It may have ended with a loss, but the 2014-15 season was one big win for the men’s basketball program. The team finished the year with a 19–13 overall record, matching a program-best set 20 years earlier — and then went the 1994–95 squad one better with a first-ever post-season national tournament appearance.
After going 18-11 in regular season play, the Wildcats made it to the America East semifinals, taking a 67–63 quarterfinal victory from the University of Hartford at home before losing a 58-60 nail-biter at University of Albany. The record-making season — the team also set a new program record for number of home wins (12) and won its first America East playoff game at home in 20 years — earned the ’Cats an invitation to participate in the CollegeInsiders.com Postseason Tourney (CIT). On March 16, the team traveled to New Jersey to face off against New Jersey Institute of Technology. Led by Jaleen Smith ’17, Matt Miller ’15 and Danel Dion ’17, the Wildcats kept it close for much of the game but ultimately fell to the Highlanders, 77–84.
Head coach Bill Herrion says the loss was anything but discouraging. “Getting to postseason play was really big for this team,” he says. “This is a great step in the right direction. Now we want to take the next step, which is winning a championship and getting to the NCAA tournament. ”
Following a difficult 2013–14 season in which the team earned just six wins, this year’s successes are particularly sweet. And while the bar has been raised, Herrion is confident his team, which lost only two players to graduation, is up to the challenge. “We’ve laid a pretty good foundation,” he says. “What we can’t do is now get comfortable because we won 19 games.”
It wasn’t just a good season for Herrion’s players. Now at the end of his 11th season at UNH, the coach found himself nominated for two different awards — the Hugh Durham National Coach of the Year, which honors a coach that has brought his or her team to success in a short amount of time, and the Skip Prosser Man of the Year Award, which recognizes a coach who has demonstrated strong moral conduct in addition to a winning record.
Herrion knew Prosser personally. “To be involved with something connected with his name is a great honor,” he says.
Originally published in UNH Magazine—Spring/Summer 2015 Issue