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2018 College Basketball Coaching Carousel: Ranking the 12 best hires from the spring of 2018

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As of today, the college basketball coaching carousel isn’t quite finished spinning — thanks at lot, Detroit and Chicago State — but for all intents and purposes, all the jobs that are nationally relevant are filled and have been filled for a couple of weeks, some for more than a month.

What that means is that it is time to look back on some of those big name coaching decisions. 

Who made the best hires?

Did anyone make a head-scratching decision?

Who is guaranteed success?

Who is locked into failure?

Here are the 12 best hires of the carousel.

THE NO-BRAINERS

1. CHRIS MACK, Louisville

For my money, Mack is one of the ten best coaches in college basketball. He’s young, he’s a high-level recruiter, he understands how to run a program in that part of the country, he’s dealt with a passionate fanbase at a basketball school. This was the hire, and Louisville got it done.

1a. DAN HURLEY, UConn

Another homerun hire, and this one coming at a discount of sorts. Hurley picked UConn over Pitt, who offered a more lucrative contract, and Rhode Island, who offered him an extension with a bigger dollar figure. Dan, the son of legendary high school coach Bob Hurley and the younger brother of Bobby Hurley, picked the Huskies in part because of the fact that they were another school in the Northeast and in part because of the pedigree that comes with the UConn brand.

Whether or not the Huskies can actually return to the glory of the Calhoun years is up for debate, but Hurley is the guy to do it. He’ll recruit better than Kevin Ollie did and he should be able to coach up the players he lands better than Ollie did the last four seasons. I don’t expect UConn to once again because a top 5-10 program in college basketball, but I do think that Hurley is the guy that can get them back to being a perennial top 25 team and an annual AAC contender.

(AP Photo/Stephen Dunn)

THESE ATHLETIC DIRECTORS EARNED THEIR SALARIES

3. PENNY HARDAWAY, Memphis

I do not know if Penny is going to be a good college coach. He was a good high school coach, a good AAU coach and a great college and NBA player, but that doesn’t always translate. What I do know is this: He is going to be able to recruit the city of Memphis, which is something that Tubby Smith, his predecessor, was not able to do, because he already is landing Memphis kids. Getting talent matters. I think Tubby Smith is a better basketball coach than Josh Pastner, but Pastner unquestionably had more success at Memphis than Smith did. Penny will get talent.

But more importantly, Penny has reinvigorated a fan base. Memphis fans want to root for talented, local players. They’re going to do that with Penny — who is a Memphis native and alum — recruiting the kids he coached at East HS and with Team Penny. Gary Parrish, a Memphis radio host, said on the CBT Podcast on Monday that Memphis has already brought in enough money through donations and ticket sales to pay Penny’s salary and Tubby’s buyout for a year. College sports in a business, and at Memphis, business is finally good again.

4. JEFF CAPEL, Pittsburgh

I think Capel is a good coach and a very good recruiter who doesn’t get enough credit for the job he did at VCU or at Oklahoma before everything blew up in his face post-Blake Griffin. He was overdue to get another shot at a high-major gig, and Pitt was able to land him.

But, if I’m being frank, his presence this high on this list has a lot more to do with the fact that I believe Pitt is a bad job in the midst of what is going to be a long and difficult rebuild. The Pitt basketball program has no pedigree outside of the years that Ben Howland and Jamie Dixon were on campus. They’ve been to seven Sweet 16s in program history, and five of them came in a seven-year period from 2002-09. That was when the Panthers, who have no recruiting base to speak of, were pulling kids out of New York City with the pitch of being able to play in the Big East.

Now?

They’re in the ACC. That sale isn’t going to work, which means that Capel has to find a way to convince players to join a program that went 0-18 in the ACC last season. I’m not sure Pitt is a top ten job in the ACC. And they landed Capel. Good for them.

5. ASHLEY HOWARD, La Salle

Ashley Howard is a Philly native and a former La Salle assistant that has spent all but one year of his post-high school life playing or coaching at one of Philly’s college basketball programs. He knows that city as well as anyone, and has spent the last five years as an assistant on the staff of the most successful program in college basketball during that time, Villanova. This was the guy that La Salle needed to get, and they got him despite the fact that the athletic department is not in great shape financially.

