29 April 2014

2014 College Basketball Coaching Carousel: Grading the Hires

Who doesn't love the ol' college coaching carousel? Well it was cranking this offseason once again with a number of programs making changes and some big names were on the move as well, including the jovial man pictured above. So who made the grade and who missed the mark? Here are my grades for the college basketball coaching changes for 2014.
This will be updated when the remaining vacancies are filled

Appalachian State - Jim Fox (Davidson assistant)
Jason Capel was a game over .500 in his first season in Boone but failed to reach that mark in the three years since, bottoming out at 9-21 in 2013-14. Fox should bring in a bit of a winning edge for the Mountaineers given his experience working as an assistant at Davidson for the past 13 years. And the Wildcats have only gone 288-131 during that stretch. This is a pretty good hire.
Grade: B+

Auburn - Bruce Pearl (ESPN analyst)
Not too many coaches get off the place and jump into a mosh pit when they arrive at their new job, but not many coaches are Bruce Pearl. Yes, we all know about his previous transgressions that led to his dismissal from Tennessee back in 2011 but even then, this is a brilliant hire. Pearl is a tremendous coach that has won everywhere he has gone and for a AU program that has little tradition and has been garbage of late, this is a heck of a coup. And with how the SEC is far from a basketball powerhouse right now, Pearl will have plenty of opportunity to build a winner on the plains.
Grade: A

Boston College - Jim Christian (Ohio head coach)
The Eagles have not made the NCAA's since the second to last year under Al Skinner in 2009 and have only had two winning seasons overall since 2007. They have never been a good fit in the ACC, Harvard is the better program at this point in the city and in all of New England, they cannot touch UConn. Christian is a good coach and has won games everywhere he has been but he has never coached outside of the Midwest and I do not know if he can recruit the area enough to make BC a stronger program in the conference
Grade: B-

Bowling Green - Chris Jans (Wichita State assistant)
Louis Orr could not get the job done in Bowling Green and he got fired. The Falcons have not been to the postseason since 1968, but they are bringing in a winner in Jans. Jans has been an assistant under Gregg Marshall since Marshall took the job in Wichita and has been a core part of the building of an excellent program out there. He also won some games as a JuCo coach in the late 90's and early 00's. He will make Bowling Green competitive in the MAC at the very least.
Grade: A-

Cal - Cuonzo Martin (Tennessee head coach)
Martin was never fully accepted amid the Volunteer faithful and they grew restless midseason before he led them to the Sweet Sixteen. But facing a rebuilding job next year, Martin decided to head west and take over for the retired Mike Montgomery. Cal is not quite the best job in the Pac-12 and this was a lateral move at best from Tennessee, and a surprising one at that after Martin turned down the Marquette job. Also, Martin has no coaching experience out west. But he's an underrated coach and he will do well out on the east shore of the Bay.
Grade: B+

Central Arkansas - Russ Pennell (Phoenix Mercury interim head coach)
Pennell has taken an unusual path to Conway. He took over amid the Lute Olsen issues at Arizona and led the Wildcats to the Sweet Sixteen in 2009. Then he went to one of those for-profit schools and found some success at Grand Canyon before being relieved of his duties there. And then in December, he took over as head coach of the Phoenix Mercury and took the club to the Western Conference finals. So for all of that, it's an interesting hire but Pennell also has no ties to the region.
Grade: C+

Coppin State - Michael Grant (Stillman head coach)
Ron Mitchell had a lengthy run leading Coppin State over the past 28 years, including famously leading the Eagles to a 15-2 upset in the 1997 NCAA Tournament, but the wheels fell off the wagon the past decade with nine losing seasons. Given the downturn of the program, this is not a particularly desirable job but there is some talent to be had from Baltimore. Grant has led Stillman College over the past six years, going 100-73 in that stretch. He also had D-I coaching experience but was fired at Southern after only two seasons due to interviewing for the Youngstown State job in 2005. Not a terrible hire but not a particularly inspiring one either.
Grade: C

