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Published: February 19, 2010 11:27 pm 

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Former GI star Hartman returns to WNY

By Tim Schmitt
Niagara Gazette

Carlin Hartman sat in the men’s basketball office at James Madison, eagerly waiting to hear where his Dukes would travel for a BracketBuster contest, when one of his fellow assistants threw out a hint saying the announcement would make Hartman happy.

“I thought Florida, maybe? Somewhere warm where I could enjoy the beach for a little bit,” he said. “But for some reason or another, I never even thought of Canisius. It was a nice surprise to be able to come home.”

Indeed, rather than catching some rays, the former Grand Island High School star will be in familiar surroundings when his James Madison (11-16 overall, 4-12 Colonial Athletic Association) squad meets a Golden Griffins team that’s dropped four of its last five after a big win over Niagara on Jan. 29. For Canisius (12-15), it’s senior day with the school honoring outgoing seniors Frank Turner and Bob Bevilacqua.

And although the Dukes have struggled through a difficult campaign with a number of key players falling to injury, Hartman is happy to be aside former Marist coach Matt Brady, leading his team through an underappreciated circuit that currently ranks 12th in conference RPI, according to Realtimerpi.com. That’s higher than the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (15th) and the Mid-American Conference (16th). League heavyweights include Old Dominion, VCU, Northeastern and George Mason.

“It’s a challenge night in and night out,” Hartman said. “There are some top-tier teams in this league and you can’t let down. We’re on the right path, though. Once we get some of the players we’ve recruited in and then we get our guys healthy who we lost this year, we’ll be in good shape.”

Hartman’s trip home will be the first one he’s made since returning for the death of his mother, Darlene Brown, last May.

He admits that will make this trip back to Western New York a little empty.

“It’s the first time, so it’ll be different. A little sad,” said Hartman, who has also coached at Centenary College in Louisiana, Richmond, Louisiana-Lafayette, Rice and McNeese State. “But any time I get to make a trip home it’s nice.”

Although he’s been an assistant at various levels and he’s happy with the direction James Madison is taking, Hartman hopes to someday trade his seat next to the head coach for a chance to stand on the floor as a head man.

“I have a hunger and a thirst for it, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “I look at what Richmond’s doing (No. 25 in the most recent AP poll), and I’m very proud I was part of what they’ve done. I’ve had a chance to learn from great people in some great programs.

“But without question, I’ve always wanted to lead my own program. It’s been a great journey. The next step is to be a head coach.”

His former coach at Grand Island, Jon Roth, said he thinks Hartman would be a great candidate for a Division I coaching job.

“He has paid his dues. And he’s done a nice job. Richmond has done a great job and all those recruits were his,” Roth said. “He’s just a wonderful kid. A real hard worker.”