Northern Illinois University head men's basketball coach Brian Hammel informed Director of Athletics Cary Groth Wednesday night (December 6) that he will not return next season in the same capacity and asked to be relieved of his coaching duties effective immediately.
Hammel told the team of his intentions after the Huskies defeated Rockford College, 121-88, for NIU's first triumph of the season in
seven tries. The 47-year-old Hammel finished his ten-year Northern Illinois tenure with a 117-138 won-lost record and a career
208-208 overall mark in 16 seasons.
Current NIU assistant Andy Greer---who joined the Huskie program in 1997-98---was named interim head coach. With upcoming fall semester final examinations, Northern Illinois will not play its next game until December 23 against DePaul University at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont. Greer will meet with the team Thursday morning.
"It is difficult to put into words how I feel, but I have come to the conclusion that it is time for a change in the leadership for Huskie men's basketball," Hammel said. "I am physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. I feel I am no longer an asset to the program, student-athletes, and other coaches.
"I would like to thank Cary Groth, (retired NIU President) Dr. John La Tourette, (current NIU Preisdent) Dr. John Peters, and (NIU Vice President) Dr. Anne Kaplan for their kindness and team support during this very difficult time. The team will be in great hands with Andy Greer. Andy has great passion and enthusiasm for the game. He is extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of the game and I know our players respect him. There is no doubt in my mind that Andy will do a great job under these circumstances," Hammel added.
"I would like to publicly thank everyone associated with Northern Illinois basketball during my tenure. To the administration, fans, past and present players, coaches, the community, and the students, thanks to all of you. NIU is a wonderful university with great people. I feel my life is richer and more meaningful for being part of this institution the last ten years."
A NCAA Division II All-America guard at Bentley (MA) College in the early 1970s, Hammel arrived at Northern Illinois in 1991-92 when Jim Molinari took the Bradley University job. In his second season, the Huskies finished 15-12 and earned the No. 2 seed in the Mid-Continent Conference Post-Season Tournament.
The zenith of his tenure were the 1994-95 and 1995-96 campaigns when Northern Illinois finished 19-10 and 20-10, respectively. The 19 triumphs were the fourth-most in NIU's Division I history and Hammel's Huskies swept through the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Post-Season Tournament to earn an automatic NCAA berth against Texas Tech. No. 7-ranked Tech outlasted Northern Illinois, 74-73, in a classic called "the best first or second round game in the East regional" by
the Basketball Times. Hammel put the finishing touches on NIU's three-time Academic All-America pick T. J. Lux, who completed his eligibility last March as the school's all-time male scorer and rebounder.
"We reluctantly accept Brian's decision," Groth said, "and we have appointed Andy Greer as interim coach. I know this was not an easy decision for Brian and his family. He has served his profession and this institution with the highest level of integrity, dedication, and commitment. Our young men who have graduated under his tenure are a testament to support and guidance that he has provided.
"Coaching is much more than the wins and losses. Brian Hammel is a champion in many ways," Groth said. "I will always be thankful for the opportunity to have worked with him and the loyalty he has demonstrated to this program and
institution. We wish he and his family the very best."
New Northern Illinois president John Peters expressed appreciation for Hammel's accomplishments and confidence in interim head coach Andy Greer. "I have heard many good things about Brian Hammel and his commitment to his student-athletes and our community. I wish him the very best in his future plans."
Prior to NIU, the 38-year-old Greer served as head men's coach and assistant athletics director at the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY, and compiled a 51-52 overall won-lost record in four seasons. His final U. S. Merchant Marine quintet went 19-7 and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. Greer was also an assistant under Mike Jarvis at Boston University and George Raveling at Southern California.