George Blaney announces retirement after 43 years of coaching

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George Blaney spent the last 12 years as a member of the coaching staff at UConn, and during that time the longtime coach was a valuable figure for both Jim Calhoun and Kevin Ollie. With his years of experience, Blaney was a trusted voice for both and there were also times when he had to take over as head coach due to Calhoun’s health issues.

Thursday it was announced that Blaney, currently a special assistant/advisor to Ollie, will be retiring. In addition to his years as an assistant, Blaney has 30 years of head coaching experience with stops at Stonehill, Dartmouth, Holy Cross and Seton Hall. Blaney posted a record of 460-383 as a head coach, with 22 of those years being spent at his alma mater (Holy Cross).

“I always said I would know when it would be the right time to go,” Blaney said in a statement released by the school. “I have thoroughly enjoyed my years at UConn, but I think for me, this is the right time.

“Coaching with Jim has been so special for me. We have always been such great friends and that just made for a wonderful working relationship. His passion for the game, for the kids, and for UConn is what made him such a special coach.”

Blaney was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003, and his tenure at Holy Cross included seven 20-win seasons and eight postseason appearances. And while his time at Seton Hall was short Blaney certainly had an impact on the basketball career of current Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley, who played for Blaney at the Big East school.

“I don’t think I would be in basketball today if it wasn’t for George Blaney,” Hurley said in the 2011 Hartford Courant article. “He kind of saved me, saved my soul in the game of basketball.

“I was struggling emotionally, struggling mentally at the time and [Blaney] kind of rekindled my love for the game, with his coaching style. … He’s one of the best people I’ve ever met. I owe him a lot.”

As for UConn, the Huskies still have head coaching experience on the staff with both Glenn Miller and Karl Hobbs assisting Ollie. And the head coach entering his second season at the helm learned a great deal from Blaney during their time together in Storrs.

“He’s been somebody I can confide in, no matter what the situation,” Ollie said in the release. “Not only was Coach Blaney a great help to me last year through the transition to head coach, but he helped me when I was an assistant, helped me in my whole path to becoming a college coach. And of course, his decades of coaching experience have been invaluable to me on the bench.”

Former Dartmouth assistant Ricky Moore, who was a key member of UConn’s first national champion team in 1999, is the third assistant.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.