The Hot Seat gets most of the attention this time of the year, but it’s only fair to give credit to the college coaches who could — and should be — hot names after the 2019-20 season. Here are 20 guys to keep an eye on because they may not be long for their current spots, especially when the big boys come calling.
For those keeping score at home, four coaches on our list from last year got higher-profile jobs: Nate Oats (Alabama), John Brannen (Cincinnati), Eric Musselman (Arkansas) and T.J. Otzelberger (UNLV). We didn’t hit on Kyle Smith (San Francisco to Washington State) or Mike Young (Wofford to Virginia Tech).
[RELATED: Jeff Goodman’s Preseason Top 25 Rankings]
Craig Smith, Utah State
Record: 107-62 (79-55 in four seasons at South Dakota; 28-7 in one season at Utah State), 1 NCAA Tournament appearance
Smith enjoyed success at South Dakota, winning 48 games during his final two seasons, which resulted in his hire at Utah State. But what he did last season with a team projected to finish near the bottom of the Mountain West was beyond impressive. Utah State went 28-7 (15-3 in league play) and swept the regular-season and league tourney titles. Smith has Sam Merrill and Neemias Queta back, and should have another strong season in Logan.
Earl Grant, College of Charleston
Record: 101-65 (5 seasons), 1 NCAA Tournament appearance
He’s got a team that is favored to win the CAA, and if he can get back to the NCAA tourney (he led the Cougars to the Big Dance in 2018), he’ll be a hot name — especially for ACC and SEC gigs. Remember, he inherited a mess after Doug Wojcik was fired in 2014.
John Becker, Vermont
Record: 193-84 (8 seasons), 3 NCAA Tournament appearances
His record is extremely impressive, and he’s got his most talented squad since being promoted in 2011. He made his third tourney appearance last season and has won at least 20 games every season. He should be in the equation for just about every high-major gig in the Northeast.
Steve Forbes, East Tennessee State
Record: 100-39 (4 seasons), 1 NCAA Tournament appearance
In four years at ETSU, he’s 61 games over .500. Last season was his worst since taking over, and he still went 24-10 overall and was 13-5 in the league. The Bucs will be favored to win the SoCon this season, and if he gets to the NCAA Tournament again (he went in 2017), Forbes should be a lock to get a high-major job.
Mike Rhoades, VCU
Record: 90-75 (47-52 in three seasons at Rice; 43-23 in two seasons at VCU), 1 NCAA Tournament appearance
The track record of coaches getting plucked at VCU is lengthy — Jeff Capel (Oklahoma), Anthony Grant (Alabama), Shaka Smart (Texas) and Will Wade (LSU) all got bigger jobs within six years. Rhoades won 25 games last season and led the Rams to the NCAA Tournament, and VCU could get there again.
Wes Miller, UNC Greensboro
Record: 141-117 (7-plus seasons), 1 NCAA Tournament appearance
If Wake Forest makes a move with Danny Manning, Miller is one of the favorites, and not just because his father is a big-time booster at Wake. Miller, the former UNC guard, has won at least 25 games each of the past three seasons, and the Spartans should have a chance to challenge for the league title again with Isaiah Miller back.
Ryan Odom, UMBC
Record: 75-48 (67-37 in 3 seasons at UMBC; 8-11 in 1 season at Charlotte), 1 NCAA Tournament appearance
He obviously pulled off the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history two years ago when the Retrievers beat No. 1 seed Virginia in the first round, but he’s turned around the program and has also won at least 21 games in all three seasons at the helm. It would make sense that Odom would be in the mix at Wake with his father, Dave, a former coach with the Demon Deacons.
Travis DeCuire, Montana
Record: 109-58 (5 seasons), 2 NCAA Tournament appearances
He’s coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, and should be in the equation for high-major openings on the West Coast. DeCuire is a former player at Montana, and the Griz will have a shot to go to the tourney for the third consecutive season.
