Reggie Witherspoon was in Buffalo when he started to get texts and phone calls about Jim Baron retiring last Friday.
He thought it was a joke.
“People had been saying you’ll come back,” he said. “Eventually you’ll come back. I didn’t see that and we were planning on driving back to Chattanooga.”
Witherspoon was ill and decided to delay his trip back to his post as an assistant with the Mocs.
“I really thought people were joking with me because we would have been on the road, and I thought people were saying, ‘Hey let’s get him while he’s 400 miles into this trip and make a joke out it.’ I realized it wasn’t a joke that (Jim Baron) retired and then the ball got rolling.”’
It didn’t take long for the 55-year-old to say “yes” to the Griffs offer, and after two years away from his hometown, the Western New York coaching legend is back, this time wearing the Blue and Gold.
"It's kind of surreal. This is not what usually happens in Division I college basketball. You usually don't get these kinds of opportunities," he said.
Witherspoon understands there isn't a quick fix to help the program turnaround following a 14-19 campaign a season ago. But, the school believes they have their long term solution to bringing the program back to national prominence.
"I believe we've found a person who is uniquely positioned to take over for our program at this time, to build the program, to sustain what we've started all ready and to compete for championships, and to do that in the manner is representative in the manner in which Canisius College is all about," Athletic Director Bill Maher said.
"Trying to put things together in June is difficult," Witherspoon said. "This is not a quick fix. This is a get in, roll your sleeves up and get to work."
The Buffalo native’s college coaching career began with Erie County Community College, before being thrust into the head coaching job five days into the season at the University at Buffalo in December of 1999. He was the head coach at UB for 14 years, earning Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year honors twice, before being fired in 2013.
“My first day on the job was December 4th and December 7th we played North Carolina at home and at the time they were ranked 8th in the country,” he said.
“It’s not that, but it is unusual coming into June 1 with open scholarships, with a staff to get, a schedule to put in place. It is not a quick fix and go. It is a challenge.”