Homecoming for Kellogg

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Brian Tedder/Collegian

Former Massachusetts basketball star Derek Kellogg was named the new head men’s basketball coach at his alma mater last night, succeeding Travis Ford.

Kellogg, 34, spent the last eight years as an assistant coach at Memphis under John Calipari, and is known for his strong recruiting skills. Apparently Kellogg isn’t wasting any time getting to work and living up to that reputation.

“On the sonogram they said it looks like he can really shoot free throws, has a 40-inch vertical and has long range from 3,” Kellogg joked of his expectant son Max, generating laughter from the Minuteman fans attending the introductory press conference and rally.

Kellogg played from 1991-95 and was a two-time captain point guard under Calipari when the UMass program was most successful. Kellogg may prove to be the perfect fit and face for a program looking for stability after Ford jumped ship to Oklahoma State. The financial terms of Kellogg’s first head coaching contract were not disclosed, but the Springfield native has agreed in principle to a six-year contract.

“I’ve worked my whole coaching career to some day be standing here in front of you as the head coach at my alma mater,” he announced to the crowd. “This is my dream job.”

UMass athletic director John McCutcheon introduced Kellogg to the crowd to a big applause.

“Tonight we turn the spotlight on a very special young man. He’s been a part of UMass basketball history and now he’s going to be a part of UMass basketball future,” McCutcheon said. “His passion and love for the University of Massachusetts, for Massachusetts, and the UMass basketball team are unequaled.”

Kellogg spoke at length to the crowd about how this was their team and how important it is to return the excitement to the Mullins Center that has fell down since his playing days.

“Not to be nostalgic, but there was no better feeling than walking through the tunnel at the Mullins Center with 10,000 people screaming, the band playing and the crowd into the game,” he said.

“For those of you who that were a part of that and for those of you that weren’t – I want everyone in this room and I want everybody across this state and in the area to feel what I did as a player.”

Kellogg made four NCAA tournaments as a player at UMass, including an Elite Eight appearance during the 1994-95 season. Prior to his time at Memphis, Kellogg spent two seasons as an assistant at George Mason and at Youngstown State for one.

“I have a track record as a player and a coach as a winner,” Kellogg said. “Under John Calipari at Memphis we had 11 NCAA tournament wins. We were 10 seconds away from being national champions. “I believe I have what it takes to take this program to the next level, which is to get to the NCAA tournament,” he added.

UMass has a 10-year drought in the NCAA tournament, having last qualified in 1998. Ford came close to breaking through in each of the last two seasons, but early exits in the Atlantic 10 Tournament likely relegated the Minutemen into the National Invitation Tournament. UMass followed its second-round exit last year in the NIT with a trip to the championship game, which it lost to Ohio State.

Similar to Ford, Kellogg will institute a highly up-tempo offense designed to take advantage of team speed and conditioning, while fatiguing. The difference with his “dribble-drive motion” offense to Ford’s “run-and-gun” approach is that the offense is more predicated on dribbling and penetration, rather than screening.

“It’s an attacking, aggressive style that the players want to play, the fans want to watch and the recruits want to come to,” he said. “We’re going to attack on both ends of the floor and be the aggressor.”

Kellogg is rumored to have already hired former Pepperdine head coach Vance Walberg to join his staff as an assistant. Walberg invented the dribble-drive motion offense. However, Kellogg said that nobody is officially on his coaching staff and that he will shortly conduct interviews for the openings.

In response to Ford leaving for more money and a higher-profile job at OSU, Kellogg was asked if he would similarly use the UMass job as a stepping stone to something “bigger” if he was offered the opportunity.

“UMass has a special place in my heart. I love the people in the area, the campus and I love everything about Amherst,” he said. “And I envision myself being here for a long, long time.

“We’re going to be the hardest working, most fun, passionate and energetic team in the country,” he added. “We’re gonna win, we’re gonna win.”

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]