Which college coaches under 40 are most likely to be stars in next decade?

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This week, NBC Sports has been rolling out a project in which we take a look at the current landscape of basketball and try to project what it will look like in the future.

Over at Pro Basketball Talk, they are running through a list of who we think will be the top 50 basketball players in the world as of 2024. Here on CBT, we have already given you our list of the next generation of basketball stars, the future of the sport that has yet to play a college game.

Today, we will be taking a look at coaches.

Which coaches in the college ranks that are under the age of 40 today will be the biggest names in the sport ten years from now?

This is our list.

1. MIKE MILLER, Memphis assistant, 39

I have a feeling that this name is going to raise a few eyebrows, but there’s a logic to this. While Penny Hardaway has been the face of Memphis basketball and the way that they have been recruiting in the last 18 months, it is worth noting that Miller has played just as big of a role as the program has found a way to get into the mix with some of the biggest names in the high school ranks. As one person in the grassroots basketball world put it, “the kids love him.”

He’s already made a run at one high level coaching opening – can you imagine what he could have gotten done at UNLV? – and sooner or later he’s going to land one of them. If and when he does, Miller is going to be a Penny-sized force in the recruiting landscape. Think about it like this: How many people in the world can FaceTime LeBron, and how much will that impress elite high school players?

2. WES MILLER, UNC Greensboro, 36

It may be hard to believe, but this is going to be Miller’s ninth season as the head coach of the Spartans. He got the job when he was just 28 years old, and while it took him a little while to get it rolling in Greensboro, UNCG has been the best program in the SoCon for the last three years. The Spartans won a share of the SoCon title in 2017, the outright title in 2018 and finished second behind an absolutely loaded Wofford team in 2019. They’ve reached two NITs and an NCAA tournament during that stretch, and while the Spartans lose Francis Alonso, there are enough pieces returning that they should be right back in the mix at the top of the conference again this season.

Miller has been in the mix for a couple of bigger jobs in recent years, and he’ll eventually land one of those jobs. If he continues on this trajectory, he’ll likely find himself in the mix when (if?) Roy Williams retires at UNC. Miller, after all, played for Williams for four years and was a member of the 2005 national title team.

3. JAMION CHRISTIAN, George Washington, 37

Christian is heading into his eighth season as a head coach at his third school. A Virginia native and Mount St. Mary’s alum, Christian spent six years as the head coach of his alma mater – getting to two NCAA tournaments in that time – before spending the 2018-19 season at Siena. After a second place finish in the MAAC, Christian was hired to replace Maurice Joseph at George Washington.

GW is a tougher job than it seems because of some of the academic requirements for kids they enroll, but Christian has spent essentially his entire career recruiting the mid-atlantic region and has made a couple of savvy local hires. If he can continue GW’s trend of tapping into international markets, he should be fine. As one head coach put it to me, “Jamion is the best basketball coach on that list.”

Jamion Christian (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

4. TRAVIS STEELE, Xavier, 37

Steele has only been the head coach at Xavier for one season – the Musketeers went 19-16 with a 9-9 record in his first year taking over for Chris Mack – but he has the program primed to return to the top 25 and the NCAA tournament this year. Steele has been with the program since 2008, when Sean Miller hired him off of Indiana’s staff, meaning that he has seen them go from being a good Atlantic 10 program to arguably the best Big East program not named Villanova.

At this point, that Xavier program can run itself in a sense, and while coaches around the country seem to think that Steele isn’t quite on a par with his predecessors – getting Mack, Miller, Thad Matta and Skip Prosser is an unbelievable stretch of coaches – he’s certainly capable enough to keep the Musketeers relevant and NCAA tournament-bound.

And who knows, maybe Steele proves us all wrong and becomes the best coach out of Xavier yet.

5. MIKE BOYNTON, Oklahoma State, 37

I’m really not sure just how good Boynton is going to be as a head coach. He has some serious pedigree – he’s coached under Mike Young, Frank Martin and Brad Underwood – but through two seasons in Stillwater, he’s managed just a 35-33 record and a 13-23 mark in the Big 12. It is worth noting, however, that Boynton brings back essentially everyone from last year’s rotation, he plays a fun and entertaining style and he is the odds-on favorite to land Cade Cunningham, the star of the 2020 recruiting class.

Personally, I’m rooting for Boynton to figure it out. If you’ve forgotten, Boynton joined the Oklahoma State staff when Underwood was hired to replace Travis Ford, but Underwood left after just one season. Boynton interviewed his way into the job, which on the surface is a great thing, but part of the reason he got the job is because Oklahoma State didn’t want to pay what was required to get a big name, not when they still had to deal with Travis Ford’s buyout.

