4/04/2013

2013 College Basketball Coaching Carousel: Grading the Hires

Perhaps even more so than in college football, the coaching carousel in college basketball can get pretty wild simply due to the seemingly high number of programs changing their head coaches every year. Fortunately, I am here to break down which hires are good ones and which ones are not so good. I will update this post with every new hire, so stay tuned as more and more vacancies get filled. Let's take a look.

American - Mike Brennan (assistant, Georgetown)
I had my worries about this coaching search, particularly with that hilarious public application process, but I really think that it ended up with a very good hire. Hiring a top assistant at the best school in the city is always a wise decision, and Brennan has not only worked at top academic schools before, he has spent two years as an assistant at AU. All in all, really good stuff.
Grade: A
Full Disclosure: I am an undergrad at AU.

Ball State - James Whitford (assistant, Arizona)
This is a very good hire for a mediocre Cardinals program. Whitford may come from Arizona, where he was a top assistant under my boy Sean Miller, but he has a lot of experience in the Midwest as he spent 13 years as an assistant at Miami (OH) and Xavier.
Grade: A

Buffalo - Bobby Hurley (assistant, Rhode Island)
The name recognition never hurts, but this is a risky hire. Yes Hurley has the pedigree to be a successful coach and he has many connections in the Northeast, but the Duke great only has been a coach of any sort for a few years and all are with his brother, Dan. Buffalo is a very tough job and Hurley is going to have to show he has the chops of his own.
Grade: B-

Cal State Fullerton - Dedrique Taylor (assistant, Arizona State)
Fullerton has been in a state of a transition since Bob Burton resigned late last summer so Taylor will have a tough job ahead of him. However, Taylor has a lot of experience recruiting in California and is a native of the state. He was considered to be one of Herb Sendek's top assistants and should do a solid job with CSF.
Grade: B+

Cal State Northridge - Reggie Theus (head coach, Los Angeles D-Fenders)
I am pretty surprised that Theus is heading back to coaching in college with the Matadors. After all, I was a proponent of Illinois hiring him one year ago, although I think they did just fine with John Groce. This is a tremendous hire. Theus has had success as a college coach and he is a big name that will help bring some publicity to this program. The only downside is that he has not coached in college since 2007.
Grade: A-

Campbell - Kevin McGeehan (assistant, Richmond)
The Fighting Camels (now there is a fantastic nickname) do not have a lot of tradition but they could build some with their solid hire of McGeehan. I always like when small schools hire assistants to good coaches and McGeehan worked under a good one in Chris Mooney.
Grade: B

Drake - Ray Giacoletti (assistant, Gonzaga)
This is a very good hire in my opinion. Giacoletti may have been a one-year wonder at Utah when he led the Utes to the Sweet Sixten back in 2005 but he has done great work the last several years as an assistant to Mark Few and his coaching experience is pretty good.
Grade: A-

Furman - Niko Medved (assistant, Colorado State)
Now if they hired Niko Bellic, this would have been awesome. Bad GTA IV jokes aside, this is a strong hire in my opinion. Medved has played a key role in the burgeoning Colorado State program under Larry Eustachy and he has spent a few years as an assistant with the Paladins as well.
Grade: B+

Georgia Southern - Mark Myington (assistant, Virginia Tech)
GSU should have been looking for a bigger hire than this as they prepare to move to the Sun Belt down the road but this is still a sound hire. Myington has a lot of experience coaching in the Southeast, including work as one of Bobby Cremins' top lieutenants at the College of Charleston.
Grade: B-

Grand Canyon - Dan Majerle (assistant, Phoenix Suns)
I have no idea why they pushed out Russ Pennell, he had done a very good job with the program and had the ability to lead it to success in its first year in Division I. But Majerle is not an awful hire as he is a legend in the state and has done solid work as an assistant for the Suns. I still find it weird that there will be a for-profit  university in Division I.
Grade: B-

