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.
James Miller, New Mexico State* | Miller graduated from Colorado State in 2005, spent four seasons at CSU Pueblo (2005-09) and was an assistant at New Mexico Junior College from 2009-12 before becoming the head coach from 2012-15. Miller was an assistant at Omaha in 2015-16, Arkansas State in 2016-17, North Texas in 2017-18 and joined Chris Jans’ staff in 2018.
“I’ve always felt the best litmus test for an associate head coach was how a program would fare if the head coach took a sabbatical. New Mexico State wouldn’t miss a beat because of James Miller. He has no weaknesses and we are fortunate to work with him. He can do it all at a high level, period.” – New Mexico State coach Chris Jans
“If results matter, it’s hard not to include the associate head coach on a team that has gone 31-1 in the last two WAC regular seasons. All the guy has done at the Division I level is win. Omaha, Arkansas State, North Texas, NMSU. NMSU has a great staff, but Miller is a big reason they’ve dominated the league the past two years.” – WAC assistant
Jai Steadman, UTRGV* | The Lincoln, Neb. native graduated from Nebraska, where he began his coaching career as an administrative assistant from 1992 to 1997. He was an assistant at Tyler Junior College for three years and then was an assistant at TCU in 2002-03 before spending two years coaching in Denmark and in the CBA. Steadman was an assistant at McNeese State (2004-05) and North Texas (2005-06) before working in the NBA D-League (2006-07). He then went to Louisiana-Lafayette from 2007-09 before joining the Rio Grande Valley Vipers from 2009-12. He spent 2012-13 as an assistant at Bellevue University, served one season as the head coach at Westwind Prep Academy and came to UTRGV in 2014.
“Jai is a great recruiter and tireless worker. He is also great with the players and a team-first coach.” – UTRGV coach Lew Hill
“Jai works really hard and has years of experience. He looks, and finds players, under a lot of unturned rocks.” – WAC assistant
David Anwar, New Mexico State | The Philly native graduated from Fitchburg State in 1998. Anwar was an assistant at Arkansas-Fort Smith from 2000-04, the director of basketball operations at UTEP from 2004-06 and then spent six years at Nebraska (2006-12). He went to North Texas for five seasons (2012-17) before coming to Las Cruces in 2017.
“Coach Anwar is a special coach — actually, he is a special person! Anyone that knows “Philly Dave” will agree. Yes, he is an elite recruiter, relationship builder, loyal and underrated on the floor, but it’s his A-plus in the ‘human category’ that separates him. Dave is the most well-liked person in our organization for a reason.” – New Mexico State coach Chris Jans
“David Anwar keeps me up at night. I am constantly thinking how I can upgrade our current roster and make it as good and as deep as NMSU has. His on-the-court coaching is really good, but his fierce and hard-working recruiting skills have helped produce All-WAC conference players and has helped Coach Jans remain at the top of the WAC conference. I truly believe David Anwar is the best recruiter in the WAC conference.” – WAC assistant
Hardy Asprilla, California Baptist | Asprilla graduated from Cal State Fullerton in 2005 after playing two seasons with the Titans. He played professionally overseas, then was a grad assistant at Cal State Fullerton from 2005-07. He then spent two seasons as an assistant at Citrus College, two at Humboldt State and one at his alma mater before joining the CBU staff in 2013.
“Hardy is the total package. Leader. Competitor. Teacher. Role Model. An amazing recruiter and coach but his true greatness has been personified in his mentorship of our men.” – California Baptist coach Rick Croy
“Hardy has helped CBU fast-rise to the top half of the WAC with his on-court presence, attention to detail and continued hard work at adding high-quality transfers to CBU’s talented roster. He’s an energetic and passionate coach on the sidelines who has been with Croy through the transition to D-1.” – WAC assistant
Adam Jacobsen, California Baptist** | He’s the career 3-point leader at Pacific, graduating in 1997. Jacobsen spent two years on the Pacific staff, then coached his alma mater, Crescenta Valley High, before returning to Pacific from 2003-15. He was an assistant at Hawaii from 2015-19 before joining the CBU staff in 2019.
“Adam is the consummate professional. He has 20-plus years of building programs and winning. One of the most respected competitors and offensive minds in the nation.” – California Baptist coach Rick Croy
“One of the most experienced coaches in the league. Has helped increase their recruiting in his short time there. Adam is a well-respected coach and person, and very recognizable on the West Coast. He does a good job managing the offense and calling plays for California Baptist, and is known to be a hard worker on the recruiting trail and exceptional at building relationships.” – WAC assistant
Kenya Crandell, UTRGV** | The former Nebraska-Kearney standout graduated in 1996 and began his coaching career at his alma mater from 1997-99 as a grad assistant before being promoted to assistant for the 1999-2000 season. He spent the next season at Northern Colorado before a six-year stint at Omaha. He then went to Sacramento State, Southern Utah, Oregon and Montana State before joining the UTRGV staff in 2016.
“Kenya really understands the game and is always studying film to improve. Has a great presence on the floor.” – UTRGV coach Lew Hill
“Has really helped in the development of the guards in their program. Known as a big recruiter for them as well.” – WAC assistant
*Two-way tie for first place.
**Two-way tie for fifth place.