Looks like Troy went within their own conference for their next head coach.
The Trojans will hire Western Kentucky assistant Phil Cunningham as their leading man, according to a report from CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman. A press conference is scheduled for Tuesday.
Cunningham spent this past season on staff at WKU after spending the previous 12 on Rick Stansbury’s staff at Mississippi State. The position will be his first as a Division I head coach. He previously served as a head coach at Sue Bennett College, a junior college/transitional NAIA school in his time there, for three years.
Cunningham and current Troy Athletic Director John Hartwell worked together at Georgia State, where Cunningham served as an assistant under Lefty Driesell.
Cunningham will be tasked with replacing Don Maestri, the only coach Troy has had in its time in Division I. Maestri served as the Trojans head coach in their time as Division II powerhouse, reaching the D-II national title game during the 1992-93 season. The team made the transition to Division I in 1993-94.
Maestri was 500-404 in his 31 seasons as head coach at Troy.
The hire is a solid one. Cunningham is a great recruiter — he brought Jarvis Varnado and Arnett Moultrie to Starkville, and also signed Monta Ellis before he opted for the NBA in 2005. He was on the WKU staff that won the Sun Belt Conference tournament title this season and recently fell 64-57 to no.1 seed Kansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Troy has had a spotty run in the Sun Belt recently. Cunningham could turn that around if he taps into his already solid recruiting and coaching connections. Troy finished 12-21 overall last season, 6-14 in the Sun Belt.
(Photo courtesy of WKU Athletics.)
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.