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Looking Forward: The eight most intriguing coaching hires of 2015

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With the early entry process over and with just about every elite recruit having picked a school, we now have a pretty good idea of what college basketball will look like in 2015-16. Over the next three weeks, we’ll be taking an early look at next season.

Today, we’re Looking Forward at the most intriguing coaching hires:

Shaka Smart, Texas: Texas is one of the most underrated jobs in the country: Great weather, great town, great recruiting base, tons of money, lack of pressure to win. Talk to coaches, and there aren’t ten head coaching gigs that are better. Many will put the Longhorns in their top five jobs. And with Rick Barnes getting ousted, Texas looked past Gregg Marshall and Buzz Williams and hired VCU head coach Shaka Smart. I’ve been critical of Smart’s style of play in the past because I think there’s a ceiling to how successful a team can be employing a full court press full-time, but at Texas he’s going to be able to recruit some of the very best athletes high school basketball has to offer. Can he land those kids? Can he invigorate the fan base? Can he win at Texas?

Will Wade, VCU: The guy that is taking over for Smart is Wade, a former assistant that spent the past two seasons coaching at Chattanooga. Given VCU’s recent success, people may forget that just three years ago they were still a member of the CAA. Can they maintain this level of success, remaining a perennial top 25 program, or will they fall back to the Atlantic 10 pack?

Florida: There’s a lot to talk about with the opening that Billy Donovan left in Gainesville, not the least of which is, you know, who actually gets the job. But there’s more to it than that. Florida has been a top 10-15 program over the course of the last decade, but does that mean that it is a top 10-15 job? Or was Donovan the makeup covering the pockmarks? It’s going to be fascinating to see who the Gators hire and how that person continues to growth of the program.

READ MORE: The preseason top 25

Ben Howland, Mississippi State: Howland jumped at the first job that he could get this spring, going from sunny Southern California to Starkville, Mississippi. The former UCLA head coach has already landed the best guard in the country — Malik Newman — and while this season probably will not result in an SEC title, with the amount of talent in the deep south in the 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes, it shouldn’t take Howland too long to build a winner.

Chris Mullin, St. John’s: A St. John’s legend, Chris Mullin was tapped as the replacement for Steve Lavin. Mullin has spent three decades at the NBA level and has never coached in the college ranks, but he went out and hired a pair of powerful recruiters — assistants from Kentucky and Iowa State — before learning that his two best players would be returning. Will he have the same kind of success in college that Fred Hoiberg had?

READ MORE: Eleven potential Breakout Stars in 2015-16

Bobby Hurley, Arizona State: The legendary Duke point guard parlayed two seasons of success at Buffalo into a head coaching gig in the Pac-12. It won’t be easy for Hurley this season — even if he does get Thon Maker — but it will be interesting to see what he is able to build in the shadow of Sean Miller’s Arizona program.

Steve Donahue, Penn: Donahue had a ton of success when he was the head coach at Cornell, winning Ivy League titles and taking the Big Red to the 2010 Sweet 16. After a flameout at Boston College, Donahue has returned to the Ivy to takeover arguably the league’s most storied program.

Rick Barnes, Tennessee: Barnes might have been run out of Austin, but it didn’t take him long to land back on his feet. The former Texas head man was quickly scooped up by the Volunteers to try and rebuild from the Donnie Tyndall disaster. Barnes will get players to Knoxville, and he’ll do it without having the NCAA come to town.

Brad Stevens on Indiana speculation: ‘I’m the head coach of the Boston Celtics. This is the job.’

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There’s no escaping it.

Brad Stevens is going to be continually linked to the Indiana head coaching job. The last rumblings of Stevens’ potential return to the college ranks surfaced in Paul Flannery’s Sunday Shootaround column for SB Nation.

The latest speculation is a product of Boston’s blockbuster trade with the Dallas Mavericks early this week, sending All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo to the Mavs for Jameer Nelson, Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder and draft picks. The trade makes the rebuilding process an even longer one. The Celtics sport one of the youngest rosters in the NBA, and the growing pains are obvious with fourth quarter collapse after fourth quarter collapse this season.

However, an even longer rebuilding effort in the post-Rondo era isn’t enough to lure Stevens back to college coaching.

“I’ve committed to being here,” Stevens told Flannery before Thursday’s practice. “I’ve already left a situation once and that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to choose to do. This is something that as long as they want me to be here, this is what I want to be doing and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. I know it’s all specific to the rumor mills and the discussion of one spot. I think they’ve got a good coach who’s done a helluva job. He doesn’t deserve that speculation.

“I’m the head coach of the Boston Celtics. This is the job. This is where I am. This is what I want to do really well and I’m committed to being as good as I can every single day for the Celtics.”

The Celtics faith in Stevens was evident when they offered him a six-year contract in the summer of 2013. And from the quotes provided by Gregg Popvich and Kevin Love, Stevens is widely-respected by both future Hall of Famers and perennial NBA All-Stars.

Tom Crean is in his seventh season, although, the Hoosier faith have turned sour on him. Indiana has made only two NCAA tournament appearances, being bounced in the Sweet 16 as a No. 1 seed in 2013. The Hoosiers missed the postseason a season ago. The boiling point was this fall, when off-the-court issues, mixed with low expectations entering this year had many in the state calling for his job.

Through 11 games, Indiana is 9-2, fresh off a neutral site win over No. 23 Butler in the Crossroads Classic. While Indiana’s NCAA tournament status is still uncertain, Stevens sounds confident that his only return to the Hoosier state will be when the Celtics travel to Indianapolis to play the Pacers.

