Top Men’s Basketball Assistants: Big Sky

In this series, we’ll be giving props to some of the best assistants in college basketball.

For each conference, I polled at least 20 coaches (primarily assistants) and asked for them to name the top assistant coaches in their respective league. Is it a perfect way of determining the elite assistants? Maybe not, but it seems far more accurate than any other method.

I’ve also made sure to include some info on each coach that’s recognized — as well as quotes from both their boss and another assistant in the league.

Nick Booker, Eastern Washington (Now at UC San Diego) | The Oceanside, Calif. native and Davidson product left EWU this past offseason to get back closer to his family at UC San Diego, which is entering the D-1 ranks. Booker spent three years at Saddleback CC before coaching for six years at UC Irvine. He was the director of basketball operations at his alma mater in 2016-17 before joining Shantay Legans’ staff at EWU in 2017.

“He is a terrific defensive-minded coach that gets the best out of players on that end of the floor. His presence was huge amongst our team, he helped us build an identity which will last long after he is gone.” – Eastern Washington coach Shantay Legans

“Very competitive, and the glue to their team. Huge part of their success. Excellent recruiter and skill development coach. Well-rounded and brings great energy, connected in Southern California and the assistant with the most SWAG in the league.” – Big Sky assistant

Chris Cobb, Montana | The Bishop O’Dowd standout graduated from Menlo College in 2009 and began his coaching career under Bill Treseler at San Francisco State in 2009. Cobb went to Chico State in 2010 and stayed four years before landing at Montana in 2014, where he was elevated to associate head coach in 2016.

“Cobb is a relentless competitor! Most assistants are defined by the players they can successfully recruit. Not Chris. He has played a major role in the development of our program in all aspects.” – Montana coach Travis DeCuire

“He’s been a part of multiple titles at Montana and is highly involved in all aspects of their success. An excellent tactical coach who hustles on the recruiting trail to bring in the best talent for one of the better West Coast programs — regardless of level.” – Big Sky assistant

Eric Duft, Weber State | Duft graduated from Sterling College in 1995. He was an assistant at Central Community College in Kansas from 1995-97, became head coach in 1997-98, was an assistant at Cowley County in 1998-99 and then spent seven years at Hutchinson Junior College. After the trio of junior college stops in his home state, Duft joined Randy Rahe’s staff in 2006 and was elevated to associate head coach in 2009.

“He has all the ingredients to make him an excellent assistant coach. High-character, extremely loyal, great work ethic, has a good basketball mind and is a team player. I want assistants that do everything well, and Eric does a very good job in every area. Good recruiter, good [at] Xs and Os [and] game prep, good player development coach and has good relationships with our players. He checks every box.” – Weber State coach Randy Rahe

“Been with Coach Rahe from day one and has been a huge part of Weber’s offensive success over the years. Great teacher and evaluator of talent.” – Big Sky assistant

Brandon Laird, Sacramento State | Laird played four seasons at UC Davis (1997-2001) and started his coaching career as a high school assistant at his alma mater, El Camino High. Laird then served on the UC Davis staff in 2002-03 before spending six years at Menlo College — three as an assistant and three as the head coach. Laird then left for a two-year stint at UC Davis before coming to Sacramento State in 2011.

“Brandon is extremely bright, innovative and a tireless worker. In addition, he is very good at player evaluation which is very important in recruiting. I have no doubt that he will be a great head coach at this level in the future.” – Sacramento State coach Brian Katz

“[His] team is always prepared, tough and physical. He’s a huge contributor to that. Highly respected in the league because of his work ethic and integrity. A well-rounded coach that does a really good job in all areas. Excellent in scouting and game management/adjustments.” – Big Sky assistant

Chris Haslam, Montana State | The native of England played at Wyoming and spent more than a decade playing overseas in Greece, Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Great Britain. He was a player-coach towards the end of his pro career, and coached at Lamar Community College in Colorado from 2010-13. He joined the Montana State staff in 2013.

“Chris is an extremely organized and detailed assistant in all facets — from coaching on-floor skill development to office work. He has a tremendous ability to connect with student-athletes on a personal level. He truly cares and values the relationship which is why he’s an excellent recruiter. He has great energy on and off the floor which is contagious to those around him.” – Montana State coach Danny Sprinkle

“One of the most connected assistants internationally in the Big Sky, and he was a wealth of knowledge on the floor as well. Has brought in some great international kids that have become all-league players. Well respected in the league.” – Big Sky assistant

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