CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) Chattanooga men’s basketball coach Matt McCall has received a two-year contract extension after leading the Mocs to an NCAA Tournament appearance in his debut season.
The school announced the extension Thursday. McCall’s contract now runs through the 2021-22 season.
Chattanooga went 29-6 last season to set a school record for victories. The Mocs captured their first Southern Conference regular-season title since 1994 and also won the league’s postseason tournament to earn their first NCAA bid since 2009.
Indiana beat Chattanooga 99-74 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Athletic director David Blackburn said in a statement, “We had great confidence in who we hired a year ago, and that never wavered. This is in recognition of him and his staff’s great work in equipping our student-athletes for success.”
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
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Report: Florida assistant Matt McCall to become new head coach at Chattanooga
After two seasons in which he managed to lead Chattanooga to 40 wins (27-7 in SoCon play), Will Wade decided to accept the head coaching position at VCU last week. And it hasn’t taken the Chattanooga leadership a long time to find Wade’s replacement, as it was reported by Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com Sunday afternoon that Florida assistant Matt McCall will take over.
McCall’s spent the last four seasons on Billy Donovan’s staff in Gainesville, where he contributed to two SEC champion teams (2013 and 2014) and a Final Four berth in 2014. And according to his bio, during those two seasons Florida went 23-4 in games in which McCall was given the task of preparing the scouting report on the opposition.
McCall has also been praised for his ability as a recruiter during his coaching career, and prior to joining the Florida staff he spent three seasons working under Mike Jarvis at Florida Atlantic.
If McCall can keep the remaining players on board, the pieces are there for a successful debut season in 2015-16. Three of Chattanooga’s top four scorers from last season have eligibility remaining, led by forwards Casey Jones and Justin Tuoyo and guard Greg Pryor.
Jones and Tuoyo were also Chattanooga’s leading rebounders in 2013-14, with both being first team All-SoCon selections by the league coaches and Tuoyo being named SoCon Defensive Player of the Year.
Mercer’s performed well in its inaugural season as a member of the Southern Conference despite losing many of the key contributors who helped lead the team to a win over Duke in the NCAA tournament. One reason for this is 6-foot-3 guard Ike Nwamu, who after being a reserve in 2013-14 is now averaging 15.9 points per game as a sophomore.
Nwamu finished Mercer’s 75-72 overtime win over Chattanooga with 20 points, with the dunk above counting for two of those points. Nwamu was originally called for a charge, but the call was overturned. (Thanks to mercerbearfan for that note.)
In the video above is what could have been one of the more impressive dunks of the college basketball season, with Nwamu finishing emphatically over Chattanooga’s Justin Tuoyo.
With the block/charge call sparking numerous debates this season, was the decision to overturn the charge the correct one? Leave your thoughts below.
Video credit: Mercer Athletics
2014-15 Southern Conference Preview: Wofford, Chattanooga favored in Davidson’s absence
No league underwent as much of a makeover during this offseason as the Southern Conference. Four of the league’s 11 teams departed to different leagues this offseason, with Elon, Georgia Southern and Appalachian State departing for football purposes. The biggest hit, however, was the loss of Davidson, the league’s marquee program, to the Atlantic 10. That hurt, but the good news is that the three programs joining the conference this season — Mercer, East Tennessee State and VMI — all have quality basketball programs. Losing Steph Curry’s alma mater is tough to overcome, but the league may actually be tougher in the future with the new additions.
Everyone should be aware of Mercer. The Bears beat out Florida-Gulf Coast for the Atlantic Sun’s automatic bid last season, and they made the most of their NCAA tournament trip by knocking off No. 3 seed Duke in the opening round. But the Bears lose seven seniors and five starters from last year’s team, meaning that their first year in the SoCon will be spent in regrouping mode. VMI loses two of their three leading scorers, who averaged a combined 39.0 points, but they bring back sophomore Q.J. Peterson and bring back a roster that should allow them to be a factor in the league title race. The third new addition is East Tennessee State, who returns back court stars Rashawn Rembert and Jalen Riley, who should start this season, but will have to find a way to replace their front court.
The favorite in the SoCon this season will be Wofford, who played their way into the NCAA tournament a season ago by winning the league’s automatic bid despite finishing third in the regular season. Mike Young’s club returns essentially their enter roster from a season ago, a year that saw Young start ten different players at least five times during the regular season. It took Wofford awhile to find their rhythm last year, part of the reason that Young used so many different lineups, but once he found up that worked, the Terriers finished the season strong. Karl Cochran and Spencer Collins will anchor the back court, while Lee Skinner will be their biggest interior presence.
It won’t be easy for the Terriers, however, as Will Wade’s Chattanooga program will enter their second season playing ‘Chaos’. Wade is a member of Shaka Smart’s coaching tree, meaning that his goal is to eventually get the Mocs playing the full-court, all-out pressing style that has allowed VCU to be so successful. Wade is starting to get his players into the program, and while last season saw Chattanooga forced into more zone and half-court defense than Wade would have liked, this season will bring much more pressure and … chaos. Casey Jones and Rico White are the two players that will anchor the back court, but the guy to keep an eye on is Justin Tuoyo, a 6-foot-10 transfer that followed Wade from Richmond.
One team to keep an eye on is Furman. The Palladins were just 3-13 in the league last season, but they have a young and promising back court, headlined by Stephen Croome. Keep an eye on William Gates, the son of the star of the movie ‘Hoop Dreams’, who had a promising freshman season despite battling knee issues much of the year.
PRESEASON SOCON PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Karl Cochran, Wofford
Cochran averaged 15.7 points and 5.0 boards as a junior, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that he’s just a 6-foot-1 guard. The leading scorer and best player on the Terriers, Cochran only started 22 of Wofford’s 33 games a season ago.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-SOCON TEAM:
Q.J. Peterson, VMI, So.: VMI’s system allows players to put up huge numbers, but Peterson averaged 19.0 points as a freshman.
Stephen Croome, Furman, Jr.: The 6-foot-0 guard averaged 19.1 points and 3.7 assists while helping change the culture of the Palladin program.
Lee Skinner, Wofford, Sr.: An undersized power forward, Skinner is the heart and soul of this year’s Wofford team.
Casey Jones, Chattanooga, Jr.: The leading returning scorer for the Mocs, Jones is a 6-foot-5 forward that should fit well into the ‘Chaos’ system Will Wade runs.
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3. East Tennessee State
7. Western Carolina
8. UNC Greensboro
9. The Citadel
One week after losing Richie Riley, who joined Brad Brownell’s coaching staff at Clemson, UAB head coach Jerod Haase has reportedly found a replacement.
According to Gene Henley of the Chattanooga Free Press, Turner Battle will fill the vacancy on the UAB coaching staff. Per the report, Chattanooga head coach Will Wade announced the departure of his assistant on Friday. Battle, who played collegiately at the University at Buffalo, joined Wade’s staff at Chattanooga last spring after spending the prior six working under Reggie Witherspoon at his alma mater.
“Turner was a high-level player and is a high-level person,” Wade said at the time of Battle’s appointment. “His experience on the court as a student-athlete, and his proven ability to coach and recruit makes him the perfect addition to our staff. I could not be happier that he agreed to be a part of bringing ‘Chaos’ to Chattanooga.”
Battle joins Robert Ehsan and Jeff Wulbrun as assistants on Haase’s staff, and interestingly enough he’ll see his old boss during the 2014-15 season. UAB visits Chattanooga on December 22.