When it comes to building a program, head coaches are, generally speaking, the people that get all the credit.
You hear about the success their career coaching record and you see infographics with how many NCAA tournaments they’ve reached. Their careers are valued on the merits of conference championships and how far they’ve gotten in the NCAA tournament. They are the face of their program.
But their role as CEO can only be done effectively if they have the right players in their program, which is why you see so many programs use one of their three assistant coaching positions on someone labeled as a ‘recruiter’.
On Wednesday, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman went published a list of the most feared recruiters in the country, based on a poll of more than 200 coaches.
No. 1 on that list? Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend, who was joined by his Jayhawk counterpart Jerrance Howard, who checked in at No. 12. Duke, with Jeff Capel and Steve Wojciechowski making an appearance, was one of two other programs that managed to sneak two assistants onto the list.
San Diego State, as both Brian Dutcher and Jerome Hutson were ranked in the top 20.
And it makes some sense. The Aztecs have landed their fair share of talented recruits and transfers (Josh Davis) in recent years. Kawhi Leonard and Jamaal Franklin immediately come to mind, but Malcolm Thomas has been in and out of the NBA as well, and Dakarai Allen and Winston Shepard were both highly regarded recruits in their own right.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this list is that only one Kentucky assistant coach — Orlando Antigua — is listed, and he’s fifth despite the fact that the Wildcats are head and shoulders above the rest of the country when it comes to bringing in elite level talent. That should tell you a thing or two about just how good Coach Cal is as a recruiter; he doesn’t even need to lean on his assistants to do the heavy lifting.
His program sells itself.
The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.
The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.
They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.
That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.
Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:
With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.
At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes
“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:
“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”
“It’s all money.”
Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.
Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .
Want to talk about coaching luxuries?
Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.