2013-14 Season Preview: 10 key assistant coaching hires

Leave a comment
source:
Yanni Hufnagel (Harvard Athletics)

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of our preview lists, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here..

Head coaches and players get all of the headlines, but a good assistant coaching staff can help a program significantly, either on the recruiting trail or on the sidelines — or in some cases, both. Each offseason sees a number of assistant coaches moving up and down the coaching ladder, and here are 10 of the key assistant coaching hires this offseason.

Tony Bland, USC: Regarded as one of the best recruiters on the West Coast, USC and new coach Andy Enfield hired Bland away from San Diego State in April. Bland spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater of San Diego State, where he helped the Aztecs on the recruiting trail by helping land Skylar Spencer and Winston Shepard. USC has already landed prized California point guard Jordan McLaughlin in the 2014 class thanks in part to Bland.

Steve Forbes, Wichita State: Forbes returns to the Division I ranks after two years as the head coach of Junior College power Northwest Florida State and should help the Shockers continue to replenish their roster from the JuCo ranks. Forbes previously coached under Bruce Pearl as an assistant coach at Tennessee and was the first member of Pearl’s staff to return to the NCAA after a one-year show-clause penalty after the fallout from Pearl’s scandal involving the barbecue with Aaron Craft. Forbes has also been an assistant at Illinois State, Louisiana Tech and Texas A&M and coached the top junior college player in the country last season in current Louisville guard Chris Jones.

Tavaras Hardy, Georgetown: After spending seven seasons at his alma mater of Northwestern under Bill Carmody, Hardy has already made a major splash under John Thompson III’s staff at Georgetown by continuing to harvest players from the fertile recruiting ground of Chicago and helping the Hoyas land the (former) Whitney Young duo of L.J. Peak and Paul White. Hardy also helped land notable players at Northwestern including John Shurna, Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb.

Jerrance Howard, Kansas: The Jayhawks landed a monster recruiter in Howard and it has helped them in their pursuit of the two prized Chicago big men recruits in the 2014 class: Cliff Alexander and Jahlil Okafor. Kansas remains in strong position for both Alexander and Okafor as Howard got to know the duo during his years as an assistant coach at Illinois.  Last season in his only year at SMU, Howard helped Larry Brown land former Illinois transfer Crandall Head as well as Chicago-area products Sterling Brown and Ben Moore.

Yanni Hufnagel, Vanderbilt: A young and energetic recruiter that has already recruited at a high level for a high-academic institution in Harvard, Hufnagel joins Kevin Stallings’ staff after four years with the Crimson. Vanderbilt has already landed three class of 2014 guards in September in Wade Baldwin, Matthew Fisher-Davis, and Riley LaChance thanks in-part to Hufnagel’s recruiting efforts.

Justin Hutson, San Diego State: The Aztecs will welcome Hutson back with open arms after their former star assistant coach spent the last two seasons as Dave Rice’s associate head coach at UNLV. Hutson helped the Aztecs recruit Kawhi Leonard and Chase Tapley and has already helped San Diego State land 2014 point guard Kevin Zabo.

Korey McCray, LSU: After a two-season stint at UCLA, McCray joined LSU and Johnny Jones’ staff and is noted as a strong recruiter with ties to the Atlanta area. McCray is a former CEO and head coach for the Atlanta Celtics AAU program — which was co-founded by his father Karl — and those ties helped UCLA land Jordan Adams and Tony Parker. Now that McCray is even closer to Atlanta, those regional connections should help the Tigers as well.

T.J. Otzelberger, Washington: Washington’s new recruiting coordinator comes to the Huskies after seven seasons as an assistant at Iowa State. Otzelberger also helped with opponent scouting reports and game planning during the last two seasons at Iowa State, where he was the program’s associate head coach since 2010.

Patrick Sellers, Creighton: The Bluejays move to the Big East meant they needed a noted Big East recruiting presence, which they got with the hiring of Sellers, a former assistant at UConn and Hofstra. Sellers coached under Jim Calhoun from 2004 through 2010 and helped the Huskies land Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander, and Roscoe Smith to the 2010-11 national title team. Sellers gives Creighton immediate Big East credibility on the recruiting trail.

Todd Simon, UNLV: The former coach at Findlay Prep has been with the prep juggernaut since its inception in 2006 and has helped the program with six McDonald’s All-Americans and the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Anthony Bennett. Simon recruited well for Findlay Prep’s program both in the United States and internationally and should bolster the Runnin’ Rebels already superb efforts in that department.

