2016 Coaching Carousel

Princeton Athletics

Cornell names Princeton assistant Brian Earl head coach


Another Division I head coaching vacancy was filled Monday afternoon, as Cornell announced that it has hired Princeton associate head coach Brian Earl as the 22nd head coach in program history.

Earl, who also played at Princeton under Pete Carril (1995-96) and Bill Carmody (1996-99), spent the last nine years as an assistant at Princeton under Sydney Johnson (2007-11) and Mitch Henderson (2011-16). Earl fills the vacancy left by the departure of Bill Courtney, whose contract was not renewed after six seasons at the helm.

Courtney took over a program that made three consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament under Steve Donahue, the last of which being a Sweet 16 appearance in 2010. But he was unable to build on that momentum, with the Big Red winning no more than 13 games in any of Courtney’s six seasons in charge. This year Cornell went 10-18 and opponents averaged just over 78 points per game.

Among the players Earl will have to work with next season are guards Matt Morgan and Robert Hatter, who combined to average 36 points per game in 2015-16. While Hatter will be a senior next season Morgan will only be a sophomore, giving the new head coach a quality talent to build his program around if he so chooses.

Earl’s hiring at Cornell comes just over two weeks after he was promoted associate head coach at Princeton.

Memphis to hire Texas Tech’s Tubby Smith

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Just about a week after Josh Pastner made the decision to move from Memphis to Georgia Tech to take its head coaching position, Memphis has found the next leader of its program.

As first reported by CBSSports.com, Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith has agreed to become the next head coach at Memphis.

Smith’s move comes after three years in Lubbock, with the Red Raiders reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007 this past season. Smith has led five programs to the NCAA tournament as a head coach, and in 1998 won a national title at Kentucky.

He arrives in Memphis with some talent to work with, led by the American Athletic Conference’s top freshman in forward Dedric Lawson. Lawson’s brother K.J., who missed most of this season due to injury, will be back in the fold as well. But there are some holes to fill on the roster, most notably in the backcourt as four seniors have moved on and Avery Woodson decided to transfer. The first open evaluation period of the spring begins Friday, so getting this move done before then was important for Memphis from a recruiting standpoint.

Under Pastner Memphis reached the NCAA tournament four times, with the most recent trip coming in 2014. But they won just two games in those four trips, failing to get out of the first weekend. That’s the task for Smith, who moves to a league that while solid at the top does not have the depth that the Big 12 boasted. That should make the process of contending for (and winning) conference titles more manageable that it would have been had he remained in Lubbock.

Valparaiso promotes assistant Matt Lottich to head coach

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One day after Bryce Drew was introduced as the new head coach at Vanderbilt, Valparaiso has reportedly found his replacement.

Thursday afternoon Valparaiso offically promoted assistant Matt Lottich to head coach. Lottich, who played collegiately at Stanford, spent the last three seasons on Drew’s staff after completing a professional playing career in Japan. What will also help Lottich in his quest to keep things rolling at Valpo is the fact that the school is just over an hour from Chicago, and as a native of the state Lottich has the contacts needed from a recruiting standpoint.

There are questions when it comes to next season’s roster, as defensive linchpin Vashil Fernandez is out of eligibility and redshirt junior Alec Peters has decided to go through the NBA pre-Draft process (without an agent). Fernandez was one of four seniors on this season’s NIT runner-up team, so there will be some holes to fill this spring.

If Peters were to return that would undoubtedly help the Crusaders, as they look to win a third consecutive Horizon League title and return to the NCAA tournament after missing out this season.

News of Lottich’s hire was originally reported by ESPN.com.

Oklahoma to lose two assistants to head coaching jobs

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With success comes opportunity, and for assistant coaches that usually means the opportunity to run their own program.

Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger will have to account for the loss of two assistant coaches at season’s end, as it was learned Thursday that Lew Hill and Steve Henson have both been hired for head coaching jobs. Hill has been named the new head coach at UT Rio Grande Valley, and he’s been a member of Kruger’s coaching staff since 2004 when both were at UNLV.

As for Henson, he’s expected to be hired as the new head coach at UTSA where he’ll replace Brooks Thompson with this news being first reported by The Oklahoman. Like Hill, Henson began working on Kruger’s staff at UNLV in 2004. Since then the two assistants have been a part of eight trips to the NCAA tournament, three Sweet 16 appearances and this year’s trip to the Final Four.

These expected moves leave Chris Crutchfield as the lone remaining assistant on Kruger’s staff heading into the offseason.

James Madison hires Louis Rowe as head coach

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Thursday afternoon James Madison athletic director Jeff Bourne announced that the school has hired Bowling Green assistant Louis Rowe as its new head coach. Rowe, who was a standout as a player at James Madison under then-coach Lefty Driesell from 1993-95, spent five seasons on the JMU coaching staff from 2007-12.

From there he spent time as an assistant at FIU, Rider and Bowling Green before deciding to return to his alma mater as Matt Brady’s replacement. Brady spent eight seasons at the Colonial Athletic Association program, leading the Dukes to the NCAA tournament in 2013.

Brady’s teams won 19 or more games in five of his eight seasons at the helm, including 21 wins this season, but the lack of success in the conference tournament factored into the decision to make a head coaching change. That 2013 CAA tournament title marked the only time during Brady’s tenure in which James Madison managed to reach (at least) the semifinals of the CAA tournament.

Rowe will have to account for the loss of leading scorer Ron Curry, who earned first-team All-CAA honors as a senior.

Little Rock promotes Wes Flanigan to head coach

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Just days after announcing the departure of head coach Chris Beard to UNLV, Little Rock didn’t go outside of the program to hire the next leader of its basketball program.

Thursday morning the school introduced Wes Flanigan as its new head coach, promoting Flanigan from the associate head coaching position he held under Beard. Flanigan, who is a Little Rock native, was an assistant at the Sun Belt school from 2004-08 before moving on to assistant coaching stints at UAB, Nebraska and Mississippi State.

Little Rock has five seniors to replace from this season’s team, which won 30 games and beat No. 5 seed Purdue in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Among those players moving on are guard Josh Hagins, who scored 31 points in that double-overtime victory, and forward Roger Woods.

Guard Marcus Johnson Jr., who averaged 12.5 points per game this season, is due to be the Trojans’ leading returning scorer in 2016-17.