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Golding, Slessinger Reflect On Friendship, Careers After Securing 100th Wins

first_imgFRISCO, Texas – While their home arenas are nearly 700 miles apart, Abilene Christian men’s basketball coach Joe Golding and New Orleans’ lead man Mark Slessinger were just an hour away from each other when the two clinched the 100th win of their respective tenures.“It was really humbling,” Slessinger said. “My radio guy came and told me, and it caught me off guard. It’s been amazing to see all the hard work that went in to get to this point.”On Jan. 9, the Wildcats traveled to Lake Charles, La., to face McNeese while the Privateers went the opposite direction across the Sabine River to take on Lamar. Both teams came away with a crucial road win to improve to 2-1 in league play.“Honestly, I didn’t even know it was my 100th win until I was walking to the bus and [Voice of the Wildcats] Grant Boone found me and told me,” Golding said. “I was excited about it, but I was more excited to beat McNeese.”Although they were not the first coaches to reach 100 wins at a Southland Conference institution – actually the 12th and the 13th – it marked the first time that two coaches reached the milestone on the same day, much less in the same season.“We’ve known each other for years and both have amazing stories,” Slessinger said. “We’ve gone on a little different paths, but we have a good friendship and so much respect for each other. We talked on the phone and texted after on the bus, giving each other a hard time.”The duo, who both served as assistant coaches in the Southland before their head coaching days, were hired within three weeks of each other in the summer of 2011. Golding, a point guard for ACU from 1994-98, returned to his alma mater in 2005 and spent three seasons as the top assistant to Jason Copeland.“Not many people get to go back to the university they played for and get a chance to coach,” Golding said. “I’m very fortunate and lucky for that. The university and the town of Abilene really raised me. It’s a special place to me. I take a lot of pride in trying to turn this program around.”Prior to taking the job at New Orleans, Slessinger spent 11 years as an assistant coach under legendary coach Mike McConathy, who boasts the second-most wins by a Southland Conference coach (291).Congrats to @CoachSless on becoming the third in program history to reach ?? wins #504OurCity pic.twitter.com/fKH6W0hKQ5— Privateers Men’s ?? (@PrivateersMBB) January 10, 2019 Amongst the Wildcats’ nine upperclassmen are guards Jaylen Franklin and Payten Ricks, who through four Southland Conference games, rank third in the Southland Conference in points (80) and assists per game (5.0), respectively. While Golding claims he wasn’t allowed to shoot, he averaged a team-best 4.2 assists per game over his career and takes a lot of pride in coaching the position today.“I played guard here and I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys,” Golding said. “I’m probably harder on them than the bigs. The biggest key for us has been how unselfish they’ve been. We made a switch in our offense over the past few years and those guys have embraced it and bought in.”Golding and Co. wrap up the third week of conference play when they host Northwestern State at 6 p.m. Saturday, while Slessinger and his Privateers hit the road for a 5 p.m. contest against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, which can be seen on ESPN3. “I learned more than I have time to talk about,” Slessinger said. “How to run a program and keep things in perspective. How to make a program sustainable. A lot of people can have a flash in the pan, but the goal is to sustain it for years. I got an incredible blueprint from him.”Following each of their first years on the job, both schools accepted bids to join the Southland for the 2013-14 season. “Mark’s been a great friend of mine through this,” Golding said. “He got his program going quicker than us. When he made the NCAA tournament, that gave our staff hope that we could do it here. I’ve got the utmost respect for Mark.”For the Wildcats, it closed the book on a 40-year residence in the Lone Star Conference and marked a reunion with the league it helped found in 1963.“Going through that transition was the hardest thing a bunch of us had ever done in our lives,” Golding said. “When I got here, all I wanted to do was win games like any young coach, but I figured out quick that it was going to be a long road. It’s been challenging but very rewarding.”For the Privateers, it was a turning point as the athletic department contemplated dropping from Division I to Division III as the school dealt with declining enrollment, budget cuts and insufficient fundraising after Hurricane Katrina.“We had to be relentlessly positive,” Slessinger said. “It wasn’t a job for someone that wasn’t tough minded. I’ve seen a lot of hard work coming to fruition. It all goes back to that mindset of being relentlessly positive.” It was not an ideal situation for Slessinger to inherit as the department’s struggles left him with three players and one assistant. Negative press sprouting from NCAA sanctions further scared off potential recruits and assistants.Fast forward five seasons to 2016-17, when he guided New Orleans to its first 20-win season and first conference tournament title in 20 years, when now-Lamar head coach Tic Price was at the helm of the Privateers.“It was wonderful,” Slessinger said. “It was a great culmination of a lot of hard work and sacrifice by the student-athletes and staff. It was really rewarding to get that once-in-a-lifetime experience and bring joy and pride back to the city.”While Slessinger is no stranger to the conference tournament with four trips over the last four seasons, Abilene Christian is off to a good start in pursuit of a coveted trip to Katy after just missing out on a tiebreaker last season, their first year of postseason eligibility.“We don’t even know what door to go through to get in to the Merrell Center,” Golding joked. “We’re just trying to live day-by-day, trust the process, get better each day and see where it heads. We thought we were in a pretty good position last year, but we lost some tough games down the stretch.”Both coaches are now in their eighth seasons and seeing the payoff of their models of consistency as Abilene Christian and New Orleans are 4-1 through the first two weeks of league action.“We haven’t lost a player in three years,” Golding said. “We’ve done it all with high school guys and tried to develop them both as basketball players and as men. There’s some coaching involved with it, but it’s really about the players.”ACU beat McNeese 73-72 Wednesday night, giving head coach @CoachGoldingACU his 100th career victory. Congrats, Coach! #GoWildcats pic.twitter.com/qeBL2PcgHD— ACU Mens Basketball (@ACU_MBB) January 10, 2019last_img read more