College Basketball Coaching Hires: Best & Worst, Biggest Surprise & More

All of the high-profile jobs have now been filled after St. John’s decided to go with an outside-the-box hire of Mike Anderson. That means we can finally give out awards: The best hire, the worst, the most surprising and plenty more accolades from the 2019 Coaching Carousel.

Here. We. Go.



He went to an Elite Eight, a pair of Sweet 16s and two other NCAA tourneys in six seasons at Marquette. He did what no previous coach could do at Virginia Tech, making them relevant for more than just being on the bubble on Selection Sunday.

Buzz Williams to Texas A&M was the ultimate home run for the Aggies because, well, this guy has a track record of winning. He’s a hell of a coach, but I will admit I’m a little concerned about his staff and their ability to get players. It may not matter since Williams is a Texas guy and has plenty of contacts in the state and the surrounding area, but the assistant coaches don’t have a ton of experience on the recruiting trail. Regardless, Williams is a home run — no, a grand slam — for Texas A&M.



It’s not quite at the level of last year’s — which went to Cal State Northridge hiring Mark Gottfried — but it’s the ultimate head-scratcher. St. John’s, after missing on Bobby Hurley and Porter Moser, met with New York native Paul Hewitt (who went to a national championship game at Georgia Tech), Yale’s James Jones and also Alabama native Mike Anderson.

They wound up hiring Anderson, who has coached in Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma over the past 37 seasons. Anderson has no New York ties and was fired at Arkansas — which was the perfect job for him — after three NCAA tourneys in eight seasons and failing to get past the first weekend. His two NCAA tourney wins came against Wofford and Seton Hall. This one just seems to be a bad fit on every level.



Alabama Athletic Director Greg Byrne is a smart dude, but we’ll see if this one works out. He went undercover and came away with Nate Oats — a midwest guy who was a high school coach in Michigan six years ago before crushing it at Buffalo the last four years.

I think Oats is a hell of a coach, but I’m concerned about him and his staff down in Tuscaloosa. The only assistant who has any experience down there is holdover Antoine Pettway. Bryan Hodgson came with him from Buffalo and Oats hired Charlie Henry out of the G-League. The good news for Oats is that he has momentum after keeping Kira Lewis and John Petty, and adding grad transfer Beetle Bolden.



Fred Hoiberg taking the Nebraska job was a no-brainer for both sides. Obviously, Hoiberg had success at Iowa State and he realized that he could utilize a similar blueprint (transfers and second-chance kids) in Lincoln. For the Cornhuskers, it gives them a guy who has a brand — and also a connection to the school. The question, though, will be whether he can duplicate the success he had in Ames or whether the stars just aligned after he got the Iowa State gig.



If you had told anyone that Mick Cronin would wind up at UCLA in January, you’d have no credibility. When the Bruins made the decision to let Steve Alford go in late-December and then threw Bob Myers on the hiring committee, it was just assumed that AD Dan Guerrero wouldn’t screw this thing up. But that’s what he did by wasting nearly four months and not doing his due diligence.

Then there was the Jamie Dixon debacle with his buyout, then Rick Barnes turning it down at the 11th hour before Cronin took the job. I actually think Cronin will have a chance in Westwood; he’s a defensive-minded coach who has taken Cincinnati to nine consecutive NCAA tournaments, and now he’ll be able to get more skill players in Southern California. But this wasn’t what anyone expected — especially Guerrero.



After 13 seasons as an assistant at Wofford and 17 more as the head coach, Mike Young got a high-major gig at Virginia Tech — and it fits him perfectly. Young took Wofford — which had been considered one of the toughest jobs in the SoCon until recent upgrades — to five NCAA tourneys. The most recent coming this season when the Terriers earned a No. 7 seed and knocked off Seton Hall in the NCAA tourney before nearly beating Kentucky.

It sure looked as though Young was going to be a mid-major coaching lifer, but now he gets his shot in his mid-50s — and he’s hired a quality staff. He retained Christian Webster, brought on Kansas State assistant Chester Frazier, who is from Baltimore, and also hired Antwon Jackson, who has been on Mick Cronin’s staff since 2012, has experience as an assistant in the area while at William & Mary and also as an AAU coach in Washington, D.C.



We know the track record of NBA guys — especially ones who have hefty bank accounts — isn’t exactly overwhelming in the college ranks. Isiah Thomas failed at FIU, Chris Mullin and Avery Johnson only made it four years, Clyde Drexler was a train wreck at his alma mater, Houston, and Mark Price didn’t even make it three seasons at Charlotte. Terry Porter is fledgling at Portland.

Penny Hardaway was hired by Memphis a year ago and has already proven he can get players. He had an advantage over the other guys in that he had coached — and developed relationships — as a high school and AAU coach.

Now Vanderbilt’s Jerry Stackhouse gets a shot to try and help change the narrative. Stackhouse was hired by an athletic director who used to run the NBA’s G-League — and Stack was a star in the G-League as a head coach a couple years ago. But Vandy is a different deal. The key will be his staff, because they will have to identify the right players — not only for his style, but also that fit the academic profile of the school.



1) Rick Pitino – He’s coached in Greece this year because he’s basically unhireable until the NCAA concludes its investigation into Louisville. There was significant support to hire him at both UNLV and St. John’s, but neither could bite — even though he was interested in both.

2) Thad Matta – The question is whether the former Ohio State coach really wants to coach again. His health has improved, and I think he’d get back in — but only for the perfect job. That probably means something in the midwest.

3) John Thompson III – His name was in the mix for Vandy, and some other mid-major jobs — but it’s now been two years that he’s been out of coaching.