Jamion Christian (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

6. JAMION CHRISTIAN, Siena

Christian went to two NCAA tournaments in six seasons at Mount St. Mary’s, finding a way to stay relevant despite losing transfers to bigger programs. He just turned 36 years old and has a bright future in front of him in this business. He’s had other offers and turned down other jobs, and eventually a better program than Siena was going to smarten up and pull the trigger. What makes the hire even more impressive is that Siena made it happen in the wake of an ugly breakup with Jimmy Patsos. This is the kind of hire that is going to lead to Siena getting back to NCAA tournaments … and having to find another head coach in five or six years.

7. NIKO MEDVED, Colorado State

The Rams landed themselves one of the better young coaches in the country who is a former assistant with the program and they did it without having to break the bank. In four years, Medved built Furman from a program that was left for dead to a conference champ for the first time in 26 seasons. In one season at Drake, he turned the Bulldogs from a team that was expected to be a joke to one that went 10-8 in the league. He’ll have a similar rebuilding task on his hands in Fort Collins, but he should be up for it.

8. JOE DOOLEY, East Carolina

East Carolina is a terrible job. It’s that simple. Terrible. They’ve been to the NCAA tournament twice in program history, the last time coming in 1993. Dooley knows all about this. He was an assistant on staff when they made the 1993 NCAA tournament despite finishing below .500 and just 4-10 in the CAA. He was also the head coach at the program from 1995-99. The best he did was a 17-10 mark, finishing tied for third in the conference. Now, the Pirates are in the AAC, a league that isn’t great but is well above the level of the program. And they were able to land Dooley, a former Kansas assistant that had a ton of success as FGCU the last five years, despite the fact that he knew he was taking a terrible job. Good for them.

AP Photo/John Minchillo

FINE, IF UNINSPIRING

9. TRAVIS STEELE, Xavier

Let me be clear on this: I do not think Travis Steele was a bad hire. I think he’s going to win at Xavier. I think he’s going to keep that program in and around the top 25, if not competing for Big East titles. This was the right hire. But he was always going to be the guy. This is what Xavier does. They promoted Sean Miller after Thad Matta left for Ohio State. He turned into a top ten coach in the country. After Miller left for Arizona, they promoted Mack, and ditto. Steele might end up on that same path. I wouldn’t be shocked. I just think that it’s more impressive to make a good hire at a bad job than it is to make the smart decision to hire from within when it’s the obvious move and what your program does.

10. TOM CREAN, Georgia

It’s not that I don’t think that Crean, the former Marquette and Indiana head man, is a good coach — I do — it’s that this hire is kind of a weird fit. Crean has spent the majority of his coaching career in the midwest, even if he did end up recruiting nationally more than he did within state borders by the end of his time at Indiana. Recruiting Georgia, and specifically Atlanta, is complicated, but it can be quite fertile if done correctly. Figuring out how to navigate the state will be the key to whether or not Crean outperforms his predecessor, Mark Fox.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

11. KERMIT DAVIS, Ole Miss

Kermit Davis is a good coach that had a tremendous amount of success at Middle Tennessee State and is familiar with the recruiting waters he’ll have to wade in at Ole Miss. I’m just not sure that I see the logic in Ole Miss firing the most successful coach that the program has ever had only to go out and hire a guy that basically does the same thing, just at 58 years old instead of 50.

12. DAVID COX, Rhode Island

This was probably the right decision for URI to make, given that Cox should keep some of the talent on the roster from departing. But he’s also going to be a first-year head coach taking over for a guy that made a program without much history nationally relevant. Those are big shoes to fill. We’ll see how it plays out.

Source: La Salle to hire former Louisville assistant Kenny Johnson

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Kenny Johnson has been hired by Ashley Howard as an assistant at La Salle, making him the first coach that was fired as a result of the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball to be hired once again.

Johnson, who had previously been on staff at Indiana and Towson, was caught up in the fall out at Louisville, where he was an assistant on staff under Rick Pitino from 2014-2017.

Johnson was not named in any of the FBI complaints, and a source told NBC Sports that he was not one of the unnamed Louisville coaches. He was, per the source, fully vetted by La Salle, and that they found no NCAA violations. The FBI has told Johnson that he is not a subject of their investigation at this time and that he has fully cooperated with authorities.

This is a hire that is not without risk. La Salle was not the only program to consider hiring Johnson this offseason — his recruiting connections run deep, particularly with Washington D.C. area kids — but they were the first to pull the trigger on clearing him to be hired. No one knows what else is on the FBI’s wiretaps, or where their investigation could lead if more people decide to cooperate.

Johnson coached at Indiana and Louisville, two of the biggest brands Adidas has on their payroll. It makes sense that schools would be scared off.

