assistant coaching changes

Seton Hall Athletics

Assistant coach Dwayne ‘Tiny’ Morton leaves Seton Hall staff

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During the recruitment of guard Isaiah Whitehead much was made about the impact that his coach at Lincoln HS, Dwayne “Tiny” Morton, would have on the process. With Morton, who led Lincoln to eight PSAL titles and three New York state titles during his time at the Coney Island school, looking to make the move to the Division I level himself the general feeling was that the two would come as a tandem.

And once Whitehead committed to Seton Hall, it came as no surprise that Morton eventually wound up on Kevin Willard’s coaching staff. What does come as a surprise in all of this is that Morton has stepped down from his assistant coaching position after just one season, with Zach Braziller of the New York Post reporting the news Saturday night.

Sources said Morton expressed the desire to return to his old life a month ago in discussions with Willard, and the two spoke about it several times since. Morton worked well under Willard, sources said, but the grind of travel and constant drain of recruiting wore on him.

“It was definitely his choice,” a source said, referring to Morton.

Morton’s decision was one he made on his own according to the report, and it isn’t expected to have an impact on Whitehead’s status as he prepares for his sophomore campaign.

The 2014-15 season, which got off to a great start, turned out to be a tumultuous one for Seton Hall. Internal strife played a major role in the Pirates going from a team that was ranked in the Top 25 to not even playing in a postseason tournament. Willard also lost guard Jaren Sina midyear, as Sina decided to leave the program and ultimately transfer to George Washington, and fellow guard Sterling Gibbs joined the UConn program this summer as a grad student for his final season of eligibility.

With those struggles, and the fact that Willard has yet to lead the Pirates to the NCAA tournament since taking over in 2010, the 2015-16 season is a big one for Seton Hall. The next question is who fills Morton’s spot on the staff, with multiple outlets reporting that former Seton Hall center (and current Fairleigh Dickinson assistant) Grant Billmeier is the favorite to do so.

Harvard’s Tommy Amaker adds Brian Eskildsen to coaching staff

Siyani Chambers and Tommy Amaker (AP Photo)
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In each of the last two offseasons Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker has lost an assistant to Vanderbilt, with Yanni Hufnagel (now at Cal) making the move in 2013 and Adam Cohen doing so this past spring. With Cohen’s departure there was a vacancy to be filled and on Wednesday Harvard officially announced its hiring of Brian Eskildsen.

Eskildsen followed a path to Cambridge similar to that of Cohen, as he was a member of Ben Braun’s staff at Rice last season. Cohen spent the 2012-13 season as a member of Braun’s staff before joining the Harvard staff for a season.

Eskildsen served as the recruiting coordinator at Rice, and he joins a staff that consists of associate head coach Brian DeStefano and assistant Christian Webster. Harvard’s won at least a share of the last four Ivy League titles, winning an NCAA tournament game in each of their last two appearances.

The Crimson lost three key seniors (forward Kyle Casey and guards Brandyn Curry and Laurent Rivard) from last season’s team but they’re expected to be the favorites in the Ivy League once again in 2014-15.

Guard Siyani Chambers, guard/forward Wesley Saunders and forward Steve Moundou-Missi lead the returnees, and highly-regarded power forward Chris Egi joins a front court that has a number of options.

Lamar head coach Tic Price completes coaching staff with two hires

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New Lamar head coach Tic Price has filled out his coaching staff for the 2014-15 season, with the school announcing the hiring of assistant coach Brian Burton and director of basketball operations Matt Pace on Friday. Burton, who spent his last three seasons at new Division I school Abilene Christian, takes over the role left vacant when Tony Madlock joined Andy Kennedy’s staff at Ole Miss.

Burton also has coaching experience at the junior college level, and that experience can help Lamar on the recruiting trail given the number of quality junior college programs in the state.

“Coach Burton a rising star with a high ceiling,” Price said in the release. “I believe he has a great future ahead of him. Brian has the ability relate well to players. One of the things I liked about him is that he is a tireless worker on the court and on the recruiting trail. He has a great eye for talent.”

