Next season marks the 10th anniversary of George Mason's improbable run to the 2006 Final Four. New coach Dave Paulsen expects celebrations to commemorate the occasion.
There was little celebrating during the past two seasons, which ended with at least 20 losses and helped end the tenure of coach Paul Hewitt.
On Wednesday, Paulsen was introduced as the 10th basketball coach in program history and referenced that successful team.
“That group of people showed what can be created here, sustained here,” Paulsen said at the press conference held on the basketball court. “We've got everything we need to be atop the Atlantic 10 and compete nationally.”
Paulsen directed Bucknell to four Patriot League regular season titles and four postseason appearances during his seven seasons, including two NCAA Tournament berths and the 2015 NIT.
The 50-year-old Paulsen previously coached his Alma mater Williams to the 2003 Division III national championship. Though Paulsen said he passed on other coaching opportunities while at Bucknell, his mentality changed when representatives from the Atlantic 10 program called last week.
“I knew what Mason was, I know what Mason can become,” Paulsen said. “I said, `Yeah, I would be kicking myself if I didn't have an initial conversation.'”
George Mason fired Hewitt last month after four seasons. The Patriots finished 66-67 in that span and 20-42 over the past two seasons. Hewitt replaced Jim Larranaga, who left for Miami (Florida) five years after the Final Four ride.
Paulsen isn't faced with the pressure of replacing the coach who put the Northern Virginia campus in the national spotlight. Yet don't expect him to shy away from school's past when hitting the recruiting trail.
“We have a Final Four banner up here,” Paulsen said. “There's a whole bunch of programs in the Atlantic 10 that cannot say the same thing. That much I know.”