By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- It wasn't much of a surprise, but it was good news for the Youngstown State men's basketball program -- Jerry Slocum is the new head basketball coach.
Slocum, who has spent the last nine seasons guiding the Division II Gannon University men's basketball team, and very successfully, was introduced Tuesday at YSU's Beeghly Center.
"I'm thankful for this opportunity," Slocum said. "I feel like the luckiest man alive today. I'm excited to be here and I'm hopeful that I can help this program regain the rich tradition that it held in the past."
With the YSU pep band is full swing, YSU President Dr. David Sweet, athletic director Ron Strollo and Slocum made their way into the Beeghly. Dr. Sweet officially introduced Slocum as the new Penguins coach.
One of three finalists
Slocum was one of three finalists for the vacated men's basketball position. John Robic had been the coach for the past six seasons and his contract was not renewed.
The other two finalists were Michael Grant of Southern University and Gary Edwards of Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
"The two things that really stand out in my mind in the short time that I've visited here were the passion and the loyalty of all the people involved with the university," Slocum said.
Slocum becomes the 12th men's basketball coach in the school's history.
He concluded his career at Gannon with a record of 179-78 and brings 30 years of head coaching experience with him to YSU. His career record of 580-325 includes nine years at Geneva College and 12 seasons at Nyack College.
"Coach Slocum has had a tremendous coaching career and obviously, we are very excited for him to join our YSU family," Strollo said. "He has the vision to move our program forward in the Horizon League where we can become very competitive on an annual basis."
Slocum's teams have been more than competitive during his career as a head coach.
Coached 25 winning seasons
In his 30 seasons, he has had 25 winning seasons, including the last 17 seasons in a row. He has posted 19 20-win seasons, including five of the last six years.
The 53-year-old Slocum was named the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference coach of the year in 2000 after leading the Knights to a 16-3 league record and a 23-5 overall mark. In each of the past six seasons Gannon has been selected to participate in the NCAA Division II tournament.
Slocum said that between now and May 1 he will be busy trying to fill the two remaining scholarships that the Penguins have for next season.
"We're going to get the best possible players we can find, but we will take our time to evaluate those selections," Slocum said.
"I'm here for the duration," Slocum said. "I have a house to sell and a house to buy, but then I'm here for good.
"Coaching is something that I love to do," he said. "That still hasn't changed, but now I get to do it at another level."
Hard work is way back
Hard work is the only way that Slocum feels the Penguins can become winners again.
"We're going to work as hard as anybody in this country and we're not going to take any short cuts to get there. That's been my motto for 30 years and it hasn't changed," he said.
Asked how he's going to go about rebuilding this program, Slocum said, " I don't handle losing well and I believe we can get it done."
Slocum also said that he didn't feel it would be that much different going from a Div. II program to a Div. I program.
"I don't feel it will be that difficult, recruiting will be a little tougher."
Met with players
"I've met with the players here and the one thing that I told them is that they will never again be the other guys team, but they will be my team."
Slocum is a 1975 graduate of The Kings, N.Y. College where he earned his bachelor's degree in physical education. He earned his Master's Degree in Athletic Administration from the United States Sports Academy in 1987.
Slocum and his wife, Kim, have two children, son Aaron and daughter Annelli.