Paul Cormier Out as Head Coach of Dartmouth Men’s Basketball

  • Dartmouth Head Coach Paul Cormier gives instructions to his team during their game with Vermont in Hanover, N.H., on Dec. 2, 2015. Also shown are, from left, Director of Basketball Operations Mitch Smucker, Associate Head Coach Jean Bain and Assistant Coach James Cormier. The college announced on March 21, 2016, Cormier will not return next season. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Dartmouth Head Coach Paul Cormier paces as the team reacts to a call on the floor during the second half of the game with Vermont in Hanover, N.H., on December 2, 2015. Vermont won, 68-63. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Dartmouth coach Paul Cormier talks to his team during a timeout on Jan. 5, 2015. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hanover — Paul Cormier was fired as Dartmouth College’s men’s basketball coach during a Monday meeting with athletic director Harry Sheehy. The Big Green was 10-18 and finished sixth in the eight-team Ivy League during the 2015-16 season and 55-116 during the past six seasons, his second stint at the program’s helm.

“Paul did a really good job at getting us out of the mud and being more competitive, but in my judgement, it was time for someone else to take us to the next level,” Sheehy said. “Paul worked incredibly hard and diligently here and he’s leaving the program far better off than when he took it over.”

Cormier, who also coached at Dartmouth from 1984-91, led the Big Green to a 12-16 finish during the 2012-13 campaign, its best showing in 15 years.

Last season, his team was 14-15 and reached the postseason for the first time in 56 years when it participated in the CollegeInsider.com tournament. The Big Green lost at Canisius in the first round.

Cormier declined comment via text message on Monday. His last team was 4-10 in the Ivies at a time when the league’s national profile has never been higher in men’s basketball. Harvard has flirted with top-20 status in recent years and Yale, the Ancient Eight’s representative in the current tournament, upset Baylor and played Duke tough in a second-round loss last weekend.

Sheehy said he doesn’t see why Dartmouth can’t reach that level of play on occasion, pointing out that even the recruiting classes of men’s basketball stalwarts Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Pennsylvania don’t annually exceed a combined 20 players. The Big Green is 23-61 in Ivy play during the past six seasons. Its last league title was a shared crown in 1959 and its only other championship came outright in 1958.

“My mantra that we don’t have to out-recruit those schools but that we have to recruit athletes who can beat those schools has never been more true,” Sheehy said.

That’s been a significant struggle for Cormier and his predecessors. Dartmouth last finished with a winning record during the 1998-99 season, when it was 14-12. That was the Big Green’s third winning season during a four-year stretch but the coach at the time, Dave Faucher, was fired in 2004 after a 3-25 campaign.

Faucher, who had been a Cormier assistant during the latter’s first stint coaching the Big Green, was 136-208 during 13 seasons. He was replaced by Terry Dunn, who was 47-103 during 51/2 seasons and who left under chaotic circumstances involving player unrest midway through his final campaign. Dunn was replaced by assistant Mark Graupe for the 2009-10 season’s final 15 games.

Cormier, who led Dartmouth to a pair of second-place Ivy finishes during his first seven seasons in Hanover, went on to guide Fairfield (Conn.) University to the NCAA tournament. He then worked for several NBA teams, primarily as an advance scout. He was rehired at Dartmouth in April 2010 by interim athletic director Bob Ceplikas, who returned to his role as deputy athletic director a few months later.

“The last Ivy League title that was won here was over 50 years ago and that’s ridiculous,” Cormier said in 2010. “I’m here to get that goal accomplished. We have to get in a situation where we’re competing for the Ivy League championship year in and year out and not just being competitive.”

Cormier’s first two teams after his return each won only five games and finished last in the Ivies. His next two squads finished tied for sixth in the standings before last winter’s group landed in fourth.

Shortly after that accomplishment, however, All-Ivy guard Alex Mitola announced he would graduate early and forsake his senior year, instead enrolling at George Washington as a graduate student in an attempt to reach the NCAA tournament. The Colonels participated in the second-tier National Invitational Tournament’s second round Monday night.

Sheehy said he factored into his decision how much better Dartmouth likely would have been with Mitola running the point last season. In the end, however, he went with what he described as a gut feeling that the program wasn’t likely to ascend further with Cormier in charge.

“I had a sense that the energy had stalled,” Sheehy said, mentioning recruiting and player development as areas he felt were subpar. “I’ve been in this profession a long time and it’s just my judgement. I’ll be the first to say that doesn’t mean I’m right, but it’s just what I think.

“It was an emotional meeting, but Paul’s a first-class guy and we shook hands at the end.”

Sheehy, who was hired by Dartmouth five months after Cormier’s return, was a two-time basketball All-American at Williams (Mass.) College. He coached the Ephs for 17 seasons before serving as the school’s athletic director for the following decade.

Sheehy’s head-coach hiring record with the Big Green has been mostly strong, with his picks leading the college’s softball, men’s soccer, volleyball and women’s rugby teams near or to the top of the Ivy standings. Each of those coaches had the profile of a young go-getter when selected and Sheehy said he expects Cormier’s replacement will fit that bill.

“We want to catch a wave upwards with somebody,” he said. “We’re not at a place in the food chain where we can get a sitting head coach from a major school to come here. They’re looking to stay in a scholarship situation.

“Our hire will understand our focus on academics, will be articulate and smart and can recruit. He doesn’t have to have head-coaching experience but he has to take the good work Paul has done and not go backwards.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.