Two coaches interviewed for the College of Charleston head coaching position this weekend

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It appeared last week that the College of Charleston was ready close the book on a difficult summer. It took more than a month — and a second investigation — to remove Doug Wojcik from his head coaching duties. On Aug. 26, three weeks after Wojcik’s firing, the search committee reportedly gave College of Charleston president Glenn McConnell two finalists.

The next day, Wofford head coach Mike Young and former CofC guard Anthony Johnson both removed their names from consideration. Young and Johnson became the top options out of the six candidates in contention. This weekend, Clemson assistant coach Earl Grant and N.C. State associate head coach Bobby Lutz — both previously had interviewed — were back on campus for a second time, according to Jimmy Utter of the News & Observer.

Lutz, 56, is set to begin his fourth season on coach Mark Gottfried’s staff at N.C. State and his third year as associate head coach. The Wolfpack advanced to its third straight NCAA tournament and ended the season with a 22-14 record.

Sources said the College of Charleston has also spoke to Clemson assistant Earl Grant about the position. The school expects to make a decision by the middle of next week, sources said.

Lutz coached Charlotte from 1998-2010, leading the 49ers to five NCAA tournament appearances. Grant has been on the Clemson coaching staff for the past four seasons. Before joining the Tigers coaching staff, he was an assistant under Gregg Marshall at Winthrop and Wichita State. According to Jeff Goodman of ESPN, Grant has the support of former CofC head coach John Kresse.

UConn assistant Karl Hobbs and Virginia associate head coach Ritchie McKay — both of whom have head coaching experience — were also interviewed before the search committee keyed in on Johnson and Young. McKay reportedly withdrew from consideration on Sunday.

The college basketball season begins in 33 days.

Report: a former NBA veteran is considered the frontrunner for College of Charleston job

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To follow along with the 2014 Coaching Carousel, click here.

After several investigations, the College of Charleston fired head coach Doug Wojcik, who had been accused of verbally and physically abusing players during his two years at the school.

According to a report on Thursday from Andrew Miller of the Post and Courier, an eight-person search committee is looking to have a candidate to present to College of Charleston president Glenn F. McConnell by Aug. 19, the day classes are set to begin. It is believed that Anthony Johnson, who a member of the CofC Athletics Hall of Fame, is the frontrunner.

From the Post and Courier:

“There’s a lot of support for Anthony and a lot of people who want to see Anthony get the job,” the source said. “There’s no question that he’s a very strong candidate, but the committee does not want to rush to a decision. They want it to be a thorough process so they can get the right person in place.”

Johnson set the school record for assists with 520 while leading the Cougars to an appearance in the 1997 NCAA Tournament. He went onto become an NBA journeyman, playing for seven different teams in his 13-year career.

Miller also mentioned four other candidates for the position. Among them are Wofford head coach Mike Young, Clemson assistant Earl Grant, Tulane assistant Shammond Williams and former Boston College head coach and current Bryant associate head coach Al Skinner.

Wojcik was initially investigated for verbal abuse in early July. After five weeks, a detailed 50-page report of the allegations and a second investigation, Wojcik was fired for just cause on August 5. In two seasons, he was 38-29.

At the start of the month, assistant Antonio Reynolds Dean was named acting head coach.

Marist hires head coach from Division III Williams College

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Marist announced the hiring of Mike Maker as head coach on Tuesday afternoon.

Maker spent the past six seasons as the head coach of Williams College, a Division III program in Massachusetts. The Ephs have one of the strongest D-III programs in the country, and that didn’t change under Maker, who led them to two national title games and three Final Fours in six seasons. Williams was 28-5 last season, winning the loaded NESCAC.

Maker has coached at the Division I level as well, working as an assistant at Dartmouth, Samford, Creighton and West Virginia.

He will replace Jeff Bower, who was hired last season and went 12-19 in his one year in Poughkeepsie.

Scottie Wilbekin can’t see Billy Donovan leaving Florida

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In four years at Florida, Scottie Wilbekin may have had his bumps in the road, but the Gators point guard was part of teams that reached three Elite Eights, and this past season made it to the Final Four after running the table in the SEC.

The 2014 SEC Player of the Year is hoping his success in college translates to the next level. As he tries to find a spot on a roster, will his coach, Billy Donovan, find a spot on an NBA sideline?

That’s been a consistent storyline this offseason as Donovan, along with several other college coaches, have been targeted for NBA vacancies. The Cleveland Cavaliers pushed for hard for UConn’s Kevin Ollie, were in “deep talks” with Kentucky’s John Calipari and reached out to Donovan in recent months.

Despite the rumors, and Donovan’s refusal to guarantee his future at the University of Florida, Wilbekin believes Donovan won’t leave Gainesville. The former Gator appeared on The Jim Rome Show on Friday to discuss the topic.

“I could definitely see him being a coach [in the NBA], but I don’t think he’ll leave just because I know how much he loves Florida and Gainesville,” Wilbekin said. “It’s such a great atmosphere in Gainesville that I can’t see him leaving.”

In 2007, Donovan briefly left Florida for the Orlando Magic. In the past week, reports stated that the Cavaliers had offered Calipari a seven-year, $60 million deal while other reported that the proposed offer was longer and worth more money. Not saying that would have been the same deal Donovan would have received, but it’s clear that NBA teams will be willing to do what it takes to try and uproot coaches from college campuses.

In March, Donovan signed an extension with the university through 2019.

The entire Wilbekin interview can be heard here.

[h/t @OnlyGators]