CBT Exam Week Essays: Choosing the next coach at UCLA

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For college students and college basketball fans, Exam Week is the worst week on the schedule. For students, this week is the culmination of three months worth of procrastination, cliff notes and wikipedia. For college basketball fans, it’s the lightest week of hoops action we will see all season.

With so very little going on this week in terms of action, the staff at College Basketball Talk is going back to school. Over the next five days, the CBT Staff will be responsible for answering an essay question in one of five different subjects.

The first subject of the week is Sociology.

UCLA is, historically, one of college basketball’s most successful programs.
If you could hire any coach in America to rebuild the Bruins in terms of wins, respect and fan support, who would it be, and why?

By David Harten

First, one must take away all obvious candidates, because those candidates, who are currently in life-long positions or positions that they currently have no interest in leaving, wouldn’t take the risk. That includes Jim Boeheim, Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, John Calipari.

Ben Howland needs to be let go by the Bruins. He did very well in his more formative years with three-straight Final Fours and some solid, character-based recruiting class, but that time has passed. The players either don’t respect him, don’t want to play hard for him, or both. There is too much turmoil surrounding that program and too many players have left the team to justify another season, short of a four Final Four run this season, which would take a miracle. Every coach has a limit at a program, just look at Bruce Weber at Illinois.

So who is the one person that could revive the storied UCLA program, short of a hologram John Wooden? One had to factor in a few things.

The first has to be that he’s been a winner at all stops, mid-and-high major. Secondly, he has had to have run a clean program, at least to the point that an athletic department doesn’t have to look over its shoulder for the NCAA on a yearly basis. Third, the recruiting ties to the right regions have to be there as well. And if he’s new to the area, the question becomes, can he build enough relationships to plant roots in new areas? The final, but just as important question is, are his players good people? When they graduate/exhaust their eligibility, do they keep themselves in line as citizens?

It’s with all these criteria that the best candidate would be Gregg Marshall at Wichita State.

For one, Marshall has proven his success on multiple levels. In his first job at Winthrop, Marshall went 194-24 in nine seasons at Winthrop and has gone 109-60 in five seasons as the head coach of the Shockers, with an NIT title in 2010-11 and an NCAA Tournament berth. He’s building a resume at a school that had been down. He fits the bill for a coach who is primed for a move up.

He inherited a team that took a dive after Mark Turgeon left due to mass transfers. After an 11-20 season, Marshall has built the program back with his players and his way. Now, he’s finally seeing the benefits.

He also runs a tight ship. Players graduate and they stay out of trouble. The team plays both half-court and full-court schemes with discipline. He scouts junior colleges relentlessly, something UCLA rarely does but should now due to the influx of high-major talent there, and also makes serious runs at Top 100 recruits in the prep ranks, including getting Fred Van Vleet this season. He currently sports players on his roster from all over, including Minnesota, the Bahamas, Canada, Las Vegas and Alabama. He lands them from all over.

He’s an east coast guy, but he’s been able to establish recruiting roots at every stop he’s been at. The man deals in relationships, something of a lost commodity in college sports. He knows how to get what he wants, and does it with both parties smiling.

Marshall is also a great X’s and O’s coach. He recruits tons of wings and combo guards to run a solid motion offense built around getting to the rim. You think west coast kids who grew up on the Lakers and run-and-gun offenses won’t love that?

Bottom line, Marshall is the coach that knows what he’s doing. He can fit in anywhere, get the players he needs and then move them to do what he wants. You’ll never hear about the program being in the dump and you’ll never have to worry about his team’s commitment to him.

Gregg Marshall is the man to lead UCLA, should Howland be let go. He’s most definitely a candidate no one saw coming, but plenty of those type of coaches have had great success. He’ll do it and he’ll do it his way.

Professor’s Notes: Gregg Marshall is a phenomenal choice. His track record of running a clean program and recruiting high-character players would be a blessing at UCLA. You cover all the grounds and provide enough statistical evidence to support your opinions. Points are being docked for the copious use of contractions. Also I would have liked to see the more names of coaches who seem to be “lifers”, i.e. Mark Few, Tom Izzo and Tom Crean.

GRADE: A-

Old Dominion lands former four-star center

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Elbert Robinson came out of high school in 2014 as a borderline top-50 recruit with offers from the likes of Florida, Kansas and Louisville before he ultimately chose to attend LSU.

