Big South Basketball Coaches Rank the Best Jobs in the Conference

This is the latest in Stadium’s “Conference Chain of Command” series in which we polled a handful of veteran coaches in every league to determine the best JOBS in each league, all the way down to the ones that are the most difficult.

Here are the nine categories that were utilized to determine the overall rankings.

  • Tradition – The history of the program
  • Media Exposure – Games on national television
  • Game Atmosphere – Includes attendance
  • Facilities – Not just the arena, but also practice facilities, weight room, locker rooms, etc.
  • Selling Pros – Being able to sell not only NBA players, but also those who play overseas
  • Admission Requirements – Ranked from easiest to get into to most difficult
  • Budget/Resources – Includes coaches’ salaries, recruiting budget, travel budget, private planes, cost of attendance, etc.
  • Buy Games – Programs who are bought the fewest number of times will rank first
  • Geographical Recruiting Base – Proximity to players

This is how polling in the Big South shook out among coaches who voted, with one being the best and 11 being the worst:

1. Winthrop (86) – Plenty of tradition with 10 NCAA tournament appearances – all coming in the last 20 years. Gregg Marshall took the Eagles in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007 – and Randy Peele went in 2008 and 2010. Current coach Pat Kelsey has gone once in his six seasons, but has won 20-plus games three times. 

Where they win: “Best arena, second-best location in the league and no football. They also have a great athletic director.” – Big South assistant coach

The knock: “There’s really not a whole lot you can bash Winthrop about. It’s the best job in the league, and there’s really no argument.” – Big South head coach


2. High Point (77) – Some will look at this as somewhat of a surprise, but the resources that Tubby Smith has at his disposal put the Panthers program – along with a terrific recruiting base, and a terrific campus – higher than most would expect. High Point has yet to go to the NCAA tourney since moving into the D-1 ranks – with Jerry Steele, Bart Lundy and Scott Cherry all unable to accomplish that feat. However, Cherry did have a nice four-year stretch from 2013-2017 winning a total of 77 games in that span. 

Where they win: “The cosmetics of the campus. It’s ridiculous. It’s also been ramped up since Tubby took over – everything either has or is being upgraded. They basically have unlimited resources now.” – Big South assistant coach

The knock: “There’s not much you can say about it now. Coaches didn’t have parking spots before, but my guess is Tubby has one now.” – Big South assistant coach


3. Radford (69) – The Highlanders have gone to three NCAA tournaments – including one a year ago under Mike Jones. Ron Bradley took Radford in 1998 and Brad Greenberg went in 2009. Radford’s tradition/history is towards the top of the league, as is its budget/resources – but it sits towards the middle of the league in most categories. 

Where they win: “No football to compete with for resources, and it’s two hours to Charlotte, four to DC or anywhere in Virginia.” – Big South assistant coach

The knock: The fan base – being in the Virginia Tech shadow.” – Big South head coach


4. UNC Asheville (67) – Eddie Biedenbach took the Bulldogs to the NCAA tournament in 2003, 2011 and 2012, and Nick McDevitt did it in 2016. Asheville has enjoyed success recently, but there were plenty of down seasons as well. Resources are towards the bottom of the league, and coaches salaries were all towards the bottom. 

Where they win: “The recent success has made it a good job, so it’s been a homecourt advantage – but that hasn’t been the case until the last few years.” – Big South head coach

The knock: “The resources and support isn’t what people think it is. The coaches salaries were towards the bottom of the league.” – Big South assistant coach


5. Campbell (61) – The Camels went to the NCAA tourney in 1992 under Billy Lee. The program went into the A-Sun in 2002, but only had one winning season in a decade in the conference. The last seven-plus years have been in the Big South – where Kevin McGeehan has turned it around lately with 37 victories in the last two years. Campbell’s facilities rank first in the league, and resources are towards the top – but there are challenges. 

Where they win: “Facilities and support. It’s arguably the best in the league in both.” – Big South head coach

The knock: “Buies Creek is in the middle of nowhere. Not an easy place to recruit to.” – Big South assistant


6. Hampton (53) – The Pirates just made the move from the MEAC into the Big South this year. Hampton has made six NCAA tourney appearances – all since 2001. The highlight of the program was a victory over Iowa State as a No. 15 seed back in 2001. Current coach Buck Joyner has gone dancing in 2011, 2015 and 2016 – but it will be interesting to see how Hampton fares in a new league. 

Where they win: “They had success in the MEAC, and they have a different niche than the rest of the league as an HBCU school.” – Big South assistant coach

The knock: “It was one of the best jobs in the MEAC, but I just don’t know how Hampton will be able to recruit in the Big South. It honestly doesn’t fit the profile.” – Big South head coach


7. Charleston Southern (50) – The Bucs went to the NCAA tourney in 1997, but have won regular-season titles in 1986, 1987, 1995 and 1997. However, Tom Conrad was the last coach to get to the NCAA tournament – more than two decades ago. Facilities rank dead last in the league, but the program ranks first in ease of getting kids into school. 

Where they win: “The city. You can sell the downtown area and the beach – and you can also get to Atlanta, Charlotte, Jacksonville, Orlando and Columbia to recruit.” – Big South assistant

The knock: “The gym. It only holds 850 people. I think it’s the smallest gym in the country.” – Big South head coach


8. Gardner Webb (47) – The lone NCAA tourney appearance came in 2000 – in the Division 2 ranks. The program entered the A-Sun in 2002, went into the Big South six years later. Rick Scruggs was the head coach for eight seasons and had two winning seasons, Chris Holtmann was 44-54 in three seasons (2010-13) and Tim Craft is 92-83 in five-plus seasons. The only categories that Gardner Webb ranks in the top half of the league are admission requirements and recruiting base. 

Where they win: “It’s an hour from Charlotte. That’s the one thing that sticks out. Other than that, I honestly can’t come up with much.” – Big South assistant

The knock: “Facilities and the budget just aren’t up to par. They need to step it up to be able to compete with the programs near the top of the league.” – Big South assistant


9. Longwood (39) – The Lancers went from D-2 to D-1 in 2004 – becoming full-time members of the Division 1 ranks in 2007 as an independent. Longwood went into the Big South in 2012, and have struggled – failing to win more than five league games since joining the conference. The program ranks in the bottom three of the league in five of the nine categories. 

Where they win: “Budget is better than you’d think, and there’s great community support despite no success. It’s a true college town and the campus is nice.” – Big South assistant coach

The knock: “The perception of Longwood, and the fact there’s no tradition whatsoever. Wilett Hall is a glorified high school gym.” – Big South assistant coach


10. USC Upstate (24) – Moved from the A-Sun to the Big South this year – with a new coach in Dave Dickerson. Eddie Payne had some success, winning 21 games in 2012 and 24 games in 2015. However, this is a tough job – and doesn’t rank in the top half in any category polled. It’s dead last in history/tradition, game atmosphere and money for buy games. 

Where they win: “There’s not much, maybe the fact that they can get kids into school.” – Big South assistant

The knock: “No history at all, no one goes to the games and they don’t have much in terms of support.” – Big South head coach


11. Presbyterian (21) – The Blue Hose – yep, that’s the nickname – went into the D-1 ranks in 2007 and the Big South a year later. There has yet to be a winning season for Presby – but Dustin Kerns is in his second year after replacing long-time coach Gregg Nibert. Presbyterian ranks in the bottom two in six of the nine categories. 

Where they win: “The campus. It’s a small private school with a really nice campus.” – Big South head coach

The knock: “Facilities, resources and a lack of tradition.” – Big South head coach