Delaware State - Keith Walker (Delaware State interim head coach)
Greg Jackson had a positive 14 seasons run in Dover, including the program's first tournament appearance, but he was fired after a mediocre 4-15 start to the season. Walker was given the interim tag and proceeded to lead the Hornets to a respectable 5-6 finish with a .500 record in conference during his stint. He had been a long time assistant under Jackson since 2000 and previously was the head guy at Shaw University in Division II. A fine hire.
Grade: B

Florida A&M -

Florida Atlantic - Michael Curry (formerly Philadelphia 76ers assistant)
This is an interesting and a relatively intriguing hire. It is not often that a school like FAU can hire a coach with NBA coaching experience but in Curry's experience, his sole year as coach of the Pistons was a fiasco in 2009. But Curry was still well-respected in league circles and while he has no college coaching experience, this is a solid hire for a program that could use a little excitement.
Grade: B

Houston - Kelvin Sampson (Houston Rockets assistant)
The way Sampson went out at Indiana obviously was less than ideal and led to a five year show-cause order by the NCAA in 2008 for recruiting violations, but Sampson worked to rebuild his reputation by assisting in the NBA in Milwaukee then Houston and even was in the mix for some NBA jobs. There is no question, however, that Sampson knows how to coach and he won everywhere he went. This is a big get for a middling Houston program and a great fit considering Sampson's connections in the region from his time at Oklahoma.
Grade: A

IPFW - Jon Coffman (IPFW assistant)
Tony Jasick helped slowly but surely build the IPFW program during his tenure, capping it with a record 25 win season before heading to Jacksonville. Following the model they set by promoting Jasick, they decided to promote Coffman who has been an assistant under Jasick for the past three years. Coffman is well-traveled and he should help to at least maintain what Jasick built.
Grade: B-

IUPUI - Jason Gardner (Memphis assistant)
IUPUI will have one of the younger coaches in Division I next year with Gardner, who does not turn 34 until November. And Gardner is also pretty raw as a coach, he only has a few years as an assisting going into this job as he spent two seasons at Loyola Chicago before his sole year at Memphis. But he also is a native of the Circle City and is a former Indiana Mr. Basketball and in a tough job, he should show some recruiting abilities for a program that needs it.
Grade: B+

Jacksonville - Tony Jasik (IPFW head coach)
Cliff Warren had a nice start to his tenure with the Dolphins but after a slow past few years, he was fired. They found a nice replacement in Jasik, who helped to build a mediocre IPFW program and won a record 25 games and made the legendary CIT. Now Jasik does not have much experience in the South, let alone the Sunshine State, but he has shown he can win games at a tough job and one could expect himm to build toward that here.
Grade: B

Kennesaw State - Jimmy Lallathin (Kennesaw State interim coach)
Kennesaw State has been struggling ever since moving up from Division II to Division I and they have been relatively uncompetitive in the powerhouse league that is the Atlantic Sun. I don't love simply promoting an assistant in a bad situation but for a program like this, you may not do that much better than Lallathin. He's been with the Owls since 2011 and worked at Miami (OH) before that but this wasn't a program with the resources to entice a coach of any sort to come to northern Georgia.
Grade: C-

Lamar - Tic Price (Lamar interim coach)
Pat Knight may have gotten Lamar to the tournament in 2012 after that epic rant but following that run, he went a hearty 6-50 over these past two years before getting fired late in the 2014 season. Price took over the ship and finished 1-4 but he will get the head job. Price has coaching experience with ten years at New Orleans, Memphis and McNeese State but save from a successful run at UNO and a tournament bid in his first year in Lake Charles, he had an inconsistent record. But this school probably could not have done much better.
Grade: C

