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Coaching Changes: Who’s set for success, failure

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The college basketball coaching carousel was in full effect last spring, as 40 head coaching positions changed hands. Of those 40 jobs, 12 major high major programs will enter this season with a new man in charge while six more teams that would be classified as mid-major plus had turnover in leadership.

Here are the coaches in the best position to succeed immediately, and those that will likely need some time before they see the kind of success they’re used to:

COACHES BEST SET UP FOR IMMEDIATE SUCCESS

  1. Steve Prohm, Iowa State: With Fred Hoiberg making the move to the NBA, someone was bound to land a job coaching a team with the talent needed to play deep into the NCAA tournament. Prohm was the pick for Iowa State after a successful run at Murray State, and with players such as Monte Morris, Georges Niang and Jameel McKay, his first season in Ames can be a special one.
  2. Will Wade, VCU: Yes, Wade has some personnel losses to account as the former Shaka Smart assistant returns to VCU; most notably, Briante Weber and Treveon Graham have graduated. The cupboard isn’t bare either, however, as Melvin Johnson is back for his senior year, as are JeQuan Lewis and Mo-Alie Cox. Look for the Rams to once again be a factor in the Atlantic 10 race. (And yes, I know my opinion differs from some of my colleagues.)
  3. Tim Duryea, Utah State: Duryea’s definitely familiar with the USU roster, as he served as the now-retired Stew Morrill’s assistant for 14 seasons. And he’s got a good roster to work with, with all five starters returning led by forwards Jalen Moore and David Collette. Utah State exceeded expectations by finishing fourth in the Mountain West a season ago; they’ll be expected to contend this time around and have the pieces to do just that.
  4. Mike White, Florida: Like Prohm, White arrives at his new gig after experiencing a lot of success at his last stop. But unlike Prohm he’s taking over for a coach in Billy Donovan took Florida’s program to heights never before reached in the history of the program. There’s some talent to work with, especially if he can get Kasey Hill going, and White also managed to hold onto most of Florida’s 2015 recruiting class.
  5. Ben Howland, Mississippi State: While Howland’s resume surpasses that of any other coach on this list, and he’ll have Malik Newman at his disposal, that doesn’t overtake the fact that there’s a lot to be done with a program that struggled mightily in the three seasons prior. Howland put together a good recruiting class led by Newman, but if there’s a concern it’s the health of his front court (that wasn’t all too deep to begin with).
  6. Matt McCall, Chattanooga: McCall’s first head coaching gig at the Division I level has the potential to be a very successful one, thanks to the talent due back on campus. Four starters, including guard Casey Jones and forward Justin Tuoyo, return from a team that won 22 games and finished 15-3 in SoCon play.
  7. Eran Ganot, Hawai’i: Last season began with tumult for Hawai’i, but interim head coach Benjy Taylor was able to lead the Rainbow Warriors to 22 wins and a run to the Big West tournament final. Now former Saint Mary’s assistant Eran Ganot takes over an experienced group that returns three starters (seven who started at least two games) led by Big West Defensive Player of the Year Roderick Bobbitt.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

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NEW HEAD COACHES WHO NEED SOME TIME

