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.
T.J. Sorrentine, Brown | The Rhode Island native is best known for his role in Vermont’s upset win over Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament in 2005, and he also had his number retired in Burlington this past year. Sorrentine played professionally overseas from 2005-08, then joined the Brown coaching staff in 2008 and was elevated to associate head coach in 2011.
“T.J. excels in every aspect of coaching. He’s outstanding with people and builds genuine and lasting relationships with our players, their families, recruits, coaches, alumni and people on campus. He also has extensive knowledge of the game and can really teach it. He’s constantly looking for ways to grow and improve himself and our program, is a natural leader and makes everyone around him better. We are so fortunate to have him with us.” – Brown coach Mike Martin
“It’s really impressive what Brown has done because it’s very hard for the other four teams to break into the top half. T.J.’s been with Mike Martin the whole way. They’ve done a good job recruiting. T.J. is high energy and a great ‘relationships guy.’ He’s a veteran coach in the league with a strong basketball background that has continued to make Brown a competitive opponent.” – Ivy League assistant
Matt Kingsley, Yale | The 1998 Wesleyan University grad is the school’s all-time leader in 3-pointers (191). He was an assistant at Saint Thomas More School, spent one season as an assistant at Clarkson University and then was an assistant at Eastern Connecticut before coming to Yale 15 years ago. He began as a volunteer assistant and is now the associate head coach.
“Matt is a tremendously hard worker and he never leaves a stone unturned. Will do whatever it takes to be successful.” – Yale coach James Jones
“Matt has been a huge part of Yale’s success. He came into the league when it was Penn and Princeton [dominating] — it took some time, but they have been at or near [the] top for a while. He helps them get great players, and they have won in different ways. This year, the defense was great, and Matt has had his fingerprints on the offense, which has been very good for years. Matt is thorough, meticulous and always present.” – Ivy League assistant
Nat Graham, Penn | He started his playing career at Penn and transferred to Western Ontario before ultimately getting his degree from Penn. Graham played a couple of years overseas after graduating in 1997 and then got into high school coaching in Burlington, Ontario. He then spent one season as an assistant at Western Ontario (2003-04) and one at the University of Toronto (2004-05) before spending five years at Cornell (2005-10). Graham followed Steve Donahue to Boston College for four seasons (2010-14), and then left for Penn, where he’s been since 2014.
“My relationship with Nat goes back more than 25 years, and there’s a reason that I’ve had him on my staff across three different programs: his passion for the game. Additionally, he understands what is important to our program and recruits great players who fit that profile. Having him on staff at his alma mater has only made the experience of working with him that much more meaningful. Nat has always done a great job for me whether it was at Cornell, at BC or here at Penn.” – Penn coach Steve Donahue
“Nat is a veteran coach who has been with Steve Donahue for a long time and played a huge part in their success. Nat is smart, isn’t a self-promoter and should be a head coach sometime soon.” – Ivy League assistant
Justin Simon, Yale | The Long Island native was a member of James Jones’ first recruiting class as a player at Yale. After graduating, he spent time as a science teacher and coach at Cardinal Hayes High in the Bronx, as well as working as a financial advisor. He returned to Yale in 2011 and has been with the program as a coach for the past decade.
“Justin is great with people, and has a way of making everyone feel at ease. He truly cares about helping guide young men to bring out their best on and off the floor.” – Yale coach James Jones
“Justin has a very good presence on the road. He’s a big guy and has a big personality. Coaches and players are attracted to him, and he’s done a great job helping Yale get to the point where you can say they may be the best program in our league.” – Ivy League assistant
Donny Guerinoni, Harvard* | The California native began his college playing career at West Valley College before transferring to Nevada, where he played for Trent Johnson. Guerinoni also began his coaching career at West Valley (2002-04) before coaching under Johnson at Stanford (2004-08), LSU (2008-12) and TCU (2012-14). He joined Tommy Amaker’s Harvard staff in 2015.
“He brings a wealth of experience and wisdom for his age — complete package as an assistant. Tremendous tactician and team builder. Brian (Eskildsen), Donny and Mike (Sotsky) are all tremendous teachers and team guys. They are all ready and capable of being a head coach.” – Harvard coach Tommy Amaker
“Donny is a genuine person with a strong basketball background who has helped to continue Harvard’s stellar recruiting. He’s been at a few high-majors and really helps Tommy Amaker both on and off the court.” – Ivy League assistant
Brian Eskildsen, Harvard* | The Fairfax, Virginia native graduated from Tennessee, where he was a scout team player for Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols. Eskildsen began his coaching career as the director of basketball operations at New Orleans in 2009, spent three seasons at Stanford as the recruiting and video coordinator, and one year as an assistant at Rice (2013-14) before arriving at Harvard in 2014.
“Brian is our recruiting coordinator and has developed into one of the top assistants in the country. He is complete [at] recruiting, teaching, leading and building relationships. Brian, Donny (Guerinoni) and Mike (Sotsky) are all tremendous teachers and team guys. They are all ready and capable of being a head coach.” – Harvard coach Tommy Amaker
“Tommy (Amaker) has had a lot of turnover with his staff and won with all the different incantations, but I think this one has gotten the best players, maybe not [the] highest rated. Brian is the top guy on staff, works his ass off and has really landed some good players.” – Ivy League assistant
*Two-way tie for fifth place.