Praising the coach of a team tied for last place sounds odd, but it’s almost a miracle that Drake interim coach Jeff Rutter even has the Bulldogs in a tie. When former coach Ray Giacoletti resigned Dec. 6 and the Bulldogs had a 1-7 record, they were written off as a team that might struggle to win even a couple of games in the Missouri Valley.
Yet even with an eight-game losing streak, Drake (7-22, 5-12 MVC) can earn a share of 7th place with a win against Bradley on Saturday in a game where the Bulldogs should be favored at home.
Rutter’s coaching job has been enough to get the approval of Loyola coach Porter Moser. Moser’s team avenged a 102-98 loss earlier this season in Des Moines with an 80-65 win Wednesday at Gentile Arena.
“I hope Jeff gets [the head coaching position],” Moser said. “I’ve known Jeff for many, many years. It’s very hard to do what he’s done, to keep them playing hard. I pray for him that he gets it. In a tough situation, he’s handled it with class. He’s got those guys to play and compete in this league. I hope he gets it, I think he deserves it, but obviously I’m not making those decisions. But he’s done a phenomenal job with those guys.”
Rutter, 52, has never been a head coach at the Division I level, but he held the position at Division II Wisconsin-Parkside from 1996-2003 before returning to the D1 ranks as an assistant from 2003 up until Giacoletti’s resignation. At Parkside, he went 71-116 in seven seasons at a program that hadn’t had a winning season in nearly a decade when he took the job but has since found success with his replacement Luke Reigel.
Drake is set to return everyone next season except for backup center Jacob Enevold, and the program should have an announcement on the head coaching position after this season ends.