  1. Shaka Smart, Texas: A key question for some is how Smart’s pressure system will mesh with bigs who are best equipped to play in the half court. However the biggest issue in Smart’s first season at the helm in Austin is the strength of the Big 12, with perennial favorite Kansas leading what should be a deep race. There’s still talent, enough to make the tournament, but contending in the Big 12 may take a little time.
  2. Rick Barnes, Tennessee: Barnes has relocated to Knoxville, where he’ll aim to rejuvenate a program that dealt with the Donnie Tyndall investigation (and ultimately, firing) for much of last season. Three starters return but the one true difference-maker, Josh Richardson, isn’t among those players. Add in a lack of size in the post, and this could be a difficult season for Barnes in an SEC that will be improved.
  3. Avery Johnson, Alabama: Johnson and his staff have made some waves recruiting-wise, most notably reeling in Terrance Ferguson, and that certainly bodes well for the future. However, when it comes to this season he inherits a roster that lost its top three scorers from a season ago. That could prove difficult to overcome in a league that’s improved from last season.
  4. Chris Mullin, St. John’s: To say that Mullin and his staff were left with a bare cupboard would be an understatement. Two of the remaining players (Chris Obekpa and Rysheed Jordan) didn’t exactly mesh with the new staff’s plans, so they moved on. The work done by Mullin and assistants Barry Rohrssen and Matt Abdelmassih to fill out the roster will help St. John’s in the long run, but this season could be a difficult one.
  5. Brian Wardle, Bradley: Wardle’s move from Green Bay to Peoria, Illinois is a big one for a Bradley program that struggled in a big way under Geno Ford. Given Wardle’s accomplishments he’s got a good chance of turning things around. But it’s going to take some time to do so, especially with just one starter from last season’s nin win team back on campus. There was a lot of turnover on the roster, so the Braves will take their lumps as a result.
  6. Bobby Hurley, Arizona State: Hurley put together two successful seasons at Buffalo before making the move west, and he inherits a roster doesn’t lack for experience. In a similar situation at Buffalo in 2013-14, he led the Bulls to 19 wins and had the MAC Player of the Year in Javon McCrea. The two issues this time around: while the Pac-12 may not have a dominant team as it did a season ago (Arizona) it is deeper, and the Sun Devils will have to navigate a tough non-conference slate as well.
  7. Dave Leitao, DePaul: Since Leitao’s first run at DePaul came to an end in 2005, the Blue Demons have struggled mightily. Now he returns to the Windy City, and while there is some talent (Billy Garrett Jr. being one option) there’s a long way to go when it comes to making a move up the Big East standings and being a true factor in the conference.

Leading scorer Warren Jones dismissed from Bradley program

Nate Buss, Warren Jones
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Already expected to be an inexperienced team in Brian Wardle’s first season as head coach, the Bradley Braves will also have to account for the loss of their leading scorer in 2015-16.

Wednesday afternoon it was reported by the Peoria Journal-Star that Wardle has dismissed guard Warren Jones from the program. Jones, who was to be a senior this upcoming season, averaged 11.9 points per game last season and was the team’s leading returning scorer. Jones put forth that scoring average in 21 games, making just five starts, and he missed eight games due to a stress fracture in his foot.

Jones was also suspended for four games last season after being arrested on charges of using fake identification and underage drinking at a Peoria strip club in late-January.

Wardle issues the following comment to the Journal-Star regarding the dismissal of Jones from the program:

“I tell our student-athletes that where much is given, much is expected,” Wardle said. “Being a student-athlete at Bradley University is a privilege.  In the classroom, community and on the floor, we have high expectations and standards in this program.  When someone does not live up to them on a daily basis, changes need to be made.  We are here to assist Warren if he would like to pursue other opportunities to continue his basketball career.”

Jones’ dismissal means that Bradley will have to account for the loss of its top five scorers from last season’s nine-win team, with senior point guard Ka’Darryl Bell being the leading returning scorer at 6.1 ppg. The Braves add eight freshmen to the program, and in total nine of their 13 scholarship players will be either freshmen or sophomores.

Green Bay hires Linc Darner as new head coach

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Green Bay has its new head coach, according to multiple reports on Friday afternoon.

Linc Darner, the head coach of Division II Florida Southern, will replace Brian Wardle as head coach of the Horizon League program. Wardle left for to fill the same position at Bradley on March 27. In five seasons, Wardle was 95-64 (54–20) with two NIT appearances with Green Bay.

Jeff Goodman of ESPN and Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports both reported the news.

Darner, who played for Gene Keady at Purdue, led Florida Southern to the Division II national championship two weeks ago, completing a 34-1 seasons. Daniel Turner, a senior forward for the Mocs, had transferred from Green Bay.

Last season, Kim Anderson led Central Missouri to the D2 title before being hired by Missouri, his alma mater. He has 12 years of head coaching experience all at the Division II level at both Florida Southern and St. Joseph’s College (Indiana).