But I also think that this is a risk that is worth taking for a program like La Salle. Howard, a former Villanova assistant and La Salle alum, is getting a coach on the cheap that, frankly, has no business being at a middle-of-the-pack Atlantic 10 program. That’s big for a cash-strapped athletic department, and he should be able to pay them back by bringing talent into the program.

Johnson likely isn’t foolish enough to get caught breaking NCAA rules given the heightened amount of scrutiny that is going to be on him because of this investigation, and if anything from his past pops up La Salle can hide behind the fact that they did their due diligence, the FBI said he was not a subject of their investigation and, thus, they were lied to.

We’ll see how it all plays out, but it seems like the future of the La Salle basketball program is looking up.

NBCSN announces 2017-18 Atlantic 10 schedule

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On Thursday evening, the NBC Sports Network announced the more than 30 Atlantic 10 games the network will air during the 2017-18 season.

The full schedule includes three regular-season women’s games, as well as second round and quarterfinals coverage of the Atlantic 10 Tournament, which will take place at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. beginning on March 8. A10 games can also be streamed on NBCSports.com as well as the NBC Sports app.

The first game of the season to be aired on NBCSN will be a Big 5 clash between Temple and La Salle.

Here’s NBCSN’s full schedule:

Sunday, Nov. 26: Temple at La Salle, 5 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 9: Penn at Dayton, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 16: Georgia at UMass, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 23: Wagner at Dayton, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 30: Fordham at VCU, 12:30 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 30: UMass at St. Bonaventure, 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 30: Davidson at Richmond, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 6: UMass at Dayton, noon
Saturday, Jan. 6: VCU at La Salle, 2 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 7: Davidson at George Mason, noon
Wednesday, Jan. 10: Richmond at Saint Joseph’s (women’s), noon
Saturday, Jan. 13: La Salle at Duquesne, 12:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 13: Saint Louis at George Mason, 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 13: George Washington at Richmond, 4:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 14: Davidson at Fordham, 3 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 14: Saint Joseph’s at UMass, 5 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 20: George Washington at VCU, 12:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 20: La Salle at Richmond, 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 20: George Mason at Duquesne, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 27: Duquesne at Rhode Island, noon
Saturday, Jan. 27: UMass at Fordham, 2 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 28: George Washington at St. Bonaventure, noon
Sunday, Jan. 28: Richmond at Davidson, 2 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 28: St. Bonaventure at Duquesne (women’s), 4 p.m.
Wednesday, Jan. 31: Fordham at Saint Louis (women’s), noon
Saturday, Feb. 3: George Mason at Richmond, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday,: Feb. 3: Duquesne at St. Bonaventure, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 3: George Washington at Dayton, 12:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 8: Atlantic 10 Championship Second Round (four games)
Friday, March 9: Atlantic 10 Championship Quarterfinals (four games)

March Madness 2017 Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament Preview, Bracket and Conference Postseason Awards

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Atlantic 10 Player of the Year: T.J. Cline, Richmond

The 6-foot-9 senior forward was not only one of the most efficient players in the conference, he was the only player in the Atlantic 10 to rank top-5 in (18.6 PPG), rebounds (8.1 RPG) and assists (5.7 APG). He had a triple-double — 34 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists — against Duquesne and then recorded another one — 19 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists — in his final game at Richmond.

Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year: Archie Miller, Dayton

Last year, Dayton was in a three-way tie for first place. This season, the Flyers won it outright with a 15-3 conference record. Miller had to balance early-season injuries to Kendall Pollard and transfer Josh Cunningham, which shortended his frontline. Following a loss to VCU, which finished in second place, the Flyers went on a nine-game winning streak, capped with a win at home against the Rams.

First-Team All-Atlantic 10

  • T.J. Cline, Richmond
  • Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure: The senior guard was second in the conference in scoring at 20.8 points, and led the A10 in assists and 6.6 dimes per game.
  • Charles Cooke, Dayton: Also an all-defense selection by the A10 coaches, Cooke led the Flyers in scoring at 16.5 points per game to go along with his 5.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists a night.
  • Jack Gibbs, Davidson: The conference’s leading scorer at 22.0 points per game. The repeat selection registered a handful of 30-point games.
  • Marquise Moore, George Mason: At 6-foot-2, the senior guard averaged a double-double — 17.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game — leading the A10 in rebounding at 6-foot-2. He was instrumental in an eight-win turnaround for the Patriots.