Loyola Marymount - Mike Dunlap (formerly Charlotte Bobcats head coach)
So in a few years, Dunlap has gone from interim coach at St. John's to the NBA and the Charlotte Bobcats and now to Loyola Marymound. We call that well-traveled. But he has a unique background and that is what makes this an intriguing hire for the Lions. Dunlap has a lot of experience coaching out west assistant as numerous schools and in the NBA, and he has head coaching experience from coaching in Divisions II and III. Sure, his tenure with the Bobcats was a mess, but who beyond this year has had success there?
Grade: B+

Maine - Bob Walsh (Rhode Island College head coach)
For a program with very little history as well as being a tough place to win at (Maine is not exactly a recruiting hotbed), they found a good coach in Walsh. Walsh has been tied to more than a few openings in New England and he is desirable because of the great amount of success he had at RIC in D-III, going 204-63 with eight NCAA Tournament appearances in nine years, after serving as an assistant at Providence. Of course, going from D-III to D-I is a nice jump but Walsh could be the right man for the Black Bears.
Grade: B+

Marquette - Steve Wojciechowski (Duke assistant)
Yes, the situation surrounding Marquette and their lack of a school president and athletic director led Buzz Williams to bolt for Virginia Tech but Marquette is still a quality job. And they made a very good hire in this Coach K lieutenant. Wojciechowski has worked under Mike Krzyzewski for 15 years, so one would think he learned something or another. He brings a higher profile than many assistants traditionally do and despite this being his first job, he should be able to bring some talent to Milwaukee and win in the Big East.
Grade: A-

Marshall - Dan D'Antoni (Los Angeles Lakers assistant)
There was no secret that Marshall was looking to hire Mike D'Antoni but ultimately as the Marshall grad was going to stay as coach of the Lakers, who does the school have as a plan B? His brother who has no coaching experience, is 66 years old and has been an assistant for his brother since 2005. Before that, he coached at a head school in South Carolina for 30 years. But hey, he is at least a grad!
Grade: D

Maryland Eastern Shore - Bobby Collins (Winston-Salem State head coach)
UMES is a pretty tough job. Just ask previous coach Frankie Allen who went 42-139 over a six year stretch leading the Hawks. So Collins is going to have a lot on his plate as he takes charge in Princess Anne. Collins, though, is a solid hire as he has built Winston-Salem State up into a program that has gone to the D-II tournament three times in a row. He also was not all that unsuccessful at Hampton before.
Grade: B

Mississippi Valley State - Andre Payne (Wiley College head coach)
Payne will be making the jump from the HBCU NAIA Texas school to Itte Bena which is a nice jump but for a program that has fallen apart since making the 2012 NCAA Tournament, winning a combined 14 games since, maybe the jump is not that bad in retrospect. Payne had some success at both Wiley and at Texas College but he has a lot of work to do to get this program back to .500.
Grade: B-

Missouri - Kim Anderson (Central Missouri head coach)
It looks like Mizzou went cheap on this hire, which is something I'm generally not a fan of. Sure, Anderson was an assistant for over ten years in two stints with the Tigers and is an alum, and he was pretty successful at Central Missouri. However, it is a pretty nice gap from Division II to the SEC, even with how mediocre the SEC is among the major conferences. I'm sorry but hiring a 58 year old largely because he is an alim is far from an inspiring hire in my book.
Grade: C-

Montana - Travis DeCuire (California assistant)
Mike Montgomery wanted his assistant to replace him in Berkeley when he retired but it was not to be, and Montana will benefit. DeCuire started at point guard for the Grizzlies back in the early 1990's and has done good work out west as an assistant in terms of recruiting and with development. For a program that lost its coach late in the process, they rebounded well here.
Grade: B+

Montana State - Brian Fish (Oregon assistant)
Brad Huse could not get it done during his four years in Bozeman and he resigned earlier this year. To replace him, Montana State hired this career assistant who has seemed to be poised to get a head job of his own for a while now. The Dana Altman protege has been an assistant for 24 years and success has often followed him where he has coached. He knows the region relatively well and should be a solid fit with the Bobcats.
Grade: B

