was every bit as electric as advertised for the vast majority of his time at USF. He led the team in scoring (11.4 PPG), and assists. No other point guard on the team was capable of bringing the ball up the floor against press defense, initiating the offense or just plain getting to the hoop at ease quite like Murphy, and now the fans have to hope someone from the transfer portal can do, what—65%?—of what Murphy can do on the court?

No matter who Gregory finds on the trail, and sells them on USF, he’s going to need to re-sell himself to the fan base on why he’s the guy to turn USF around...again.