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National search? Bucs already have their man in Shay

Joe Avento • May 1, 2020 at 5:14 PM

East Tennessee State has announced the beginning of a “national” search to replace Steve Forbes as head basketball coach.

In reality, all ETSU President Brian Noland and athletic director Scott Carter have to do is look toward the basketball staff’s office in the Minidome.

They already have their man.

Jason Shay is ready to go. He wants the job. Forbes wants him to get the job. ETSU fans seem to be fully behind him as well.

Shay has coached with Forbes for 12 years, including five as an assistant at ETSU. He was a big part of the 130 wins that go on Forbes’ record. Now it’s time for the victories to start belonging to Shay.

Forbes, who left to be the head coach at Wake Forest, always gave Shay — and the rest of his staff — much of the credit for ETSU’s success. All you had to do was watch one practice and you knew how involved Shay was.

His title might say “assistant,” but on the floor he’s simply a coach. He’s demanding, tough and he gets results. He commands respect from the players and by all accounts has everything it would take to do the job. He’s already spent time as an assistant in a major conference with five years at Tennessee and he knows the ins and outs of the Southern Conference.

During the recently completed recruiting season, Forbes gave his assistants credit by saying they bring the recruits to second base and all he has to do is drive them home. Shay can drive them home. He’s already proven he can get them on base.

Forbes, for one, is in Shay’s corner.

Folks in Johnson City always hung on every word Forbes said when he held court. Now’s the time to really listen to him. Forbes says Shay deserves the job — and he’s right.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Forbes says.

ETSU’s search might come up with a candidate who wows Noland and Carter, so the school has to do its due diligence in at least checking out its options.

Forbes says Shay can come to Wake Forest and there will be a job waiting for him if he doesn’t get hired as ETSU’s head coach.

When Forbes was hired at ETSU, the program was in need of a jolt of energy. It wasn’t at rock bottom, but it wasn’t close to reaching its potential either. It was stale.

Forbes came in and breathed new life into ETSU basketball. People around the country began to remember the school had a basketball tradition. More importantly, people in our region remembered that as well. And he even took it to another level. Thirty wins in a season that wasn’t even completed? Wow. No other coach in school history had ever done that.

Now the administration has a chance to continue the momentum by making the transition a smooth one.

Forbes left a red-hot program. The recent recruiting class seemed to plug every hole the team lost from graduation.

These guys are ready to rock and roll. All they need is a band leader, and getting one who already knows the songs would seem like the right course to take.

They also should consider the effect the coronavirus pandemic is having on collegiate athletics. Whoever gets hired might not even be able to meet the players very soon, let alone have them practice.

Shay knows these guys and they know him. There wouldn’t be as big a learning curve as there would be if they brought someone in from outside. Introductions or time spent feeling each other out would not be necessary.

Whenever they’d be allowed to get back at it, they’d hit the court running.

And with a team coming off a historic season, that’s all anybody could really want.

Sports director Joe Avento is the ETSU beat writer for the Times News and Johnson City Press.

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