DeKALB – Ricardo Patton believes he has found the right fit.
With the combination of recruiting prowess, experience and knowing what it took to win as a player, Todd Townsend stood out to Patton, the Northern Illinois men's basketball coach, among the candidates to take over as NIU's new assistant coach.
Townsend's hire was announced Wednesday, as he replaces Dennis Gates, who left to take a similar position at Nevada-Reno.
"Everyone I spoke with about him had nothing but quality things to say about him and his relationship with the players," Patton said. "That was important to me. That was top priority, that we brought in a guy that our players could embrace."
The newest member of NIU's coaching staff was an assistant coach for the Illinois Warriors, an AAU basketball program, this past year. Townsend also was an assistant at Northeastern University in 2007-08 and was the director of basketball operations for two seasons at Marquette before then.
Townsend played 114 games for Marquette and started all 33 games during the team’s Final Four run in 2003.
"Being a part of a Final Four, how did you get there? I think that's a question I hope most of our players would want to know," Patton said. "He started all of those games in the Final Four and it wasn't because he was a great player. It was because he understood a role."
“I’m extremely excited about this opportunity," Townsend said in a news release. "This program is heading in a great direction, and I wanted to be a part of that. Ricardo Patton is a proven coach, and I’m learning more each day how special of an individual he is. DeKalb is a great place to recruit to, and I’m looking forward to becoming a member of both the community and the NIU family.”
Patton said Townsend and Gates have different personalities, but Townsend will be able to gel with the current coaching staff, which also is looking for a director of basketball operations after Scott Stevens left this month to pursue other coaching opportunities.
"It was important to bring in someone that fit in well with coach Sundance [Wicks] and Will Smith," Patton said. "We all three have been together a while now, so I wanted to bring someone in that fit."
As for Townsend's reputation as a recruiter, one of the major strengths that Gates brought to NIU, Patton said, "Coach's Townsend's name is good throughout the state, certainly in the city of Chicago he's well-received, just as Dennis is. Not only the high school coaches but the AAU coaches talked about seeing coach Townsend in their gym. He seems to be a guy who really enjoys his work and the recruiting piece of it."