By Used with permission from the Lowell Sun Online.
By DAVID PEVEAR
LOWELL -- Ken Barer isn't insulted over being UMass Lowell's second choice as its new men's basketball coach.
The Long Island University assistant is inspired.
"Somebody once told me that Roy Williams was the eighth choice at Kansas. And he's not so bad," said Barer with an unpretentious laugh after being hired yesterday.
UMass Lowell's top choice, Gary Close, resigned Sunday, 17 days after being hired as Gary Manchel's successor. Close checked out Lowell real estate prices and realized he wasn't in Iowa anymore.
Barer was surprised to hear back from UMass Lowell athletic director Dana Skinner on Monday. "But it was definitely a welcome surprise," said Barer, a worldly 35, well-anchored in East Coast reality -- and realty.
Barer grew up on Long Island in Roslyn, N.Y., played at George Washington University and then five years professionally in France. His mother was born and raised in Paris and Barer has dual citizenship and speaks fluent French.
He raised up dormant Bunnell High in Stratford, Conn., during three seasons there (1994-97). Since then he has been a Division 1 assistant for two seasons at Wright State University and two seasons at Long Island University.
Barer is familiar with UMass Lowell's program, which last season reached the NCAA Division 2 Tournament for only the second time. He worked with Manchel at the Five Star Camp, where Barer was a coach and station manager from 1986-96. "We've known each other for a lot of years," he said of Manchel, who left UMass Lowell last month after nine seasons to become an assistant at Ohio University.
Barer is also tuned into Israel, from where four of UMass Lowell's current starters hail. Barer, who is Jewish, played for the United States at the International Maccabiah Games in Israel in 1985, '89 and '93. He won a gold medal in '85 and a silver medal in '93, when he was also the Games' MVP.
"He was quite an accomplished player," said Skinner.
Barer also recently founded and directed basketball camps for the Navajo and Blackfoot Nations on reservations in New Mexico and Montana.
"The funny thing was they were honored to have us there," said Barer. "But the honor was ours. It was an amazing experience."
Barer's portfolio is like a script from the Discovery Channel, which begs the question -- Why wasn't he UMass Lowell's first choice?
"We were considering him strongly," said Skinner. "He worked awfully hard and awfully intelligently through this whole process. He had a terrific undergraduate record at George Washington, both as a player and a student (Honorable Mention Academic All-Conference). He just has an accumulation of experiences. He is a very bright young man."
What especially impressed Skinner was Barer's work at Bunnell High, which he guided to a school-record 20 victories and state quarterfinal appearance in only his second season.
"I think it's helpful to have coached at the high school level," said Skinner, a former high school and college coach himself. "It's the most challenging level of coaching as far as the teaching standpoint. It's a very helpful experience."
Barer and his wife Aryn have two children, Solomon (2) and Dava (1).