Hofstra - Joe Mihalich (head coach, Niagara)
This is a tremendous hire. Mihalich comes to beautiful Long Island with a pretty strong record as he is the all-time wins leader in the MAAC thanks to his 15 year run of success at Niagara. He should be the guy to turn around the Pride.
Grade: A

Jackson State - Wayne Brent (head coach, Callaway H.S.)
It is always risky for a college program to pluck a coach right from the high school ranks, but this is a good hire. Brent worked for several years as an assistant at Ole Miss and he has been tremendous successful at Callaway, winning four state titles. He should be able to bring some talented, under-the-radar prospects to the Mississippi state capital.
Grade: A-

Longwood - Jayson Gee (assistant, Cleveland State)
The Lancers have never had any sort of sustained success but (don't call me Alonzo) Gee could be the guy to bring some wins to Farmville. He had a great run at Cleveland State and was very successful leading the University of Charleston back in the day. A solid hire.
Grade: B+

Loyola - G.G. Smith (assistant, Loyola)
Tubby Smith's son may not come with a huge amount of experience but he was a top lieutenant for six years for Jimmy Patsos and that bloodline is intriguing.
Grade: B

Marist - Jeff Bower (formerly head coach, New Orleans Hornets)
Not to be confused with the former Southern Miss coach, Bower is best known for being a long-time personnel guy with the Hornets and he did a solid job as general manager and when he served as interim coach. He has been out of basketball for a few years but he is a solid basketball man that was an assistant at Marist for ten years before joining the Hornets.
Grade: B+

Minnesota - Richard Pitino (head coach, Florida International)
As I tweeted the other day, I do not love this hire. After all, is Pitino known for being more than Rick's kid at this point? Yes, he did a solid job in his first year at FIU, nearly leading a program that was a disaster consider Isiah Thomas's lack of focus to the tournament, but he has only been a head coach for one year. So you are firing Tubby Smith for a guy that is still all potential with not much of a resume?
Grade: C

New Mexico - Craig Neal (assistant, New Mexico)
Neal was the clear favorite after Steve Alford left town for Westwood and he is a good hire. He has earned his cred as a top lieutenant with Alford going back to Iowa and he should be able to build on the strong momentum the program has right now.
Grade: A-

Northwestern - Chris Collins (assistant, Duke)
I love this hire and I think that Collins could be the guy that finally gets Northwestern to the big dance. There is little not to like here. He has been a assistant to Coach K for 13 years. He is considered to be a legend in the Chicago area as a McDonald's All-American and an Illinois Mr. Basketball from Glenbrook North. He is the son of Doug Collins, a pretty good coach in his own right. You will not find too many hires better than this one this carousel cycle.
Grade: A

Old Dominion - Jeff Jones (head coach, American)
Now this may not be an exciting hire, it is a very solid one. Jones did incredible work at AU, considering the lack of fan support for the program, and did good work leading the program to their first ever NCAA Tournaments, and in both they had the higher seed on edge. Jones has a lot of ties in the state, considering his run as both a player and as a coach. He'll be able to fix a broken ODU program.
Grade: B+
Full Disclosure: I am an undergrad at AU.

Pacific - Ron Verlin (assistant, Pacific)
Not the most exciting hire but promoting the longtime assistant to retired coach Bob Thomason allows for stability. Verlin knows the program well and for the short-term should keep it on the straight and narrow. But long-term, he may not be the best choice.
Grade: B-

Rutgers - Eddie Jordan (assistant, Los Angeles Lakers)
As we all know, the Scarlet Knights were put in a pretty tough spot as a result of the Mike Rice fiasco but they did recover nicely with a solid hire. Jordan, one of the top players in Rutgers history who led the program to the 1976 Final Four, has a reputation of being one of the top assistants in the NBA and he did a solid job when he coached the Wizards from 2004 before being fired early in 2009, even as he failed in Sacramento and Philadelphia. He should be able to recruit relatively well.
Grade: B

