Team preview: New Hampshire

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

Bill Herrion did not become one of the most successful basketball coaches in America East basketball history by being complacent, and he's not about to change.

"Our goal is to win the America East championship and go to the NCAA Tournament," said Herrion, who was hired to revive the New Hampshire program at the end of May. "That was our goal at Drexel and that is going to be our goal here."

It's a lofty one to be sure, especially when you consider New Hampshire has never reached the Big Dance and has a winning percentage of .383 in 101 seasons of basketball.

Herrion, who finished first or second in seven of his eight seasons (1991-99) at Drexel and led the Dragons to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, succeeds Phil Rowe, who resigned after going 45-125 in six seasons.

The Wildcats lose two senior starters, including leading scorer Ben Sturgill (13.6 ppg), but Herrion was able to retain commitments from all of the incoming recruits and lost just one holdover, guard Phil Collins, to transfer.

Although he admits he's "playing catch up," one thing Herrion did not do is spend any time worrying about the past.

"This program has been so down for so long that I purposely did not watch any tape from last year all summer," Herrion said. "I want to go into this season with an open mind. Everyone has a clean slate and a fair shot."

Including the head coach. Although he has an unprecedented four America East/NAC/ECAC North coach-of-the-year honors (1994, '95, '96 and '99), he is also on the rebound after being let go after compiling a 70-98 record in six seasons at East Carolina.

Herrion took a job as Stan Heath's associate head coach at Arkansas last spring, but jumped at the offer to return to lead his own program at New Hampshire.

"The chance to bounce back this quickly was something that I couldn't turn my back on," Herrion said.

The chance to hire someone with Herrion's track record was something New Hampshire couldn't resist.

"Bill absolutely embodied everything we looked for in this search," UNH athletic director Marty Scarano said when announcing Herrion's hiring. "He showed a vision for excellence that we aspire to in all of our athletic offerings. We are confident that he will take our basketball programs to new heights."

That will take some time. UNH has not had a winning season since going 19-9 in 1994-95 and has been above .500 just twice in the last 21 seasons.

"I think the first thing that we've got to earn is some respect," Herrion said. "We've got to get people to respect our basketball team and we are going to do that by playing hard, competing and guarding people."

Because Herrion met just two of his players on campus over the summer and has not watched any film of last season, the Wildcats will be a constant work in progress throughout the early stages of his tenure.