Providence Journal

Men's basketball: Virginia Tech post has Baron's attention

URI men's basketball coach Jim Baron will take his family to Blacksburgh, Va., tomorrow to view the area and the facilities.


Journal Sports Writer

SOUTH KINGSTOWN -- Jim Baron has scheduled a second meeting with Virginia Tech officials to discuss that school's open men's basketball coaching job.

"They were looking to get my family down there," Baron said yesterday. "So we're hoping to go down there (tomorrow)."

The URI head coach recently named Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year confirmed that he has met with Jim Weaver, the Tech athletic director.

"He came up here and we got a chance to talk," Baron said. "Basically, I'm just listening to hear what they have to say."

The two sides obviously were impressed with each other enough to set up a second meeting. Baron knows Blacksburg well from his days visiting there when Tech was in the Atlantic 10. Baron has no problems with the quiet, small-town atmosphere. That is exactly the same kind of town in which he has spent his entire coaching career -- from South Bend, Ind., to Altoona, Pa., to Olean, N.Y., to the village of Kingston.

The fact that he has been invited back to Blacksburg provides more evidence that he is a serious candidate for the job. Baron and Jeff Lebo, the Chattanooga coach, are the only candidates known to have been interviewed by Weaver. And Lebo reportedly has removed himself from consideration.

What's more, Weaver said over the weekend that the school is not far from naming a coach, to the point where he wants to have someone on the job by the time the Final Four begins Saturday.

"We're closer than we've been in the last couple weeks, but there are still other things we have to go through as part of the process," Weaver told the Roanoke Times.

It stands to reason that with Baron's family in Blacksburg tomorrow, Virginia Tech might announce him as its new coach on Wednesday.

Baron said Weaver spent considerable time quizzing him on how he was able to rebuild the programs at St. Francis (Pa.), St. Bonaventure and URI, his three previous stops as a head coach. All three are similar to Virginia Tech in that they were struggling when Baron came on the scene. Tech was 11-18 this season under Ricky Stokes, 4-12 in the Big East.

"They wanted to get a chance to see how we've done it (rebuilding programs) at URI and the other places I've been," Baron said.

Baron, who has said he enjoys URI and was not looking to leave, was reluctant to discuss his feelings.

"I don't want to make this into a soap opera," he said. "I don't know what (the people at Virginia Tech) are going to do. . . . I don't even know the timetable."

But he did say he was impressed with what he heard.

"It's a Big East school," he said. "And they have so much."

Baron reported that he asked about a weight room for the basketball team, something he has been trying to get for his URI team, and was told it was already in place. He asked about academic support, and was told that program long has been in place.

"They told me they have a nutritionist," Baron said. "It was very impressive."

Baron earns about $300,000 at URI. Tech reportedly is willing to pay it's next coach somewhere around $500,000.