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.
Jeremy Cox, Stephen F. Austin | The Colorado native graduated from Colorado Mesa University in 1991. He started his coaching career as a grad assistant at Wyoming (1991-92) and has moved around quite a bit since then. He’s been an assistant at Paris (1992-93) and UTSA (1993-97), a head coach at North Dakota State College of Science (1997-98) and Garden City College (1998-2002), an assistant at Arkansas-Fort Smith (2002-03), a head coach at Fort Smith (2003-06), an assistant at Texas A&M (2006-07), Kentucky (2007-09), South Florida (2009-11), Nebraska (2011-12), Texas Tech (2012-13), a head coach at Southern Idaho (2013-14) and an assistant at Southern Miss (2014-16). Cox has been with Kyle Keller at Stephen F. Austin since 2016.
“Jeremy is super experienced and anticipates problems and solves them. He’s a former head coach and a Power Five assistant who has won multiple championships. Extremely passionate leader of men, detailed fundamental teacher of the game, energy giver and very good evaluator.” – Stephen F. Austin coach Kyle Keller
“Jeremy has been around a long time and has great relationships on all levels, but especially in junior college where he recruits really good players. He also still has a great motor and will outwork a lot of people. Great teacher, plus has held that team together behind the scenes. Ultimate grinder, his travels have proven to make him invaluable in the Southland, has helped create incredible culture and been part of the most successful program in the Southland.” – Southland assistant
Brette Tanner, Abilene Christian | Played two years at Allen County CC and then two at Emporia State. Tanner was an assistant under Chris Beard for two seasons at Fort Scott CC before becoming the head coach for four years (2000-04). He was an assistant at South Plains (2004-06) and Stephen F. Austin (2006-13) before arriving at Abilene in 2013.
“It is no secret in our program — or the league — how important Coach Tanner is to our success. He has a daily impact on our program in all areas. He always gets complimented for his work on the defensive end for us, but he does so much more than that. He has a great feel in game, builds great relationships with the players and can evaluate talent in recruiting with the best of them. He is also heavily involved with budgeting and scheduling. He is trusted and treated like another head coach in our program. We take a 10-hour bus trip in league instead of flying so we can afford to pay him. That’s how important he is to this program!” – Abilene Christian coach Joe Golding
“Complete assistant coach. Coaches, recruits and administers. Helped Danny Kaspar build SFA into the perennial power that it has become and is doing the same thing with Joe Golding at ACU. Brette has been in the Southland a long time and has recruited very well wherever he’s been. He’s also a very smart coach who is a big part of why Coach Golding and him have been so successful at ACU. He has his hands on every part of the program: one of the best scouting report guys in [the] business, recruits to their program as good as anyone in league and one of the best defensive coaches in the country.” – Southland assistant
Chris Mudge, Sam Houston State | He graduated from Texas in 2006, where he was a manager for Rick Barnes. He was then a graduate assistant for the next two years in Austin. Mudge was an assistant at Midland College for two years and joined the Sam Houston State staff in 2010.
“First of all, he’s a highly intelligent guy. Maybe one [of the best] — if not the best — academic coaches in the country. Does a tremendous job evaluating talent and with scouting opponents! Has a passion for the game and does a great job helping our guys get better in every facet.” – Sam Houston State coach Jason Hooten
“The dude grinds. He’s always on the road recruiting and he has a great relationship with his players. Just one of those guys who gets things done.” – Southland assistant
Jody Bailey, New Orleans | The Kentucky native graduated from Louisville in 1995 and started his coaching career with the Cardinals under Denny Crum. Bailey served as head coach at Calvary Christian Academy (1995-96), Eagles Landing Christian Academy (2002-04) and Jacksonville College (2010-15), and as an assistant coach at Indiana University-Southeast (1996-97), Beth Haven Christian School (1997-98), Kentucky Wesleyan (1998-99) and Tennessee Temple (1999-2002). He also worked as an NBA scout for Marty Blake & Associates (2004-06), video coordinator at Air Force Academy (2006-07) and director of operations at Colorado (2007-10). Bailey joined the UNO staff in 2015 after five seasons as the head coach at Jacksonville College in Texas.
“Jody brings so much experience to our staff. I am very lucky to work with him. He’s coached at every level, both as an assistant and a head coach. The knowledge that he brings to our program has been invaluable. He connects with our student-athletes and campus. He has all the tools: coaching acumen, experience, recruiting, passion and energy.” – New Orleans coach Mark Slessinger
“Jody is a grinder, he’s been around for a long time. He’s well-liked, has a ton of contacts, so he can get players, but he knows how to develop and get the most of guys.” – Southland assistant
Wade Mason, Stephen F. Austin* | The New Orleans native played at Tyler Junior College and Tulane. He was a grad assistant at Oklahoma in 2011-12, was an assistant coach at Oral Roberts from 2012-16 and joined Kyle Keller’s staff at SFA in 2016.
“Cancer survivor, family man and a great dad. Wade is a role model to our players, he has a fantastic knowledge of the game — both at individual skill workouts and detailed scout reports. He’s enthusiastic every day, engaging our guys to want to become better. He really wants them to achieve their goals for life. He’s a focused recruiter and talent evaluator.” – Stephen F. Austin coach Kyle Keller
“Wade has been through a lot, but the bottom line is that he’s a rising star. He knows everything and everyone. He’s a terrific recruiter with an eye for talent, but he connects with kids and people. That’s something that separates him.” – Southland assistant
John Aiken, McNeese State* | The Portland, Maine native graduated from Southern Maine in 2008. He was an assistant at the University of New England (2007-08) and at Belhaven University from 2008-12 before he took over as the head coach at Belhaven (2012-14). Aiken was an assistant at UT Martin from 2014-16 and Nicholls from 2016-18 before coming to McNeese in 2018.
“John is loyal and a true grinder! He can recruit, coach and develops great relationships on campus and in the community. He’s the whole package and will be a phenomenal head coach.” – McNeese State coach Heath Schroyer
“John is a guy that has done a great job in the league both at Nicholls and now at McNeese. He’s one of those guys who can honestly do everything: recruit, develop and also coach.” – Southland assistant
Trevor Deloach, Nicholls State* | Deloach graduated from UNCW in 2011, where he was the captain for his final three seasons. He was a graduate assistant for his alma mater during the 2013-14 campaign and then became an assistant at UMES from 2014-16. He spent the 2016-18 seasons as an assistant at South Carolina State before joining Nicholls State in 2018.
“One of the hardest-working coaches I’ve ever been around. He is constantly looking for ways to improve our team. He is an incredible problem solver — his positivity is infectious! Most importantly, one of the most loyal people you’ll ever meet. He’s an elite coach, an even better person.” – Nicholls State coach Austin Claunch
“He’s a sleeper, an up-and-coming coach who has allowed Claunch to do his thing. He’s going to be a star.” – Southland assistant
*Three-way tie for fifth place.