Rock band Cheap Trick said it best: “I want you to want me.”
That’s the scenario for brothers Drew and Jamie Eisinger, who are dealing with an unexpected change that could disrupt their future.
The Eisingers, both graduates of Jackson High School, still plan to play basketball for Eastern Washington University. But if they ever suit up for the Eagles of the Big Sky Conference, it won’t be for the coach who recruited them.
Former Eastern Washington head coach Mike Burns was let go May 30 and his successor, Kirk Earlywine, accepted the job June 14.
Since then, it’s been a bit crazy for the Eisingers, The Herald’s last two All-Area Boys Basketball Players of the Year (Drew in the 2005-2006 season, Jamie in 2006-2007). They hope Earlywine covets their skills as much as Burns, whose contract was not renewed after he guided Eastern to a record of 38-49 in three seasons.
“It’s been pretty hectic over there and we’re just trying to figure things out,” said Jamie Eisinger, a 5-foot-11 point guard who graduated from Jackson over the weekend.
Last month the brothers each signed an NCAA National Letter of Intent to accept Burns’ offer of athletic financial aid at Eastern, which competes in Division I-A.
The Eisingers recently had phone conversations with Earlywine. Their interest has not wavered, they said.
“It’s a new opportunity. It kind of opens a new door – a fresh start with everyone,” said Drew Eisinger, a 6-4 guard.
Added Jamie Eisinger, “We’re definitely still gonna (go there). Right now, unless the coach doesn’t want us, me and Drew (will play for Eastern).”
At this point, Earlywine doesn’t know if he wants the Eisingers – not yet, anyway.
Earlywine, who last season was the top assistant for the University of North Carolina Wilmington, has asked incoming recruits to send him game tapes. He plans to evaluate film as soon as possible and let players know how they fit, or don’t fit, into his plan.
“When I get that video, I’ll watch it immediately and then at that point we can have a much more in-depth conversation about my style and my system and their strengths and weaknesses,” said Earlywine, who was reached by phone Monday as he drove to Eastern Washington. Earlier in the day he met with a few of Eastern’s returning players who were in the Puget Sound area.
“I want to do what’s fair to (recruits like the Eisingers),” said Earlywine, whose 22-year collegiate coaching career includes stints as an assistant at the University of Utah (1989-1993) and Weber State University (1999-2006). “For me to tell them how I think they’d fit in, how many minutes they’d play … right now would be irresponsible for me to (do).”
If the Jackson High alums and Earlywine click, the Eisingers would become the first brothers to join Eastern’s program since it joined the Division I-A ranks. However, if things don’t work out, the Eisingers could ask for a release from Eastern and pursue other options.
The Eisingers expected to join a Burns-coached Eagles squad that topped the Big Sky in scoring average (84.2 points per game) this past season. But Eastern allowed almost as many points, 82.6, as it scored, finishing last among the conference’s nine teams in scoring defense.
Earlywine, who turns 43 July 4, described himself as a defensive-minded coach who primarily wants to focus on improving at that end of the court.
The Eisinger brothers called Burns’ departure a shock. They said they’re ready to adapt, though.
“It’s kind of a bummer,” Jamie Eisinger said, “but I guess we’ll just move on.”
Said Drew Eisinger, “I really want to show (Earlywine) what I’ve got.”
The brothers hope their game tapes are a hit with the new coach.