This is the first 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 America East shook out among coaches who voted, with one being the best and nine being the worst:
1. Stony Brook (66) – Transitioned into the D-1 ranks in 1999-2000, and won four conference titles in seven seasons under Steve Pikiell before he left for Rutgers a year ago. Ranks at the top of the league in facilities, resources and recruiting base.
Where they win: Ranked at the top in facilities due to arena renovation a few years ago where they put in $21 million, also have the best recruiting base in the league. “They want to win big and they invest big time,” one league coach said. “Beautiful arena and basketball facilities.”
The knock: National recognition. Albany and Vermont have tradition, and UMBC is coming off a magical run. Stony Brook also has a perception to many of being a school located in the city, when it’s actually in Long Island.
2. Albany (62) – Will Brown has been there for 17 seasons, and while the Great Danes have gone to the NCAA tourney five times in that span, they have only finished in the top two of the league twice in the past decade. Albany ranks tops in buy games, the top half of the conference in everything except admission requirements – where it’s one of the more difficult places to get kids into school.
Where they win: Good location, long history and rank near the top three of the league in most categories.
The knock: “Solid overall. Haven’t kept up with the rest of the league, … living off history and tradition.”
3. Vermont (56.5) – The Catamounts have won eight regular-season titles since 2002, and have gone to the NCAA tourney six times in that span. It’s been the gold standard in the league over the last two decades. First in tradition, media exposure and game atmosphere – but towards the bottom of the league in facilities, admission requirements, buy games and recruiting base.
Where they win: “Good academics, great college city. Best fan base in the league, most difficult place to win. Breaking ground for a new arena.” – America East coach
The knock: There isn’t a whole lot of talent nearby, it’s tough to get kids into school and the facilities haven’t been up to par with the other top programs in the league. The location is remote – which can make it difficult to get kids to visit.
4. UMBC (56) – There hasn’t been much to cheer about with the Retrievers … until lately. Aki Thomas (85-159, 48-83) was replaced by Ryan Odom a couple years ago, and Odom has quickly made UMBC relevant. He took the program to the CIT in his first season, and then finished second in the league, won the conference tourney and pulled off the huge upset over top-seeded Virginia in the first round of the big dance. UMBC ranks in the middle of the league in most categories – except second in facilities and also recruiting base.
Where they win: New arena, great recruiting base and location, nice campus and good academics.
The knock: “The reputation. It’s changed in the last year, but the program had no cache before that.”
5. Binghamton (44) – Al Walker had a 51-49 league mark in his tenure (2000-07) before Kevin Broadus took over and went to the NCAA tourney in 2009 before being fired. Current coach Tommy Dempsey (20-85 in league play) has been unable to get the Bearcats in the top half of the league since he took over in 2012. Binghamton doesn’t rank in the top two in any category, and is seventh in selling pros and also in admission requirements.
Where they win: “They have arguably the best facilities in the league, are one of the best academically and they can still get anyone in. They draw well, even when they aren’t good.” – America East coach
The knock: It’s arguably the worst location in the America East. “One of those rundown upstate New York industrial towns,” said one league coach. “No football, but a nice arena … especially when they are winning.”
6. Hartford (42.5) – The Hawks are best-known for producing Vin Baker, but none of the last four coaches have been able to get Hartford in the top two of the league at any point. The good: Hartford ranks third with a strong recruiting base, and also has easy admission requirements, checking in third in that as well. However, it sits in the middle of the league for most everything else.
Where they win: The location. It’s close to New York and Hartford also is near all the New England prep schools.
The knock: “It’s a hard job. There’s been turnover with the administration, the campus is just OK and there are a lot of D-1 schools at the same level in Connecticut. I don’t know what their niche is?” – America East coach
7. UMass-Lowell (30) – The River Hawks went into the D-1 ranks in 2013-14, and were first eligible for postseason play in 2017-18. Pat Duquette has kept them competitive, finishing fifth or sixth each of his five seasons at the helm, despite ranking eighth or ninth in six of the nine categories.
Where they win: They aren’t that far from Boston and also the New England prep schools, which are loaded with talent. It’s also easy to get kids into school.
The knock: “They Play in an old, small arena and the campus isn’t great. They do want to win, but have no tradition and not much fan support.” – America East coach
8. UNH (25.5) – Bill Herrion has been the head coach of the Wildcats for the past 13 seasons, and UNH has finished in the bottom half of the league the majority of the time. However, Herrion was 32-16 in league play over a three-year span from 2014-17. The Wildcats check in dead last in facilities and have the most difficult admission requirements in the league. It’s best ranking comes with a fifth-place finish in buy games.
Where they win: It’s a nice campus that isn’t far from Portsmouth, N.H. – which is a great city. They can also sell football and academics.
The knock: “They have poor attendance, and people don’t seem to really care about the basketball program. Football draws most of the athletic resources. Basketball is behind both football and also hockey.” – America East coach
9. Maine (22.5) – New coach Richard Barron takes over a Black Bears program that has never been to the NCAA tourney. Previous coach Bob Walsh was 12-52 in his four seasons in America East play, and Ted Woodward was 64-84 in 10 seasons from 2004-14. Maine checks in eighth or ninth in seven of the nine categories, but does have the easiest admission requirements.
Where they win: They can get anyone into school and it’s the state school – so people do care.
The knock: “They have really bad resources, and no history.” – America East coach