Why ETSU Hasn’t Fired Desmond Oliver . . . At Least Not Yet

Marky Billson
4 min readMar 7
Marky Billson

Is changing the culture of ETSU men’s basketball more important than winning games?

This is the first time in ten years the Buccaneers have lost 20 games in a season.

The reason ETSU went 10–22 that year is because two of the best players on the roster, Marcus Dubose and Sheldon Cooley, were kicked off the team for receiving drugs in the mail just two games in to the season.

One can’t blame head coach Murry Bartow for such a move. In hindsight, considering how Alabama head basketball coach has refused to discipline Brandon Miller this season, it is refreshing Bartow was willing to make such a move, even though it meant the 2012–13 Buccaneers would set the school record for losses in a season.

ETSU President Brian Noland even championed Bartow in the midst of criticism he faced during the season, calling him “a great coach” and “the future” of the ETSU program.

The future lasted two more seasons in which the Bucs finished with winning records. Noland wanted the future to be more than 16–14.

One thing is for sure about Bartow. In his post-ETSU career as UCLA’s head coach he dressed a lot better than when he was in Johnson City.

So here we are in the days following ETSU’s season ending 69–57 loss to Western Carolina in the 2023 Southern Conference tournament.

Head coach Desmond Oliver still has his job as Bucs’ head coach despite posting a 12–20 season marred by internal squabbling.

There were allegations of physical fights in the locker room that Oliver wouldn’t comment on, a player-coach argument on the bench, a lack of depth on the roster (an unflattering signature of the Oliver regime), long and nonsensical answers given to reporters’ questions, and perhaps most telling; forward Jalen Haynes and guard Jordan King admitting that the players didn’t follow the game plan following the season-ending loss to WCU.

If, after two seasons, the players have such little respect for their coach they won’t follow the game plan then something is gravely wrong.

Now throw in the fact prior to Oliver coming to ETSU the Bucs had 19 winning seasons in 21 years, but in two seasons at…

Marky Billson

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