Four involved locals confident in outcome of NSU AD search

(Left to right) Mike Wilburn, John Manno and Kenny Knotts joined Terry Moore (not shown) as Shreveport-Bossier residents involved in the selection of their alma mater’s new athletic director last week

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

A week ago, Northwestern State supporters were digesting the news that the replacement for longtime Demons athletics director Greg Burke was somebody nobody in the 318 area code knew.

How’d that happen?

It was a product of a two-month process led, for the first time at Northwestern, by an outside search firm. To say Kyle Bowlsby of Bowlsby Sports Advisors was discreet during those eight weeks is more than understatement.

The curtain opened, and 43-year-old North Carolina State graduate Kevin Bostian made his first impression, introduced last Thursday on campus before quickly heading home to Greensboro, N.C. until he steps into his new office Feb. 7.

Among the 10-person advisory committee that pared dozens of applicants down to three finalists: four Shreveport-Bossier men confident the Demons have found the ideal candidate.

Ex-Demon baseballer Kenny Knotts is an insurance consultant. John A. Manno Jr. is a retired local businessman. Terry Moore, a Haughton native and Captain Shreve graduate whose brother Robert started at safety 30-plus years ago for NSU, then the Atlanta Falcons, is a financial advisor. Vietnam veteran and former NSU infielder Mike Wilburn is an investment advisor.

They are as Demon as it gets. When their work began after Thanksgiving, they liked the idea of being involved in a new approach.

“I was really proud of the university going to a nationwide search process, and I was really happy that on the committee were business people, former athletes, and representatives of the faculty and student body as well,” said Moore. “Everyone brought something to the table. From a leadership standpoint, you can’t get any better than John Manno, a level-headed guy who loves Northwestern and would ask relevant questions.”

The unknown: being guided by an outsider who was learning about NSU on the fly.

“My initial thoughts were this was going to be really fast, and I wasn’t sure it would be handled correctly,” said Manno, who last fall was part of the advisory committee helping hire new president Dr. Marcus Jones. “I was very wrong. The search firm was excellent.

“We damned sure should have done this (process) 15 years ago,” he said, not referring to replacing Burke, but to how NSU has previously hired key athletic personnel.

“Rather than making it so Natchitoches-centric, looking for ties to Northwestern, we enlarged the pool in this process. We needed that so very much, a new approach with a new leader who has great vision,” said Wilburn.

“Kevin is going to build on the legacy that Is in place,” said Moore. “People assume since there’s change, that so much is wrong. No. It’s just time for another person to take the hammer and nails and build on the many strong points in place.”

Bostian was a prime pick by the advisory panel, said Manno, emerging from 25 (chosen by Bowlsby from an initial pool of 80) who were narrowed to 13 by the group, then to five who they interviewed, and three finalists recommended to Jones. That trio visited Natchitoches for final interviews with Jones and other NSU personnel on MLK Day and the next morning. Bostian quickly got the offer while he was in Shreveport last Tuesday, waiting to fly home.

A few days earlier, Bostian had checked out Natchitoches on his own. He flew into Shreveport, drove south, visited downtown and walked the campus by himself, without anyone at NSU aware.

“That made an impression on me. He did that on his own dime,” said Wilburn. “It said a lot about his approach, and his interest in our job.”

“He was the most ready candidate to make this step,” said Knotts, noting Bostian spent three months last fall as interim AD at UNC Greensboro. “He’s sat in that chair, made the final calls, hired coaches, kept the ship steady.”

“We have the right guy,” said Manno.