2014-15 Season Preview: Key assistant coaching hires

Leave a comment

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

While head coaches run college basketball programs across America from top-to-bottom, it is often the three assistant coaches that do a lot of the difficult day-to-day tasks. From scheduling, to running practices, to recruiting, there are a lot of valuable assistant coaches out there doing these jobs.

Some assistants are fine serving a head coach for much of their career while others jump from assistant job to assistant job before they get to run a program of their own as a head coach. Either way, many of these assistant coaches are valuable members to the basketball program.

Here are 10 difference-making assistant coaching hires from this offseason. Some of these guys help the head guy land talented recruits while others are good at developing talent and incorporating Xs and Os.

1. Keelon Lawson Sr., MemphisJosh Pastner hired Keelon Lawson, Sr. to recruit his sons. The plan is working so far as K.J. Lawson and Dedric Lawson are both committed members of the 2015 class — after Dedric re-classified from the Class of 2016 and committed to Memphis. There are two younger Lawson brothers that are also reportedly very good prospects as well. If Pastner gets four top-1oo players from this hire, it’s a home run.

2. Rob Fulford, MissouriThe recent trend of prep school coach to college assistant coach continues as former Huntington Prep head coach Rob Fulford joined Kim Anderson’s new staff at Mizzou. This hire, along with keeping former assistant Tim Fuller, are two major recruiting-focused moves from Anderson and Fulford has already paid off with the 2014 commitment of former Huntington wing Teki Gill-Caesar. Fulford has proven he can recruit before at Huntington Prep and that should continue in the college ranks.

3. Kenny Johnson, LouisvilleThe former Indiana assistant left Tom Crean’s staff to replace Kevin Keatts (new head coach at UNC-Wilmington) at Louisville. With ties to Nike EYBL powerhouse Team Takeover, Johnson is a noted recruiter with a lot of connections on the east coast. Replacing Keatts, who did a great job recruiting at Louisville, will not be easy, but Johnson has the resumé to get it done.

4. Yanni Hufnagal, CalHufnagel is one of the most highly-regarded recruiters of high-academic prospects in the country and Cal is getting an assistant coach who recruited high-quality players to Harvard and Vanderbilt. Cuonzo Martin has already reeled in 2016 wing Oscar Frayer at Cal, thanks in-part to Hufnagel, and the assistant has been a tireless recruiter getting Cal caught up in the 2015 class. Hufnagel has a lot of west coast connections, so this is a natural fit.

MORE: Best non-conference games | NBCSports.com’s Preseason Top 25 Countdown

5. Barry “Slice” Rohrssen, Kentucky – To replace former assistant coach Orlando Antigua after he took the head job at South Florida, John Calipari went to Pitt and hired a noted recruiter in Barry “Slice” Rohrssen. Slice helped get Mustapha Heron to Pitt in the 2016 class and has a lot of ties throughout the recruiting world that should open up doors for Calipari even more. Not that Kentucky needs help landing players, but Rohrssen is just another way to get a foot in the door of elite players.

6. Yasir Rosemond, GeorgiaRosemond isn’t as experienced or highly-touted as some of the others on this list, but he has a proven track record at Samford by recruiting two consecutive SoCon Freshman of the Year winners.

7. Barret Peery, Arizona State – The former Indian Hills head coach has a lot of experience at the junior college level and helped Herb Sendek re-load the roster with junior college prospects on the 2014-15 team.

8. Adam Cohen, Vanderbilt – Cohen has followed the trail that Hufnagel blazed the last two offseasons, going from Harvard to Vanderbilt, and he should be able to have the Commodores in the mix for some talented high-academic prospects.

9. Stephen Thompson Sr., Oregon State – New Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle needed another talented prospect to pair with his son, Tres, in the 2015 class so he added the father of a four-star guard. Now the Beavers have both committed and the future is brighter in Corvallis.

10. Ryan Miller, UNLVDave Rice hiring the experienced Miller is a good move. A former assistant at Auburn and New Mexico, Miller is a noted recruiter and should keep the talent pipeline flowing to Las Vegas.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
Leave a comment

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

Getty Images

The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.