By Daniel Monson
Athletics Director Dave Heeke said Tuesday he expects to re-sign men’s basketball coach Ernie Zeigler to a multi-year contract in the next few weeks.
“We’re looking at a multi-year agreement,” Heeke said. “I hope to pull this together in short order and continue to move forward.”
Zeigler has one year remaining on his five-year contract, which was extended one year before the 2008-09 season.
CMU lost 69-60 against Western Michigan in the Mid-American Conference quarterfinals March 11 in Cleveland to finish the season 15-15 – its highest win total since 2002-03. The Chippewas also won its second consecutive MAC West title with a 9-7 conference record, earning the tournament’s No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.
“We’re really comfortable with the direction of our program competitively,” Heeke said. “It was a step forward this year. We continue each year to make strides from a competitive standpoint.”
Zeigler has a 54-69 overall record and 31-33 mark in the MAC. He has led the Chippewas to four consecutive 10-plus win seasons, the first CMU coach to do so since Charlie Coles from 1987-88 to 1990-91.
“That win in the quarters would have been a big win for us. It didn’t go our way,” Heeke said. “We played very well for a long stretch in that game and then in a way it resembled our season a little bit. Just when we thought we were there, it all just slipped through our fingertips. I think we’re very close and I thought this season illustrated that.”
Zeigler said he looks forward to continuing to build the program and has had preliminary discussions with Heeke about an extension.
“Dave Heeke and I have had some preliminary discussions and we’re going to be putting our heads together and hopefully putting me in a position to continue being head coach here for a long time,” he said.
Heeke said one concern he has addressed with Zeigler is the number of underclassmen who have left the program – six in the past two offseasons. But Heeke said each individual circumstance was different and he has confidence the right foundation of players is in place. Zeigler said he does not anticipate any underclassmen leaving the program this offseason.
“We think we’ve got that formula figured out,” Heeke said. “We have an excellent core group of young men and they understand our system and the expectations of our program.”
With the new events center opening in the fall, Heeke said this is a good opportunity to secure the program’s future.
“I think it’s a really strong tool in the tool box that we hope is a final piece of the puzzle that can vault our program to that next level,” he said. “We don’t talk about the number of wins, I just want our programs to be a position to contend for championships and for titles.”