Top Men’s Basketball Assistants: Big Ten

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.

Dwayne Stephens, Michigan State | The Michigan native played for the Spartans from 1989-93 and then spent three years playing professionally in Europe. Stephens spent four years (1999-2003) as an assistant for Tom Crean at Marquette before returning to his alma mater in 2003. He’s spent the past eight seasons as Michigan State’s associate head coach.

“DJ has the unique ability to fit in with everyone. He has great people skills, but in all honesty, he is underappreciated as a ‘basketball mind.’ He is very good being my right-hand man on the bench in game situations. Will be an excellent head coach someday soon.” – Michigan State coach Tom Izzo

“Dwayne has been a staple with the Michigan State basketball program for a long time as he has done an outstanding job recruiting, and is constantly in Coach Izzo’s ear during in-game play.” – Big Ten assistant

Ryan Pedon, Ohio State | Pedon played at Wooster, helping to lead the Fighting Scots to three NCAA Tournaments. He was a grad assistant at Miami (Ohio) from 2000-02, the director of basketball operations at Kent State (2002-05), and was an assistant at Miami (Ohio) from 2005-10 and Toledo (2010-13) before becoming the assistant to head coach John Groce at Illinois from 2013-15. Pedon joined Chris Holtmann’s staff at Butler in 2015, and went with Holtmann to Ohio State in 2017.

“It begins with Ryan’s motor and work ethic, which is just outstanding. He’s thorough, persistent and great at relationship-building in recruiting and player development. He’s certainly paid his dues, but his constant curiosity and hunger to learn and grow as a coach is impressive. He’s really good. I’m really excited to see him become a head coach when he feels it’s the right opportunity.” – Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann

“He’s a grinder who has really established himself as one of the best assistants in the league due to his versatility. He can coach and has also been one of the best recruiters in the Big Ten.” – Big Ten assistant

Dane Fife, Michigan State | The Clarkston High (Mich.) stud was an McDonald’s All-American in 1998 and played at Indiana from 1998-2002. Fife spent two seasons as an administrative assistant for Mike Davis at IU before becoming the head coach at IPFW from 2005-11. Fife left his head spot in 2011 to join Tom Izzo’s staff in East Lansing.

“Dane is a guy I’ve known since he was in high school and I was excited when we had the chance to bring him here, and that hasn’t changed in nearly 10 years. He’s a terrific coach, a great recruiter and knows the game. He has had a great impact on our success and I appreciate the commitment he’s made.” – Michigan State coach Tom Izzo

“He has a wealth of Big Ten experience as a big-time player and as a long-time assistant. His defensive mindset is clearly implemented in the toughness that has been a staple under (Tom) Izzo at Michigan State. His relationship with players is clearly one of the reasons they do such a great job in recruiting every year and remain as consistent of a program as there is in the country.” – Big Ten assistant

Tom Ostrom, Indiana | Ostrom graduated from Minnesota in 1997 and spent seven years at Florida — the first five as an administrative assistant/video coordinator (1998-2002) and the final two (2003-04) as an assistant. Ostrom then joined John Pelphrey’s staff at South Alabama and was there from 2004-07 before going with Pelphrey to Arkansas from 2007-11. Ostrom joined Archie Miller’s staff at Dayton in 2011 and went with Miller to Indiana in 2017.

“Tom is the total package as a coach. His greatest strength is developing relationships. He’s a great communicator on all levels. Everyone from parents, recruits, players, staff and university employees all trust him. As a coach, his experience and loyalty to the program brings another head coach to the table in all decisions. He should be recognized as one of the best in the business.” – Indiana coach Archie Miller

“Tom is a guy that always knows what’s going on in college basketball! His relentless approach to recruiting is what makes him one of the best in the country!” – Big Ten assistant

Orlando “Bino” Ranson, Maryland | Ranson was a standout at Southern New Hampshire in the late 1990s, started coaching AAU ball and then coached at St. Frances Academy for two years before joining the Loyola (Md.) staff in 2003 as an administrative assistant. Ranson was an assistant at Marist (2004-07), James Madison (2008-09) and Xavier (2009-10) before going to Maryland in 2010.

“Bino is a passionate person that loves engaging with people. He has developed many friends in the business that trust him. Finally, he is an everyday guy.” – Maryland coach Mark Turgeon

“Bino has the ability to adapt to any and all situations. First, he’s a very good coach. As importantly, he has a heart of gold. His players revere him and he always seems to be in the thick of things when trophies are being raised.” – Big Ten assistant

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