North Dakota State - David Richman (North Dakota State assistant)
For the second straight time, the Bison have promoted from within when their coach left for greener pastures and I do not have any reason to think that the results will be different with Richman. Richman has been with NDSU for eleven years and for a program that is coming off perhaps their biggest year in program history, continuity is far from a bad thing.
Grade: B+

Ohio - Saul Phillips (North Dakota State head coach)
Phillips will be the Bobcats' third coach in four seasons but even with that bit of upheaval, they made a strong hire. Phillips was very successful during his seven years in Fargo, leading the Bison to the NCAA's twice, including getting a big upset over Oklahoma this go-around, and winning at least 24 games thrice. Phillips knows how to coach and he can recruit as well. He should be able to win in Athens and I think this is a great hire.
Grade: A

Oregon State - Wayne Tinkle (Montana head coach)
If Oregon State wanted to fire Craig Robinson, why did they wait so long to do it? I mean, they should have let go of him a good month before they did as waiting so long hurt their chances at getting a wider field. That said, Tinkle is a solid hire. He has been pretty successful during his tenure at Montana, winning at least 21 games four times as well as three NCAA Tournament appearances. It's pretty tough to recruit to Corvallis but at least Tinkle has the experience of coaching in a region that is largely dearth of talent.
Grade: B

Rice - Mike Rhoades (VCU assistant)
Rhoades may not have any coaching experience outside of the commonwealth of Virginia, but this is a nice hire to land a guy that was connected to numerous job openings in recent years. He has been a top lieutenant under Shaka Smart and VCU since 2009 and before that had a successful ten year run at Randolph-Macon. He should be able to make a woebegone Rice program competitive once again.
Grade: B+

South Dakota - Craig Smith (Nebraska assistant)
If you are going to take a job in the Northern Midwest, being a protege of a guy like Tim Miles should only help. Smith has coached under Miles at Northern Colorado, Colorado State and most recently at Nebraska, where he helped the Huskers get back to the tournament for the first time since 1998. Plus, Smith also has head coaching experience having served as the head at Mayville State in the NAIA from 2004-2007 where he was very successful. This is a strong hire.
Grade: A-

Southeastern Louisiana - Jay Ladner (Jones County Junior College head coach)
Jim Yarborough was two games under .500 during his nine seasons in Hammond but three straight losing campaigns sealed his fate and he was axed. Ladner may not have any Division I experience, which is a risk, but he was very successful in his two years at JCJC and was a successful high school coach before that in the Gulf region. For a tough job, this is an inspired hire.
Grade: B

Southern Miss - Doc Sadler (Iowa State assistant)
Even as Sadler's last head coaching job was largely unsuccessful at Nebraska, this is a fine hire for the Golden Eagles. Sadler is a solid coach as he was pretty successful at UTEP before taking the job in Lincoln, so he knows the conference and much of the key players. It will be key if he can recruit to Hattiesburg but he should be able to maintain the winning the program has seen of late
Grade: B+

Tennessee - Donnie Tyndall (Southern Miss head coach)
Volunteer fans never accepted Cuonzo Martin simply because he was not Bruce Pearl and he left for Berkeley after taking the team to their first Sweet Sixteen since 2010. And Tennessee is a relatively overrated program to boot, but you should be able to win in a conference that is far from being a deep hoops conference. They found a pretty darn coach in Tyndall who has won everywhere he has coached. There is no reason why he should not be able to win with better resources in Knoxville and he should be able to recruit better guys than he was able to get in Hattiesburg and Morehead.
Grade: A