Porter Moser, Loyola Chicago
Record: 246-226 (54-34 in three seasons at Little Rock; 51-67 in four seasons at Illinois State; 141-125 in eight seasons at Loyola Chicago), 1 NCAA Tournament appearance
Moser pulled the shocker two years ago and took Loyola to the Final Four. He had success at Little Rock, but lasted four seasons at Illinois State and struggled early at Loyola Chicago before hitting it two years ago. We’ll see if he can stay hot after a season last year in which he went 20-14 and was 12-6 in the league.
Chris Jans, New Mexico State
Record: 79-23 (21-12 in one season at Bowling Green; 58-11 in two seasons at New Mexico State), 2 NCAA Tournament appearances
He was fired after one season at Bowling Green, but it was due to an off-the-court issue. Jans can flat-out coach. He led Bowling Green to the CIT in his lone season, and has a 58-11 mark in two years in Las Cruces.
LeVelle Moton, NC Central
Record: 189-135 (10 years), 4 NCAA Tournament appearances
He’s had plenty of interest, but it’s borderline ridiculous that no one has poached him yet. This is a guy who has gone to four NCAA Tournaments since taking over as a D-1 independent a decade ago.
Nathan Davis, Bucknell
Record: 89-45 (4 seasons), 2 NCAA Tournament appearances
After a couple of NCAA Tournament appearances, Davis and the Bison weren’t able to go dancing again last season. They won 21 games and tied for first in the league, but didn’t win the Patriot league tourney. However, Davis & Co. will be in the mix again this season, and he should be up for bigger jobs.
Matt McMahon, Murray State
Record: 87-42 (4 seasons), 2 NCAA Tournament appearances
McMahon has made the NCAA Tournament two straight years, and now he can play the Ja Morant card (evaluating a future No. 2 pick) to help land his next gig. McMahon will also get a chance to prove he can return to the tourney without Morant.
Baker Dunleavy, Quinnipiac
Record: 28-36 (2 seasons)
He’s got the bloodlines, and he also learned from Jay Wright at Villanova. Quinnipiac is one of the best jobs in the league, and Dunleavy powered the Bobcats to a second-place finish in the league in his second season. If he can either win the regular-season title or get QU to the NCAA Tournament, he’ll be plucked immediately.
Dan Majerle, Grand Canyon
Record: 123-72 (six seasons)
He hasn’t reached the Big Dance, but Majerle is more than 50 games over the .500 mark and has arguably the best job in the WAC. Plus, he’s Thunder Dan. He’ll also have the help of Jerry Colangelo if needed.
Mike Jones, Radford
Record: 138-127 (eight seasons), 1 NCAA Tournament appearance
Jones took the Highlanders to the NCAA tourney two years ago, the program tied for the regular-season title last season and will have a chance to win the Big South this year.
Dana Ford, Missouri State
Record: 73-81 (57-65 in four years at Tennessee State; 16-16 in one season at Missouri State)
Don’t judge Ford solely on the numbers. He did a solid job at Tennessee State, and tied for third in the Valley in his lone season thus far at Missouri State. The guy can recruit and coach, and if he wins the MVC this season — like many expect — he’ll quickly be a hot name come March and April.
Chris Ogden, UT-Arlington
It’s only been one season, but Ogden was a former player under Rick Barnes at Texas, and has coached under Chris Beard at Texas Tech. He’s also got a job at UTA that is one of the best in the league, so he’ll have a chance to get to the NCAA Tournament pretty much every year.
Russ Turner, UC-Irvine
Record: 188-128 (9 seasons), 2 NCAA Tournament appearances
He probably would have gotten something last season if not for an ill-advised comment in which he admitted to calling Louis King “Queen.” Last season, Turner reached the NCAA Tournament (his second in the last five years), and has won at least 21 games in six of the past seven seasons.
James Jones, Yale
Record: 310-273 (20 seasons), 2 NCAA Tournament appearances
Jones has taken Yale to the NCAA Tournament twice in the past four years, and has also either won or tied for first place in the Ivy League in three of the last five seasons. He was in the mix for St. John’s, and should get something soon with his recent success at a tough spot.