Darner will be taking over a Horizon League program that loses top scorers Keifer Sykes and Greg Mays, but does retain Jordan Fouse.

Bradley announces Brian Wardle hired as head coach

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Bradley has hired Brian Wardle as their new head coach, the school announced late on Friday night.

“It’s an honor to be the next head coach at Bradley,” Wardle said in a statement released by the school. “Being from Illinois and understanding the program’s success, tradition and support was a real draw for me. I am excited to bring my family to Peoria, getting to know the community and building a foundation and identity for Bradley basketball to last a long time.”

Wardle has been the head coach at Green Bay for the past five seasons, leading them to two straight NITs and a Horizon League regular season title in 2014. Prior to getting the head coaching gig, Wardle was an assistant with the program for five seasons as well as an assistant at Marquette for three years.

Wardle will replace Geno Ford, who struggled in his four seasons as the head coach of the Braves. Bradley was 9-24 last season and just 3-15 in Missouri Valley play.

Bradley’s leading scorer one of three players facing disciplinary action following incident Thursday morning

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The 2014-15 season has been a tough one for Geno Ford’s Bradley Braves, as they’re off to a 2-7 start in Missouri Valley Conference play and 7-15 overall. Things may get even tougher for Bradley, with leading scorer Warren Jones being one of three players who faces disciplinary action due to an incident that occurred early Thursday morning.

According to Dave Reynolds of the Peoria (Illinois) Journal Star, Jones was arrested on charges of using a fake ID and underage drinking at a strip club in Peoria. Jones was found to be using identification that belonged to teammate Omari Grier (who wasn’t at the strip club). Another teammate, Ka’Darryl Bell, was also cited for underage drinking.

The incident occurred just hours after the Braves lost 69-57 to Drake Wednesday night.

The BU guard [Jones] was with a group of 10 that was asked to leave the downtown bar after they became unruly, a source told the Journal Star.

“Police were called and they were taken outside,” said Big Al’s owner Al Zuccarini. “The arrest took place outside the building.”

“Obviously, I’m aware of what went on last night,” said BU coach Geno Ford. “I’m extremely disappointed this is something we’re dealing with during the season. We will move swiftly with corrective actions and measures. I apologize to the administration and the fans for having this occur during our season.”

Any disciplinary actions to be taken by Ford has yet to be announced, but according to Reynolds’ report Ford did plan on holding a team meeting prior to practice Thursday in order to address this situation.

Jones is currently averaging 13.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game, and Bell (7.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg) is second on the team in assists with an average of 2.7 per contest. Grier has also been a factor for the Braves, as he’s averaging 8.2 points and 2.0 rebounds per game.

Bradley, which has lost six of its last seven games, visits Indiana State on Saturday.

Court upholds ruling that Kent State should receive $1.2 million buyout from former head coach

Geno Ford
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When Geno Ford made the move from Kent State to Bradley in 2011, he did so amidst controversy. The school sued Ford for the $1.2 million it was owed as part of the agreement, with the dollar amount representing the four years’ (at $300,000 per) salary that remained on the contract Ford and Kent State agreed to, alleging that there had been a breach of contract.

That allegation came as a result of Kent State believing that Ford entered discussions with Bradley despite not being granted permission to do so. Kent State would win that lawsuit, with a court ruling that Ford did have to pay the $1.2 million. And on Wednesday it was reported by the Associated Press that the decision was upheld, meaning that Ford remains on the hook for the $1.2 million.

While buyouts tend to be handled without much fuss when a coach moves from one job to another, this isn’t the first time a school has taken a departing coach to court in order to receive the buyout owed to them. Marist sued Matt Brady in 2009 after he made the move to James Madison in 2008, one year after signing a four-year contract extension with the MAAC school.

Marist alleged “a breach of contract that involved Brady supposedly recruiting former Marist players” according to USA Today. Like Kent State in its suit against Ford, the courts ruled in favor of Marist in 2010.