OK State was not set up to win when Boynton got there. It is already a middle-of-the-pack Big 12 job, one where the fanbase has been siphoned off by the Oklahoma City Thunder, and he had just lost Jawun Evans and Phil Forte. Boynton, who is black, was hired at the same time that Cal did the same thing with Wyking Jones and just six months after George Washington did the same with Maurice Joseph.

Jones and Joseph are both black. Both have already been fired. Their struggles are going to make it more difficult for the next young, black coach to get a high-major opening despite the fact that their struggles had as much to do with the situation they were put into as their coaching chops. As one industry source put it at the time, “this set young black coaches back another 10 years.”

As of today, just eight of the 65 head coaches in Power Five leagues are black.

So yes, I’m rooting for Boynton to buck that trend and prove some people wrong.

Will Wade (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

6. WILL WADE, LSU, 36

If we were talking strictly about how successful these coaches have been to date, there’s no question that Wade should be No. 1 on this list. He’s been a head coach for six years and the head coach at high-major programs – VCU and LSU – for four of them. He won the Atlantic 10 regular season title in 2016. He won the SEC regular season title this past season. He’s the only head coach on this list to have reached the Sweet 16. Oh, and he just so happens to be a killer on the recruiting trail.

The problem, however, is that last part. Remember his strong-ass offer to Javonte Smart? Remember how much time he spent talking on phones that were tapped by the FBI? Well, that has put him in a position where we really don’t know if he is still going to be employed at LSU by the time he turns 37, and that’s why he drops out of the top five. Put another way, if you could guarantee that Wade would make it through the next two years without the NCAA coming down on him with any kind of significant punishment, then I would have a hard time keeping him out of the top spot.

But you can’t.

So he’s here.

7. ASHLEY HOWARD, La Salle, 38

Howard, a Philly native and former Villanova assistant, just finished his first season as the head coach at La Salle. The Explorers went just 10-21 on the season, but they finished 8-10 in league play and were much better late in the year than they were at the start of the season. La Salle is not an easy job to win at, but I think Howard can get it done.

8. RICHARD PITINO, Minnesota, 36

Pitino is another guy where it is hard to believe he’s just 36 years old. He’s heading into his seventh season as the head coach at Minnesota and his eighth season as a head coach overall. He won the NIT his first year with the Golden Gophers and has been to two of the last three NCAA tournaments.

9. JON SCHEYER, Duke associate head coach, 31

Scheyer seems to be the next Blue Devil staffer in line to get a head coaching job as high major programs around the country tap into the Duke staff to try and find the next Coach K. He’s respected as a recruiter and has already been in the mix for some openings in recent years.

Jon Scheyer (Lance King/Getty Images)

10. DANA FORD, Missouri State, 35

Ford is a guy that has garnered quite a bit of respect in the coaching industry. He took Tennessee State from a joke to relevant in the OVC in just two years, which was enough to convince Missouri State to hire him despite never finishing better than tied for second in his division.

11. JOEL JUSTUS, Kentucky assistant coach, 37

Justus is now a full-time assistant with the Wildcats after starting his tenure with the team as the director of analytics. He has a reputation for being a smart basketball mind, and Kentucky’s bio specifically credits him for the development of the Shai Gilgeous-Alexander from a top 35 recruit to lottery pick.

12. BOB RICHEY, Furman, 36

In two seasons with the Palladins, Richey has gone 48-18 overall with a 26-10 mark in a strong SoCon. He went into Villanova and beat the Wildcats this past season and earned a bid to the NIT after spending much of the season on the NCAA tournament bubble.

13. CHRIS OGDEN, UT Arlington, 38

Ogden played for Rick Barnes and then spent the first 17 years of his coaching career on Barnes’ staff. After one season at Tennessee, Ogden was then hired by Chris Beard at Texas Tech before he got the UT Arlington job. This past season, his first with the Mavericks, he finished second in the Sun Belt before being named the league’s Coach of the Year.

14. LUKE MURRAY, Louisville assistant, 34

Murray is extremely sharp and detail-oriented when it comes to scouting and developing game-plans, and he has been slotted in the role of recruiting coordinator on Chris Mack’s Louisville staff. He’s also worked under Sean Miller and Dan Hurley.

15. KIM ENGLISH, Tennessee assistant, 30

English is a bit of a polarizing name. There are some that believe he is a future star in this business, and there are others that are not as convinced. I do think it’s notable that both Frank Haith at Tulsa and Tad Boyle at Colorado were disappointed to lose him, and sources told NBC Sports that he would have been on Rick Barnes’ staff if Barnes had been able to get the job at UCLA. He’s a sharp basketball mind with NBA pedigree.

16. ANDY TOOLE, Robert Morris, 38

Toole is heading into his tenth season with Bobby Mo, but it’s been a few years since he was running one of the elite programs in the NEC. Toole reached the NCAA tournament in 2015, he won the NEC regular season title in 2013 and 2014, and in 2013, he had that memorable win over Kentucky in the first round of the NIT. But he’s had just one season over .500 in the last four years as his program has been hit hard by players transferring to bigger schools.