Tennessee-Martin - Heath Schroyer (UNLV assistant)
This is a tough job as shown by previous coach Jason James going a hearty 37-117 over the past five years before getting fired. So you know Schroyer has a nice hill to climb after serving the last few years as an assistant under Dave Rice at UNLV. Schroyer has head coaching experience having spent three years at Portland State, which ended well as his club finished first in the conference standings, and four years at Wyoming which was not a success. He also has exclusively coached out west so he is also an unusual fit in Martin. But this program probably could not do much better.
Grade: B-

Tennessee State - Dana Ford (Illinois State assistant)
Travis Williams's tenure started out fine with an 18-15 season but he got fired after it hit the fan with a 5-25 2013-14 campaign. Ford was an assistant with the Tigers for a few years before heading on to Wichita State and then Illinois State and given his reputation for hitting the recruiting trail, he is a nice fit in Nashville for this program.
Grade: B+

Tulsa - Frank Haith (Missouri head coach)
It is not often that you see a coach leave a school like Missouri for a school like Tulsa, but that is what you have here. Haith was going to be on the hot seat in Columbia so he decided to leave town and in the eyes of the student body, it was not a day too soon. Whether that is fair or not, Haith is far from being a good coach but he can recruit and he should be able to get some players in Tulsa due to his experience in the region. He is a solid fit and he has a chance to build on what Danny Manning has built thus far.
Grade: B

UNC Wilmington - Kevin Keatts (Louisville assistant)
Hopes were high for Buzz Peterson when he was hired in 2010 but a 42-80 stretch ensued in which the team was a consistent finisher in the bottom of the conference. But as opposed as to going the retread route again, the Seahawks landed a talented assistant and a protege of Rick Pitino in Keatts. Keatts did tremendous work on the recruiting trail and he should get kids to Wilmington, which is a place you can win at (relatively speaking, of course).
Grade: A-

USF - Orlando Antigua (Kentucky assistant)
Well the original hire of Steve Masiello infamously did not work out but South Florida landed a good one in the John Calipari protege. Antigua followed Calipari from Memphis to Kentucky and has been a top assistant since where he has sharpened his recruiting skills. He does have some unique coaching experience as he is the coach of the Dominican Republic national team and he should be able to recruit talent to Tampa.
Grade: B+

Virginia Tech - Buzz Williams (Marquette head coach)
Sure, going from Marquette to Virginia Tech is not exactly a logical move but when you hate the conference and you are operate without an athletic director and a school president, one could see Williams's reasoning. Anyways, this is a brilliant hire for the Hokies who have long been a mediocre program even with the enjoyable Seth Greenberg tenure. Williams is known for recruiting unheralded players and coaching them into performers and he should be able to get VT back to the tournament.
Grade: A

Wake Forest - Danny Manning (Tulsa head coach)
Wake gives the appearance of appearing as a better job as it really is but even so, it is still a sound job in the heart of Tobacco Road. Now Manning may appear as an odd fit in Winston-Salem do his numerous years as an assistant at Kansas and his two years at Tulsa, but he has shown he is a talented coach with the quality job he did with the Golden Hurricane. He should be able to recruit well and when compared to Jeff Bzdelik, he may look like Bill Self.
Grade: A-

Washington State - Ernie Kent (Pac-12 Network analyst)
Ken Bone started out alright in replacing Tony Bennett in Pullman but he went 23-40 the past two seasons before he got the ax. The Palouse may look great on a postcard but it is a tough place to recruit and a tough place to coach. Kent has been toiling in television the last few years after being fired from Oregon but he is a very good fit. Yes, the wheels came off at the end but he was relatively successful in Eugene during his 13 years there and he knows how to recruit the Pacific Northwest. For this school, perhaps as good as it could get.
Grade: A-

Western Illinois - Billy Wright (Ball State assistant)
You know your program has some ways to go when the head man leaves for an assisting job but that is the case as Jim Molinari left to become an assistant at Nebraska. In comes Wright, who was an assistant in Macomb before heading to Ball State last year. He is a solid fit with the Leathernecks due to his familiarity with the region and he should be able to recruit there thanks to his high school experience.
Grade: B

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