What Has Happened to ETSU Basketball?

Marky Billson
10 min readFeb 7, 2022

Two years after finishing 30–4, the Buccaneers are poised for their second straight losing season against Division I competition. How did this happen?

Marky Billson

Why has ETSU men’s basketball become so bad?

The easy reason- Steve Forbes isn’t the coach anymore.

But isn’t there some sort of winning infrastructure around ETSU basketball? Prior to this season the Buccaneers have had only two losing seasons since 1999–2000.

There’s still a chance ETSU can salvage a winning record with six games left in the regular season. But 4–2 would necessitate winning at least one conference tournament game to finish above .500 with the Bucs currently sitting at 12–13 after a five-game losing streak.

All of the losses in this streak have been close, so who knows?

But such a turnaround seems unlikely as Desmond Oliver uses less and less of his roster as the season goes on, and it appeared in the Bucs’ loss to Wofford they were suffering fatigue at the end, losing a game with a national cable audience they led for the majority of the game.

First year ETSU head coach Desmond Oliver

And even if the Bucs were to finish a realistic 17–16 this season, it would still be the second straight season where they had a losing record against Division I competition.

This is how a 30–4 season is followed up?

You would have been hard pressed to find an ETSU fan that didn’t believe the team would have made a run in the NCAA Tournament that year had it been played.

Just two years later the Bucs have to use free pizza to lure fans to games.

Athletic director Scott Carter cut his administrative teeth when David Mullins was the athletic director at ETSU. Though he eventually left for another administrative position at Tennessee, and frankly Carter is much more open and honest with the media than Mullins ever was, there is one thing Carter seems to have taken from his predecessor.

Like Mullins, in times of peril, Carter takes on the appearance of Kevin Bacon telling us “all is well” at ETSU.