The coaching carousel is always one of the more fascinating aspects to this sport, and 2016 provided plenty of intrigue in that regard.
The ripple effects of one coach or administrator are what’s truly interesting about this game of musical chairs.
One hiring, firing or retirement changes the lives of dozens of people. And the fate of a few basketball programs. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for further decline.
Here’s which ones we think are best set up to succeed with new coaches at the helm.
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1. Brad Underwood, Oklahoma State: The Cowboy faithful had long grown tired of Travis Ford as the program failed to meet expectations and then slumped toward the bottom of the Big 12, but they were perfectly positioned to go out and grab one of the most coveted names on the market, who also happens to be a perfect fit in Stillwater. All Underwood did at Stephen F. Austin was win, going 89-14 overall and 53-1 in conference over three years. He also knows the Big 12 landscape, having played at Kansas State and then coaching at his alma mater for six years under Bob Huggins and Frank Martin.
2. Tubby Smith, Memphis: Many were under the assumption that Smith headed to Texas Tech after getting fired from Minnesota to play out the string of his career in a Big 12 outpost, but Smith’s work at one of the toughest jobs in the Big 12 showed he’s still got what it takes to win at a high level. Now at Memphis, where winning is certainly easier but expectations are drastically higher, Smith will be tasked with taking a sixth program to the NCAA tournament. If he can do that in Lubbock, there’s no reason to think he can’t do that, and much more, in a proud and resource-rich program like the Tigers.
3. Rick Stansbury, Western Kentucky: After a 14-year run at the head of Mississippi State, Stansbury spent the last two years under Billy Kennedy at Texas A&M, but has now re-emerged in Bowling Green and is already moving the needle. He got 2017 five-star Aggie commit Mitchell Robinson to pledge to the Hilltoppers this summer and then later nabbed four-star guard Josh Anderson. It’s apparent that Stansbury and Western Kentucky are simply going to overwhelm Conference USA with talent in the future. In the meantime, transfers Junior Lomomba of Providence and Que Johnson of Washington State will help steady the Hilltoppers this season.
4. Bryce Drew, Vanderbilt: In five seasons at his alma mater, Drew proved he was more than just the guy who hit one of the NCAA tournament’s most iconic shots or a legacy hire, going to two NCAA tournaments and winning 20 games, including 30 last year, in all but one season. He’s charged with reinvigorating a program fans felt stagnated at the end of Kevin Stallings’ 17-year tenure.
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FIVE MORE NOTABLE HIRES
- 5. Travis Ford, Saint Louis: Ford flamed out at Oklahoma State because he couldn’t win with the talent that he brought into the program, and as a result, he lost the fan base. He’s already recruiting at a ridiculous level with the Billikens – he already has commitments from three top 100 players – and should have Saint Louis back in the mix in the Atlantic 10 sooner rather than later.
- 6. Jamie Dixon, TCU: Dixon was brought in by his alma mater and has already hired a solid coaching staff that is making waves on the recruiting trail. TCU, located in the heart of the fertile Dallas-Fort Worth recruiting grounds, has the bonafides to be a player in the Big 12.
- 7. Jared Haase, Stanford: Haase is a California native and Roy Williams protégé that had success at UAB before replacing Johnny Dawkins out west. His roster has some pieces on it, but the key for the Cardinal is going to be keeping everyone healthy.
- 8. Steve Pikiell, Rutgers: When Pikiell was hired by Stony Brook, the Seawolves were a mess as a program. He left after building them into an America East powerhouse. Can he do the same at Rutgers?
- 9. T.J. Otzelberger, South Dakota State: Otzelberger has been an assistant coach at Iowa State and Washington and was nearly named Fred Hoiberg’s replacement with the Cyclones.