Al Skinner

Big name candidates for UMass Lowell head coaching job

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As UMass Lowell makes the transition to Division I, they will be doing so with a new head coach. In April, former UML coach Greg Herenda accepted the head coaching job at Fairleigh Dickinson replacing Greg Vetrone.

Herenda built the River Hawks into a strong Division II program compiling a record of 95-54 in his five seasons at the helm, including four straight tournament appearances. But, Division I is a different animal. UML is set to join the America East conference and will have to wait four years to become eligible for postseason play—similar to what Bryant University went through when making the move to the Northeast Conference.

In a report from the Lowell Sun last week, there are several big name candidates that are being targeted for the job: former big-time college coaches Al Skinner and Jim O’Brien, current Williams College coach Mike Maker—who was recently a candidate for the head coaching position at American University—and former Kentucky star and Louisville assistant Walter McCarty.

It’s hard to say if one of the candidates has emerged as a favorite, but former Rhode Island and Boston College coach Al Skinner may fit the description as outlined by UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan:

“We’re looking for folks with an outstanding track record, and with Division 1 experience. We’ve heard from coaches with experience at top-notch programs, and young and hungry assistants from Division 1 programs. I have been impressed with the caliber of coaches that we’ve received interest from.”

It is commonly known that there is little love lost between Skinner and Boston College who didn’t part ways on the friendliest of terms, but it’s hard to deny Skinner’s track record. Compiling a 247-165 record at BC cannot be discounted, nor can his seven NCAA Tournament appearances in a nine year span.

What about Jim O’Brien? Also a former Boston College coach who had much success in the mid-90s, but left for Ohio State where he took the Buckeyes to the Final Four in 1999, which they later vacated due to NCAA violations committed by O’Brien. O’Brien was eventually fired by Ohio State, but has been the head coach at Emerson College since 2011.

“Other notable names rumored to be in the mix for the UML job include current Emerson College and former Boston College and Ohio State coach Jim O’Brien, Williams College coach Mike Maker, Northeastern assistant Pat Duquette, Florida Atlantic assistant Mike Jarvis II, and former NBA veteran Walter McCarty.”

Another name to keep an eye on is current Central Connecticut assistant and former Holy Cross and College of Charleston assistant Sean Ryan. In an earlier article from the Lowell Sun, Ryan is “very interested” in the job:

According to a source, Ryan is “mustering a ton of support” among fans, alumni and others invested in the UMass Lowell men’s basketball program. The source also said that Ryan views UML as a “destination job, and a great opportunity.”

Ultimately, it comes down to the direction UML wishes to head in: a proven Division 1 head coach who’s demonstrated the capability of running a successful program, or a hot up-and-coming a coach who will bring the necessary energy to transition the program up a level.

Seeing that it’s already mid-May and UML is without a coaching staff in place with practices beginning in just over four months, expect a coach to be named in the coming weeks.

You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
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Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.

Coach Hamilton likes mix on Florida State basketball roster

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State is the only team in the Atlantic Coast Conference that returns all five of its starters from last season.

For most teams that would be cause for celebration. For coach Leonard Hamilton it means he is hoping the struggles of the past two seasons have been valuable experience.

The Seminoles had their first practice on Wednesday as they are looking to bounce back from a season in which they went 17-16 and didn’t play in a postseason tournament for the first time in 10 years.

“We have five starters returning from a team that won 17 games. We have guys that have been around, who know their shortcomings and can pass on their wisdom to the younger players,” Hamilton said.

With an experienced roster and a highly regarded recruiting class, Hamilton is hoping to lead the Seminoles back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, which is also the year they won the ACC Tournament.

Jarquez Smith, the leading returning scorer from last season, said the open gyms before the start of practice have been extremely competitive as the incoming recruiting class has tried to assert itself early.

“We’ve been going at each other’s neck and it has gotten very competitive,” Smith said. “Everyone is fighting for their position because the guys coming off the bench are just as athletic as who is on the court.”

The newcomers feature Dwayne Bacon (a McDonald’s All-American selection), Terance Mann (the Gatorade Player of the Year in New Hampshire) and Malik Beasley (the Georgia 1A Player of the Year). There’s also Chris Koumadje, who at 7-foot-4 will be the tallest player in school history, and Benji Bell, who helped lead Northwest Florida State to the JUCO National Title.

“This is a very confident and focused group of inexperienced players,” Hamilton said. “They want to make something special happen but aren’t taking anything for granted.”

Two things that Hamilton will look to work on during preseason practices is defense and figuring out his rotation. The Seminoles suffered from a lack of depth last season but this year he could have a roster that goes 10 deep and allows him to go to more of a full-court pressing style of defense.

Xavier Rahan-Mayes led the team in scoring last season, averaging 14.9 points en route to becoming the first freshman in ACC history to score 30 or more points three times. The one thing he said he noticed in preseason practices were that everyone played off each other’s strengths.

Florida State’s first exhibition game is Nov. 2 against Lynn University before opening the season on Nov. 15 against Nicholls State.

“I think we have a pretty good combination of experience and an influx of new players. Any time you have that type of scenario you appreciate it,” Hamilton said. “It looks like we have it moving in the right direction. We’ve had a good offseason and regrouped.”