The 7-foot-1 center, though, never even averaged 10 minutes a game in Baton Rouge and now will be finishing his career as a graduate transfer at Old Dominion, according to multiple reports.

“Old Dominion was perfect for him,” Lawrence Johns, Robinson’s grassroots coach, told the Virginian-Pilot. “I know for a fact that nobody in (Conference USA) is over 7 feet.

“I told him to go there and show people why he was the No. 1 center the year he came out.”

Robinson, who sat out last year for medical reasons, could step right into a major role with the Monarchs, who lost their starting frontcourt this offseason. He averaged 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 6.4 minutes per game last year for the Tigers.

VIDEO: Mixtape for North Carolina-bound Nassir Little

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Nassir Little is one of the most improved players in the high school basketball ranks, going from being a guy that was a borderline five-star prospect to being a potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and athleticism to burn, he has all the makings of being one of the switchable wing defenders that are en vogue in the modern era of the NBA.

Former UNC star Phil Ford has surgery for prostate cancer

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina says former point guard Phil Ford has had surgery for prostate cancer.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Wednesday that Ford underwent the procedure Tuesday after he was diagnosed during his annual physical. Dr. Eric Wallen, the UNC physician who is treating Ford, says the cancer was caught early because Ford “has been proactive regarding his health.”

Ford played for Dean Smith in the 1970s and scored 2,290 points, a mark that stood as the school record until Tyler Hansbrough broke it in 2008. Ford also spent 12 seasons as an assistant to Smith after a seven-year NBA career in which he was the rookie of the year in 1979.

Bruce Pearl: ‘Good chance’ Auburn returns four players testing the waters

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Bruce Pearl told reporters on Monday that there is a “good chance” that his Auburn program will return all four of the players that are currently testing the waters of the NBA draft.

“I think there’s a good chance they’re all going to consider coming back,” Pearl said. “There’s a chance they’re all going to come back, but that’s been the case since the beginning.”

“I just feel as we get closer to the deadline and they gather more and more information, I think that chance improves. It would not surprise me, still, to see a couple of them stay in.”

Those four players are Mustapha Heron, Austin Wiley, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Brown was the leading scorer for the Tigers last season, while Heron was arguably their best player and Harper a steady floor general that is the piece that holds everything together. Wiley did not play after he was ruled ineligible as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. If he returns he will be eligible to play the 2018-19 season.

Heron will be the most interesting decision of the four. A former McDonald’s All-American, when he declared for the draft last month, he announced that he intended to sign with an agent. But he has told reporters in the last week that he never actually signed and is still “50-50” on whether or not he will return. He was not invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. Wiley was, but he did not make enough of an impression to earn himself a first round guarantee. Brown and Harper are very unlikely to be drafted, but both juniors will get feedback from NBA teams on what they might need to do to play their way into the league.

Auburn is coming off of a year where they shared the SEC regular season title with Tennessee, but they struggled down the stretch of the season after Anfernee McLemore suffered a gruesome ankle injury. As it stands, under the assumption that Heron and Wiley are gone, we currently have the Tigers ranked as a top 15 team in the country in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

With Heron and Wiley back, however, Auburn will have the pieces to make a case as one of college basketball’s five best teams next season.

Forward Lance Thomas transferring from Louisville

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With Anas Mahmoud out of eligibility and Ray Spalding having made the decision to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, new Louisville head coach Chris Mack had some holes to fill in the front court ahead of his first season at the helm. There’s now another departure to account for, as it was announced Tuesday afternoon that 6-foot-8 forward Lance Thomas has decided to transfer.

Thomas, who will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at his next school, appeared in 12 games for the Cardinals last season and averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.2 minutes per game.

Losing Thomas may not appear to be a big deal based upon his production as a freshman. But, given the combination of player departures and misses on the recruiting trail this spring it can also be argued that Louisville is not in a position where it can afford any more personnel losses.

Louisville is now down to four scholarship players in the front court, wings V.J. King and Jordan Nwora and forwards Malik Williams and Steven Enoch, with Enoch eligible after sitting out last season after transferring in from UConn.

Williams made 12 starts as a freshman, averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game, with King averaging 8.6 points per game and Nwora 5.7 points per game. Enoch played in 29 games at UConn during the 2016-17 season, averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per appearance.