Dillard's resurgence - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Dillard's resurgence

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(WVUE) -

When the NAIA brackets were released Wednesday night, for the first time in 15 years Dillard University was on it. 2001 was the last time the Blue Devils last played on the big stage. And the fact that they're making a return this season is a credit to one man, new head coach Mike Newell.

This is his first year at the Gentilly school. And when he was hired at the start of the school year, Newell understood fully what he was getting himself in to.

Newell was taking over a program that finished the 2015 season 5-23. He was taking over a program that hadn't had a winning season in nine years. He was taking over a program that had developed a losers mentality and he had to change it. So the first thing he did was dismiss 13 of the 15 players on his roster. Replacing them with kids from all over the country.

And his first challenge was finding a way to get the thirteen new kids to mesh with the two holdovers, Houston Chatman and Patrick Thompson. It didn't take as long as he anticipated. And the one thing that Newell recognized early on was that he had some talent. The kind of talent that can move mountains.

That became evident as the season went on. No longer were the Blue Devils a guaranteed win on the opponents schedule. When they got to the G-C-A-C tournament, the Blue Devils considered themselves the team to beat. And nobody could. Dillard, who won every game by double figures, culminated their run to the title with a championship game win against their biggest rival, Xavier.

21 wins, 11 loses is how the regular season ended for Dillard. That's a 16-win swing from a season ago. And Mike Newell did it with a roster that doesn't include one senior, so the expectations for his program are already set for next season.

But, first things first, They're ready to take their shot on the big stage. It's been a long time coming.

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