Saint Louis - Jim Crews (interim head coach, Saint Louis)
It was all but a formality that Crews was going to get the head job after the tremendous job he did with the Billikens in the wake of Rick Majerus taking a medical leave and then dying in December. However, it will be crucial how Crews does long run because he failed in his last head job at West Point.
Grade: B

San Jose State - Dave Wojcik (assistant, Boise State)
It certainly is not easy working at SJSU, they have not been to the tournament since 1996, but hiring a guy like Wojcik puts them on the right track. Wojcik has helped Leon Rice build the Boise State program and he has also worked at Wake Forest, Tulsa and Xavier. He has recruited the area before and should be able to bring some solid players to San Jose.
Grade: B+

Siena - Jimmy Patsos (head coach, Loyola)
This is a tremendous hire for the Saints and this is the kind of move that will have this program back on the upswing. Patsos was very successful with the Greyhounds, which is not the greatest program in the world, and he knows the conference.
Grade: A

South Alabama - Matthew Graves (assistant, Butler)
I'm not sure why Ronnie Arrow retired early on in the 2012-13 season but alas, it put the program in an awkward position. However, they have recovered by making an excellent hire with Graves, who has been considered to be one of the top assistants in the country at a mid-major. Making he can get some of the Brad Stevens magic?
Grade: A

Texas-Pan American - Dan Hipsher (assistant, Alabama)
Not sure why the program elected to not bring back Ryan Marks considering the steady and solid progress he has made with the program every year. Nevertheless, Hipsher is a fine hire, but nothing special, as he was not overly successful in his last head job at Akron.
Grade: C

Texas State - Danny Kaspar (head coach, Stephen F. Austin)
This is a fantastic hire in my opinion. Kaspar spent 13 years at Stephen F. Austin and he had a winning season in ten of them, with an NCAA bid and an NIT bid in two. He was tremendous successful in Nacogdoches and thus there is no reason why he can't be successful in San Marcos.
Grade: A

Texas Tech - Tubby Smith (head coach, Minnesota)
As I mentioned earlier, I was surprised that Orlando Smith was fired by Minnesota considering that program's less than stellar track record and what he has done there, but he was able to quickly land on his feet in Lubbock. It is not an easy job with some controversy regarding Billy Gillispie's short tenure but Smith has won everywhere he has been and he should bring the Red Raiders back.
Grade: A-

Troy - Phil Cunningham (assistant, Western Kentucky)
The last time Troy hired a new basketball coach, Ronald Reagan was in the second year in his Presidency. Yes it has been a while considering how successful the retired Don Maestri was so there will be a lot of pressure on Cunningham right off the bat. This was a solid hire. Cunningham has a lot of experience coaching in the Southeast and did a great job recruiting at Mississippi State under Rick Stansbury.
Grade: A-

UCLA - Steve Alford (head coach, New Mexico)
A solid hire, but little more. Alford is a relatively big name, has been successful everywhere he has coached (look how long it took Iowa to not suck after he left for UNM), and he built a solid recruiting pipeline from Los Angeles to Albuquerque. But he also coaches in a similar style that Ben Howland did and he has been known to struggle in the NCAA Tournament. He could end up being the next Steve Lavin.
Grade: B

USC - Andy Enfield (head coach, Florida Gulf Coast)
I've already written at length my thought on this hire but in short, even with the risk of taking a coach of a small school with only a limited run of success, I like this hire very much. Enfield could very well be the guy that injects some much-needed life into the Downtown LA program.
Grade: A-

UMKC - Kareem Richardson (assistant, Louisville)
As the program was on the verge of moving to the WAC, it was a time for a change as Matt Brown was struggling to put together any kind of success. This is a smart hire. Richardson comes with an impressive resume as an assistant, including one season at UMKC back in 2008, and he should be a solid fit.
Grade: B

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