Like his career, Frank Martin has built South Carolina from the ground up

Leave a comment

NEW YORK — It was after he finished watching South Carolina cut down the Madison Square Garden nets, after he had spent the better part of 30 minutes giving interviews on the court, after he was spotted by the CBS cameras, with a fist raised and tears pooling under his eyes, that the enormity of what he had just witnessed hit Darius Rucker.

“Gosh,” he said to everyone and no one in particular as he left the arena floor and made his way through the bowels of the Garden, “I can’t believe that just happened.”

The ‘that’ that Rucker, South Carolina’s most famous and, quite possibly, biggest fan, was referring to was a 77-70, come-from behind win over No. 4 seed Florida that jettisoned the seventh-seeded Gamecocks through the Elite 8 and into the Final Four. Prior to this season, the Gamecocks hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament in 13 years. They had been to four NCAA tournaments in the previous 43 seasons, and they had never won back-to-back tournament game.

As in not ever.

“We’re in the Garden, watching the Gamecocks play to go to the Final Four,” Rucker said. “If you’d have told me that ten years ago I’d have told you that you were on crack.”

That’s the program that Frank Martin inherited in 2012, when he left Kansas State following a falling out with his athletic director, John Currie. Like South Carolina, Kansas State was hardly considered a destination job when Martin was at the helm, but he was able to build off of a foundation created by Bob Huggins. Martin had been to four NCAA tournaments in five years with Kansas State when he made the decision to leave. Nothing is more important to Martin than loyalty. “He’s always had a core group of people that he’s counted on,” his agent, Bret Just, said, and Currie was not one of those people.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came during the 2012 NCAA tournament. Kansas State was a No. 8 seed, squaring off with No. 1 seed Syracuse when Martin was informed by Currie that Jamar Samuels, one of his best players, would not be allowed to suit up. The school had stumbled upon information that Samuels had received a wire transfer for $200 from his AAU coach, and he was going to be suspended.

And that was that.

Martin was off to South Carolina.

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

“It was a situation where we had to go,” associate head coach Matt Figger, who has been with Martin for the last decade, said, and it wasn’t exactly the easiest or smartest decision to leave. Most understood why Martin had to make the change that he made — he was offered a hefty raise and he had the chance to leave a place of employment where he did not get along with his boss — but it wasn’t as if Martin was climbing the ladder. If anything, South Carolina was a step backwards, as Martin took over a program with less pedigree and with a significant building job in front of them.

“I didn’t really know until I got into it. It was a much different deal. It looked easier on the surface than what it really was,” Figger said. “The best players transferred. Bruce Ellington, he’s with the 49ers now, he was the one guy that we could trust and he played football half the year. Couple of the guys that were the holdovers, I don’t think they believed in what our vision was. After a year, some of them left.”

“We had to start this from scratch.”

The process was slow in the early stages. Martin replaced Darrin Horn, who had won just 10 games and finished dead last in the SEC in his final season on campus, and didn’t post a .500 record until his third season in Columbia. Even then, that team went just 17-16. He won 15 SEC games in his first three years combined. After a late season swoon cost South Carolina a shot at the 2016 NCAA tournament, there was speculation that another year without a trip to the Big Dance could spell the end of Martin’s time with the Gamecocks.

“It was hard!” Martin’s wife, Anya, said. “You see he’s losing his hair. It’s all turning white. It was tough in the beginning. I had to ask him a couple of times, ‘Why here?’”

The easy answer is that it wasn’t Kansas State, but the truth is more complicated than that.

Martin is not a man that is afraid of a challenge. He’s not intimidated by a job that isn’t easy to do, not when you come from where he’s come from, when you’ve coached on the path that he has coached.

Martin got his first job when he was 12 years old, working at a Dairy Queen to help his mom pay the bills when his dad walked out on them. His coaching career started a year after he graduated high school, when he was just 19 years old.

“I tore my ACL the year before,” Martin said, “and my high school coach asked me to come help him, because the kids in the neighborhood respected me so much.”

He was nothing more than an assistant with the team at Miami Senior High School, helping out when and where he could, when the head coach of the JV team didn’t show up for work one day. Shakey Rodriguez, a legend in the Miami High School basketball community, told Martin he would be coaching that day, and he hasn’t looked back since.

“By his second season,” Martin’s mother, Lourdes, beaming as she held back tears of joy, said, “he was 22-0.”

Even as Martin was coaching, he was still working on the side, most famously as a bouncer in Miami’s nightclub scene. He needed a degree, so he took night classes at Miami-Dade College before enrolling part-time at FIU. His future was capped if he didn’t graduate.

“He made it out,” she added, holding on to her grandson to steady herself as the moment washed over her. “He had many, many jobs, and then God was up there and blessed him.”

