Patton lands at NIU

CHICAGO (AP) - Northern Illinois University on Monday named former Colorado coach Ricardo Patton to be the school's new men's basketball coach.

Patton's prior success as a Division I coach helped set him apart from hundreds of coaches who were considered for the job, said NIU Athletic Director Jim Phillips.

"There's only been 11 teams in the history of Colorado basketball in 106 years that have won 18 or more games," Phillips said. "The man on my left (Patton) is responsible for six of those."

The 48-year-old Patton replaces Rob Judson, who was fired earlier this month after his team finished the season with a 7-24 record. Judson had a career record of 74-101 with the Huskies.

Patton said he is confident that he can turn things around at Northern Illinois.

"We should be playing for conference championships," he said.

His hiring was announced at a downtown news conference, which was to be followed by an afternoon news conference in the school's hometown of DeKalb.

Patton took Colorado to six postseason berths and had a 184-160 record in Boulder. Two of his teams played in the NCAA tournament, including the 1996-1997 team which was the first Colorado team in 28 years to make it to the tournament. That team beat a Bob Knight-led Indiana team in the first round of the NCAAs to set Colorado's school record with 22 wins.

Patton, upset that he did not receive a contract extension over the summer, announced in October that he was leaving Colorado. He coached the rest of the season. But his 7-20 record was his worst as a coach and was the only time he finished last in the Big 12. It was only the third time in his 11 full seasons that his teams had a losing record.

Phillips said several coaches, including Knight, who is now with Texas Tech, Rick Barnes of Texas and Indiana's Kelvin Sampson, strongly recommended Patton. Detroit Pistons guard Chauncey Billups, who played for Patton at Colorado, also supported his hiring.

"They were all emphatic that there is not a better person for the job at Northern Illinois," Phillips said.

Phillips noted Patton's success as a recruiter. He said Patton was an assistant when he recruited Billups. He also recruited center David Harrison, who is now with the Indiana Pacers.

Patton said his priorities include recruiting top players throughout Illinois, particularly in Chicago. He said he believes he can win recruiting battles with schools such as Illinois and DePaul.

"There's no reason why when we go into the homes and talk to these young men they will not select Northern Illinois," he said.