Football flashback: After the 2009 season the Buffalo Bulls lost their coach Turner Gill when Kansas came looking. The school had been a doormat for its first 7 years in the MAC before Gill was hired and the former Husker turned the program around in three years, winning the 2008 MAC Championship.
The following year an off-season injury to James Starks and some very tight losses dropped UB to a 5-7 record, which historically was tied for UB's second-best FBS season.
More than that the pieces were in place for a bright future. Khalil Mack was on the roster and the Bulls had a returning junior quarterback in Zach Maynard, who could have been a UB record setter from the backfield.
When Gill left many thought that Danny Barrett, UB's offensive coordinator, was a favorite to win the job. Warde Manuel went in a different direction and looked for a big slash hire. He hired Jeff Quinn and the rest is history.
Looking back on it if Manuel had placed more weight on continuity for the players the program may have been far better off. Barrett was a Florida native who played college football in Ohio and then professionally in Canada. He helped Gill build Buffalo into a champion and had the love and support of his players.
Now another UB athletics program is at a crossroads.
Bobby Hurley has left the Bulls. Two seasons, two division championships, two MAC Players of the year, and a single trip to the Dance was enough to land him a big pay raise and Herb Sendek's seat at ASU.
Before Hurley the Bulls had already shown they could be a great MAC team. Witherspoon had multiple 20-win seasons and twice took the program to the MAC Championship game. What Hurley did is take Buffalo over the top and get the school a lot of publicity in the process.
Because of the team's past success there is even less reason to worry about a "splash" than there was when Buffalo had to replace turner Gill.
For that reason it's reasonable to believe that the Bulls should look at Nate Oats. He has a rapport with the players, knows the lay of the land, and would help hold together the team through this transition. Danny White has already made the smart move in giving him the "interim" tag, and hopefully that keeps the team together and minimizes defections.
He came to Buffalo in Hurley's first season from Romulus High School in Michigan, where he taught and coached one of the top high school basketball programs in the region. Really that's the only knock on Oats: his lack of NCAA coaching experience. So far it totals just two seasons as an assistant under Bobby Hurley and a small handful in Division III.
Then again Hurley only had three seasons of assistant coaching experience under his belt when Danny White plucked him. Hurley's experience was also on the staff of his brother at Wagner and Rhode Island.
In his time as head coach, Oats led his teams to an impressive 222-52 overall record and seven straight conference championships. In his last four seasons before coming to Buffalo his teams went undefeated in conference play.
The team was ranked in the top 25 nationally on three different occasions (2010, 2011, 2013) and they made the Michigan Class A Final Four five times. More importantly, he oversaw a program that had a 100 percent graduation rate and 40 of his 42 seniors at Romulus went on to attend colleges.
At Buffalo, he is the recruiting coordinator who has had a clear influence on the team's yearly classes. Before any further defections, UB's 2015-16 roster features five players from Michigan and two more from the Great Lakes. Oats helped coach Shannon Evans, who was named to the Kyle Macy Freshman All-American team and on to the All-MAC Freshman team.
You can't pretend Oats and Hurley are the same guy. Hurley is a famous college player, perhaps the best point guard to ever play. He has experience with Coach K, he was raised by one of the best high school coaches in history, and he had NBA experience. Oats has none of that, and we would miss the "Hurley Buzz" that the Bulls enjoy.
While he may have a lower national profile Oats does have a relationship with the returning Bulls and the incoming freshman. A quick and decisive move by White could both hold this year's class and allow the players already here to continue in a business as usual fashion.
We have a very good thing going at Buffalo and short of holding onto Bobby Hurley the sharpest move may be betting on continuity. Betting on Nate Oats.