Price will begin his first full season as the head coach at Lamar after serving as the team’s interim head coach in the last five games of the 2013-14 season. Lamar finished the year with a 4-26 record, going 3-15 in Southland Conference play. Lamar returns two of its top four scorers from that team, led by senior forward Donovan Ross (10.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg).

Reports: Mike O’Koren, Greg Vetrone to join Rutgers coaching staff

Eddie Jordan
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The 2013-14 season was a tough one for first-year Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan, with his tenure beginning amidst controversy and the program going through its lone season as a member of the American Athletic Conference. The Scarlet Knights lost 21 games, the last of which being a 92-31 defeat at the hands of Louisville in the conference tournament.

Jordan felt the need to make changes to his coaching staff, with David Cox being fired and Kyle Triggs’ contract not being renewed. Wednesday it was reported by multiple outlets that the replacements have been found, with former Fairleigh Dickinson head coach Greg “Shoes” Vetrone and Mike O’Koren joining the Rutgers coaching staff.

They’ll join Van Macon, the lone holdover from last year’s staff and one of two assistants to survive the end of the Mike Rice era (Cox was the other).

The news has yet to be made official by the school, but it is expected that Vetrone and O’Koren will have their new roles in time to hit the road for the July open recruiting periods. There are three five-day periods during the month in which coaches can hit the road and watch targets play, the first of which runs from July 9-13.

On the hiring of Vetrone and O’Koren, Jerry Carino of Gannett New Jersey wrote the following about the issues with last year’s coaching staff and where O’Koren can help the Scarlet Knights:

In reshaping his staff, Jordan made chemistry a priority after some of his people did not see eye-to-eye during Rutgers’ 12-21 campaign. O’Koren, a good friend who is universally well-liked in hardwood circles, should help in that regard. He also figures to provide tactical and player development support, especially for Rutgers’ bigs.

These hires will be important ones for Rutgers as they look to take steps in the right direction in 2014-15. That will be tough however, with the program playing its first season in the Big Ten. While the American was certainly formidable at the top, the conference didn’t have the depth that the Big Ten possesses.

LSU head coach Johnny Jones promotes David Patrick to assistant head coach

Johnny Jones
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After spending the last two seasons on Johnny Jones’ staff at LSU as an assistant, David Patrick has been promoted to assistant head coach. The news was formally announced by the school Wednesday, with this being the second change to the LSU coaching staff this spring.

“When Coach Jones discussed with me in April about this promotion, I was very grateful. I cannot thank Coach and the LSU administration enough for giving me the opportunity to coach at the best University in the country,” Patrick said in the release.

“I am blessed to help Coach Jones in his quest to get LSU back to Final Fours. He is not only a great coach; he is a great person, which makes working and playing for him special. My family is thankful to be in the Tiger Family.”

Recently Eric Musselman, who was a member of Herb Sendek’s staff at Arizona State last season and has coaching experience at both the college and pro levels, was hired to join the staff following the departure of Korey McCray. The other assistant on the LSU coaching staff is Charlie Leonard, who has been with Jones for a total of 13 seasons (11 at North Texas).

North Dakota head coach Brian Jones promotes DOBO Steve Grabowski to assistant coach

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After serving as North Dakota’s director of basketball operations for the last two seasons, Steve Grabowski has been promoted to an assistant coaching position by head coach Brian Jones. The news was formally announced by the school Friday morning. Prior to joining the North Dakota program, Grabowski spent seven seasons as an assistant at Minot State.

“Steve has done an unbelievable job the past two seasons as our director of operations and is certainly deserving of this promotion,” Jones said in the release. “He is a tireless worker who brings a great deal of experience from a recruiting standpoint, but more importantly is a very good teacher and mentor for our players.”

Grabowski joins Jason Shay as an assistant on Jones’ coaching staff, and his replacement as director of basketball operations was announced as well on Friday. Jeff Horner, who played collegiately at Iowa, will take over that role after serving as head coach at Valley High School in West Des Moines, Iowa.

North Dakota lost two assistants at the end of the 2013-14 season, with Gameli Ahelegbe joining Craig Smith’s staff at South Dakota and Dean Oliver now an assistant under Dan Muller at Illinois State.