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

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The days of postseason bans and crippling scholarship reductions to punish schools for breaking NCAA rules appear to be winding down.

Memphis was placed on three years of probation earlier this week with a public reprimand and fined for NCAA violations related to the recruitment and short college career of James Wiseman, who is about to start his third season with the Golden State Warriors. The NCAA also wrapped up an investigation of Air Force football for breaking the COVID-19 recruiting quiet period.

No postseason bans or scholarship reductions in either case. The Independent Accountability Review Panel, the NCAA’s outside arm of enforcement, said in its decision in the Memphis case that it did not want to punish current athletes.

That sentiment is widespread in college athletics these days, even with millions of dollars suddenly flowing to athletes from various sources for their celebrity endorsements amid concerns over improper inducements. In fact, it is on the way to being codified: Last month, the Division I Board of Directors adopted three proposals to change the infractions process.

The board also committed to “identifying appropriate types of penalties and modifying current penalty ranges, including identifying potential alternative penalties to postseason bans.”

Trying to predict what those alternatives will be is difficult, but if the goal is to avoid harming athletes and others who were not involved in the violations the options are limited.

“I emphatically believe it’s the wrong direction to go,” said Nebraska law professor Jo Potuto, who spent nine years on the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“If you’re going to deter, the punishment has to fit the offense, right?” Potuto added. “You’re not going to deter serious violations with penalties that are not perceived to be really serious.”

Since January 2020, there have been at least 45 major infractions cases decided by the NCAA. Of those, at least 15 involved Level I allegations, the most serious and those carrying the most severe penalties; six cases resulted in some kind of postseason ban, with four of them self-imposed.

The Memphis case went through the IARP, which was created in response to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball corruption but is now being discontinued. Sunsetting the IARP was among several recommendations put forth by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee earlier this year and recently adopted by the board.

As college sports moves toward less centralized governance by the NCAA and deregulation in general, the hope is to create a more streamlined enforcement process.

If justice is swift, the thinking goes, it is more likely to be applied fairly.

“The reality is the current system is broken,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips, a member of the transformation committee. “I think everyone in the association, in the enterprise, understands it. When (an investigation) takes the amount of time that it does now and you start to penalize young men and women that were high school, if not middle school-age (when the violation occurred), it’s not an effective process.”

The IARP is still handling cases stemming from the FBI probe involving Louisville, Arizona, Kansas and LSU. Those have been in the NCAA enforcement pipeline for years. A related case against Oklahoma State did not go through IARP and the Cowboys did end up with a postseason ban.

David Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University and former compliance director for several schools, said even though the IARP failed, NCAA enforcement would be best handled by an independent organization.

“No system is perfect, but if you’re going to have an enforcement system at the end of the day you need to provide basic due-process protections and then you have to be able to consistently punish people,” he said.

In the Memphis case, Wiseman received $11,500 from Hardaway in 2017 while Hardaway was coach at a local high school. Hardaway was hired as Memphis’ coach in March 2018, and Wiseman committed to the Tigers in November 2018.

The NCAA accused Memphis of four Level I and two Level II violations, including lack of institutional control, head coach responsibility and failure to monitor. In the past, those types of allegations could strike fear into athletic directors but probation and fines seem much more likely to be the outcome now instead of the sweeping scholarship sanctions, vacated victories and postseason ban that Southern California received in 2010 for the Reggie Bush improper benefits case. Those penalties set USC football back years.

In the end, the IARP essentially reduced the charges against Memphis and cleared Hardaway of wrongdoing.

While the NCAA is losing sway in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, with more power being shifted to its member conferences, it also remains clear the schools still want the association to handle enforcement.

But what exactly is being enforced?

Athletes can now be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals and college sports is still waiting on and hoping for help from federal lawmakers to regulate name, image and likeness compensation.

Plus, as revenue skyrockets for schools at the top of major college sports, the NCAA is trending toward fewer restrictions on what financial benefits can be provided to athletes.

“Until we have clarity and certainty on what schools and boosters and athletes can and can’t do, I think many recognize that it’s dangerous to hand down significant punishments when it’s not clear what you can and can’t do,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane. “And I think unless you have clear rules, it’s hard to harsh punishment.”

Still, punishments directed at schools (fines) and coaches (suspensions) could become steeper and longer, Feldman said.

Potuto said with so much money flowing into the top of college athletics, it is doubtful fines could be large enough to be a true deterrent. While she understands the desire to not have current athletes pay for the sins of previous regimes, loosened transfer rules could mitigate the potential harm.

“I will make one prediction: If there is a move to impose penalties much less frequently in five years there is going to be a move to put them back in,” Potuto said.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.