4) Bryce Drew – I understand he was winless in SEC this past season at Vandy, but it was only his third season — and he did go to the NCAA tourney in his first year. He was also without lottery pick Darius Garland for most of the season.

5) Andy Kennedy – He won 245 games in 12 seasons at one of the most difficult jobs in the SEC — Ole Miss. He’s 51 and wants to coach again. But damn is he good on television.



Tulane Athletic Director Troy Dannen missed on Mike Dunleavy Sr., but I think he got it right this time with the Ron Hunter hire. Hunter has the resume, the personality and the connections to be able to make Tulane relevant — at least in the AAC. Hunter, 55, has taken Georgia State to the NCAA tourney three of the last five seasons.



When Kyle Smith took the job at Washington State, USF Athletic Director Joan McDermott wasted no time. She promoted Todd Golden, who had been Smith’s associate head coach for the past three years. When Mike Young left for Virginia Tech, assistant Jay McCauley was elevated to take his place. McAuley was with Young for 2008-10, and came back on staff for the past two seasons.

I love when assistants get opportunities — especially when they helped build the success. Now, let’s face it: Some were elevated due to what they did, and some because of which players they could retain. Here are a few more guys who were rewarded by their ADs: Geno Ford (Stony Brook), Eric Henderson (South Dakota State), David Kiefer (Southeastern Louisiana), Carmen Maciariello (Siena) and Jim Whitesell (Buffalo).



Ok, so I have no issue with Nevada Athletic Director Doug Knuth hiring Steve Alford. But a 10-year contract? C’mon, man.

Knuth gave Alford a 10-year deal that runs through 2029. That’s right: a 10-YEAR-DEAL!!!! This makes no sense. It’s not as though Alford had all this leverage, or else he was going to take another gig. Nevada will likely wind up paying for Knuth’s mistake and should take it out of his paycheck somewhere down the line.

Let’s say Alford doesn’t work out, and the school wants to make a move on him after three years: They would owe him just shy of $10 million.



Billy Lange was the head coach at Navy from 2004-11, but gets another chance at the perfect spot for him — Saint Joseph’s. He was able to help turn Villanova around as an assistant from 2011-13. He spent the past six years in the NBA on Brett Brown’s staff in Philly before getting another shot as a head coach in the college ranks. He’s not the only one who gets a second chance.

Mark Fox (Cal), Steve Alford (Nevada), Donnie Jones (Stetson), Billy Donlon (UMKC), Geno Ford (Stony Brook), Scott Cross (Troy), Rob Lanier (Georgia State), Greg Gary (Mercer), Jim Whitesell (Buffalo) all got another opportunity.



There have been 53 openings thus far this year, and 47 of them have been filled — with only eight by African-American coaches. That’s just 17 percent of the hirings thus far, an embarrassing number.

Here’s another number for you: Of the 53 openings, 35 came via firings. Of those, 15 were black head coaches: Avery Johnson (Alabama), Mike Anderson (Arkansas), Wyking Jones (Cal), Sydney Johnson (Fairfield), Maurice Joseph (GW), Kevin Nickelberry (Howard), Al Skinner (Kennesaw State), Clifford Reed (UMES), Andre Payne (Miss. Valley State), Todd Bozeman (Morgan State), Jon Harris (SIUE), Corey Williams (Stetson), Kareem Richardson (UMKC), Marvin Menzies (UNLV) and Ernie Kent (Washington State).

Listen, I’m not saying that some — even most — of these guys should not have been fired. However, the number should be far greater than 17 percent of black coaches being hired. Period.

Here are the eight black head coaches who have been hired: Former Temple star Aaron McKie takes over for Fran Dunphy this year, Vanderbilt plucked Jerry Stackhouse from the NBA, George Washington tabbed Jamion Christian after one season at Siena, Tulane hired Ron Hunter after a successful run at Georgia State, Tennessee assistant Rob Lanier was hired by Georgia State, and John Smith (Cal Poly), Amir Abdur-Rahim (Kennesaw State) and Quinton Ferrell (Presbyterian) are first-time head coaches.



William & Mary Athletic Director Samantha Huge didn’t just fire Tony Shaver. She fired and had to pay him $1.7 million — AT WILLIAM & FREAKING MARY. Shaver, 65, had won 110 games over the last six seasons — but Huge decided to make a move that will likely set the program back years as just about all the top players decided to transfer elsewhere.

I’m happy for Dane Fischer, who was hired to replace Shaver. It’s a great opportunity, but when you fire Shaver and go out and get a George Mason assistant — and have to eat nearly $2 million of the school’s money to do so — it just doesn’t make a ton of sense.



Two guys were plucked from the D-2 ranks: Niagara hired Patrick Beilein (Le Moyne) and Idaho State went with Ryan Looney (Point Loma Nazarene).

Beilein, 36, is the son of Michigan’s John Beilein and was hired after a four-year stint at Le Moyne in which he won 77 games and went to a trio of NCAA tournaments. Looney, 43, was 69-28 in three years at Point Loma Nazarene and went to the D-2 national title game this season. He’s also been head coach at Eastern Oregon from 2004-09 (NAIA) and Seattle Pacific (Division II), and has a career record of 328-134.



Parker & Associates won the search firm game this year. Dan Parker and his group got a grand total of eight coaching searches by my count, including six men’s: George Washington, Saint Joseph’s, Buffalo, Appalachian State, Georgia State and Northern Kentucky. They also did two on the women’s side: Marquette and Xavier.

By my estimate, that’s about $600,000 or so ($75K per search). I can’t wait to start my own search firm — and when I do, I’ll make sure Mike Cragg doesn’t hire Mike Anderson.

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