With assistant coach Don Hogan choosing to leave the Coastal Carolina men’s baskeball program earlier this month, Chanticleers head coach Cliff Ellis had to work fast to fill the opening.
And he has, announcing Tuesday that Patrick Blake, who was most recently a head coach in the junior college ranks, has joined the Chants’ staff.
Blake spent the past three seasons as the coach at Chipola College in Marianna, Fla., was an assistant there for two years also and previously groomed as a student manager at Louisville under Rick Pitino and as a graduate assistant at Mississippi under Andy Kennedy.
Both are friends of Ellis’, and he said Kennedy in particular provided a strong reference for Blake.
“His juco experience and head coaching experience was a huge factor, and I like Pat. I think he knows the game,” Ellis said. “… I talked to Kennedy about him in depth and everybody was very high on this guy.”
It’s something I was hoping for, something I’m ready for. I’m going to hit the ground running. But what a great place this is, the success they’ve had, the momentum they’re building, to get the opportunity to be a part of it was definitely a shock and a surreal feeling.
New CCU assistant coach Patrick Blake
Hogan, who spent the last six years on Ellis’ coaching staff and previously worked with him at Clemson as well, accepted a position as a high school district athletic director in Florida a few days before the Chants departed Aug. 6 for their exhibition trip to Cuba.
Knowing communication would be tough during his time in Cuba, Ellis said he worked fast to get the process moving along before he left.
“It was quick. We were going to Cuba. Coach Hogan has a great opportunity ahead of him, and we know the feelings are mutual with regards to that – it was a situation he couldn’t turn down. But we had about two or three days before we left for Cuba, and in Cuba there is no contact. There’s basically no cell phone [service],” Ellis said. “[Then] we got in 4 o’clock Saturday morning and school starts Monday. So it’s a very unusual situation.
“So I immediately just went to my instincts – who are the people that I know, who has head coaching experience that can recruit? So you just go to the vault or bank or whatever you call it. Pat came out of a school that I attended, so I had seen him and known him from that. He’s had head coaching experience and he’s been an excellent recruiter.”
Blake was on campus Tuesday getting settled in and reiterated that previous connection with Ellis as a key to putting this together so quickly.
“I’ve known Coach Ellis for a while now and we’ve always stayed in touch, and a couple weeks ago it came about that Coach Hogan may have another position and that kind of got the ball rolling,” Blake said.
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity. I’m so excited and fortunate to not only be at a great place like Coastal Carolina, but to be able to work and learn from Coach Ellis, someone that’s done it all and a future Hall of Famer. And also to be around two other great assistants that I can pick their brain every day and learn from them as well.”
Blake, who posted a 62-30 record as head coach at Chipola and was named the 2013-14 Panhandle Conference coach of the year, joins Ellis and fellow assistant coaches Benny Moss and Stacey Palmore on a staff that has guided the Chants to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances.
Ellis emphasized that Blake’s recruiting ties at the junior college level were especially appealing as the Chants will be looking to add a large incoming class to replace the handful of seniors set to graduate after this coming season.
As for Blake’s career move, he admits the whole process caught him a bit by surprise.
“It’s something I was hoping for, something I’m ready for. I’m going to hit the ground running,” he said. “But what a great place this is, the success they’ve had, the momentum they’re building, to get the opportunity to be a part of it was definitely a shock and a surreal feeling.”