Martin would go from the high school ranks to Northeastern, taking a paycut just to get his foot in the door. He spent four years as an assistant and met his wife — “My wife turned me down seven times to go out on a date,” he said. “Seven. Seven. And the day she made the mistake of going out on a date with me, I never let her go.” — before moving on to Cincinnati, where he joined forces with Bob Huggins, spending two seasons with the Bearcats before following Huggins to Kansas State. He replaced Huggins as Kansas State’s head coach a year after joining the program and just seven years after he joined the collegiate coaching ranks. He would take the Wildcats to more NCAA tournaments in his five seasons at the helm than they had been to in the previous two decades combined.

“Frank’s never steered away from a challenge as long as I’ve known him,” Anya said. “He’s overcome any obstacle in his way, just ‘I’m going to make it work.'”

“He’s a builder,” Just said.

And he’s done just that at South Carolina.

“I’m happy as any mom could be,” Lourdes said. “Speechless, but not all the way. I have to talk to him about my air ticket.”

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Martin spoke many times about the dream of leading this team to this moment, but he didn’t always believe that the dream of taking the Gamecocks to the Final Four was a realistic possibility.

“When we beat Duke, Frank said ‘Why not us?’” Figgers said, a motto that had become something of a rallying cry for the Gamecocks during the East Regional. “That’s the first time we really talked about [winning a title].”

The team and the coaching staff weren’t the only ones that never really gave this possibility much thought. College basketball at large — the fans, the media, opposing coaches — all had the same thought: “South Carolina in the Final Four? The same team that put up 86 points in four overtimes against Alabama? Lulz.”

They showed us.

Over and over again.

South Carolina’s star guard Sindarius Thornwell, who was named Most Outstanding Player in the East Region, mentioned in every press conference this weekend that no one paid attention to or respected the program prior to this run. Martin ranted earlier this year about the lack of local media coverage his team gets, particularly when they play on the road.

At this point in the season, most players get burned out of the media attention they get, answering the same questions over and over and over again.

I don’t blame them.

On Sunday evening, after spending 25 minutes up on the dais for a postgame press conference, Thornwell was finally en route back to the locker room to celebrate with his team when he was pulled aside by a television reporter that needed just a couple more minutes of his time.

Thornwell, decked out in a East Regional Champs shirt and hat with the remnants of a net dangling around his neck, didn’t mind.

“You gotta talk a lot,” Thornwell said, “when you win.”

Drake hires Furman’s Niko Medved to be new head coach

Drake Athletics
Leave a comment

Drake has hired Furman head coach Niko Medved to the same position, the school announced on Sunday.

The 43-year-old Medved has led the Paladins to back-to-back CIT appearances as he’s been the head coach there for four seasons. Also an assistant coach at Minnesota and Colorado State, Medved is a noted recruiter.

“I am ecstatic about the opportunity to be the next men’s basketball coach at Drake University,” Medved said in the release. “Drake University’s tremendous reputation partnered with its strong leadership and the thriving Des Moines community make this a special place.  I was born and raised in the Midwest and have so many strong roots in this part of the country.  My family and I can’t wait to get started.”

Medved was named the Southern Conference’s 2017 Coach of the Year for helping lead Furman to the regular-season title in the league.

The Bulldogs are coming off a last-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference as former head coach Ray Giacoletti was relieved of his duties in January. Drake only has one NCAA Tournament appearance since 1971 (coming in 2008) as the Bulldogs have struggled to remain relevant in a tough league.

VIDEO: North Carolina and Roy Williams dance in locker room after advancing to Final Four

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
1 Comment

Watching Roy Williams dance never gets old.

The North Carolina head coach is taking his team back to the Final Four next weekend after the Tar Heels outlasted Kentucky in a thrilling South Regional final.

North Carolina is making its 20th appearance in the Final Four as they are going for the second consecutive season.

2017 NCAA Tournament Final Four schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
1 Comment

National Semifinals– Saturday, April 1

6:09 p.m. EST, CBS, Glendale
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Approximately 40 minutes after conclusion of first game, CBS, Glendale
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 Oregon (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

VIDEO: The insane final 10 seconds of North Carolina’s win over Kentucky

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
1 Comment

North Carolina and Kentucky ended in legendary fashion on Sunday.

After freshman Malik Monk buried a heavily-contested three-pointer to tie the game at 73-all for Kentucky with under 10 seconds left the Tar Heels didn’t use a timeout as Theo Pinson found forward Luke Maye for the game-winning jumper.

These 10 seconds will go down as one of the greatest finishes in NCAA Tournament history.