Second Team All-Atlantic 10:

  • Peyton Aldridge, Davidson,
  • Tyler Cavanaugh, George Washington
  • JeQuan Lewis, VCU
  • Hassan Martin, Rhode Island
  • Scoochie Smith, Dayton

RELATED: Player of the Year | Coach of the Year | NBC Sports All-Americans

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It’s been three years since the Atlantic 10 set a conference record by sending six teams to the NCAA Tournament. For the third straight year, the league is set to send half that amount, at best.

Rhode Island entered the season in the preseason top-25, but will likely remain on the bubble unless it makes it to Sunday’s tournament title game. Dayton won the league outright after overcoming early season injuries on the frontline. The Flyers are safe, as is VCU, who finished second to Dayton in the A10 standings this season.

The A10 wasn’t as strong as in previous seasons, but it could result in an eventful week in Pittsburgh. Will Dayton and VCU face off in a rubber match? Will Rhode Island secure its first NCAA Tournament bid since 1999? Or is there a bid stealer ready to make a run?

The Bracket

When: March 8-13

Where: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh

Final: Sunday, March 13 12:30 p.m.

Favorite: Dayton

The Flyers topped the league for the second straight season; this time outright. After dealing with injuries early in the season, which played a role in a loss in a marquee home game against Saint Mary’s, followed by an upset loss to Nebraska, putting them on the wrong side of the Wooden Legacy bracket. However, Dayton enters Pittsburgh as winners of nine of its last 10. That span includes a win at Rhode Island and avenging a loss to VCU. Scoochie Smith, Charles Cooke and Kendall Pollard lead an experienced team with the league’s best offense, matched with a solid defense.

And if they lose?: VCU

The Rams finished second in the A10 and owns a win over Dayton. Like the Flyers, VCU has an experienced group led by seniors JeQuan Lewis and Mo-Alie Cox. Both meetings were decided by single digits. In both games, the Rams frontline, anchored by Cox and Justin Tillman, gave Dayton’s front court fits.

Will Wade (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Other Contenders:

  • Rhode Island: The Rams enter this year as the conference favorite. They certainly have the talent, and perhaps a sense of urgency kicks in as the Rams are still one the bubble.
  • Richmond: Led by A10 Player of the Year T.J. Cline, the Spiders head to Pittsburgh as winners of four in a row. However, Richmond is 0-2 against VCU this season, a team it could potential face in the semifinals.

Sleeper: St. Bonaventure

With Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley, the Bonnies have two guards who can really light it up. While they finished the regular season 6-4, they did give both VCU and Dayton a tough test during meetings last month.

The Bubble Dwellers: One

  • Rhode Island: The Rams followed up a marquee non-conference win against a ranked Cincinnati team by losing four of their next six. A 21-win season, and a recent win over VCU, could keep URI on the right side of the bubble. However, a one-an-done performance this week could mean a long night on Selection Sunday.

Defining moment of the season: JeQuan Lewis takes a charge on in-bounds pass with 0.4 seconds remaining.

On Feb. 8, George Washington’s Yuta Watanabe hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left in a game against VCU. In lieu of going the length of the court for the next-to-impossible buzzer-beater, JeQuan Lewis drew a charge on Tyler Cavanaugh, sunk two free throws and the Rams left D.C. with the heist of a 54-53 victory. The previous game, a premature court storm by the St. Bonaventure fans, gave VCU a free throw, which helped force overtime.

VCU would have been on the wrong side of the bubble had it not won both those games, especially with Lewis’ quick thinking against the Colonials. Instead, the Rams are all but assured a seventh consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament.

CBT Prediction: Dayton

Brunson helps No. 1 Villanova avoid upset against La Salle

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) Jalen Brunson scored 26 points and Josh Hart had 21 to help No. 1 Villanova hold off La Salle 89-79 on Tuesday night.

The Wildcats (9-0) failed to dominate in their first game of the season as the top-ranked team in the country. The national champions led La Salle (4-3) by only single digits late in the game and played little like the team that had steamrolled to the top.

Coach Jay Wright had worried that Villanova’s ascension to No. 1 would give the Explorers a little more incentive to go out and knock off the champs.

La Salle almost came through at the famed Palestra.

Johnnie Shuler and Pookie Powell made late 3-pointers that pulled the Explorers to 77-70. La Salle, which has never defeated a No. 1 team, got more late help from long range when Jordan Price popped a 3 that made it a four-point game. Powell scored 27 points.

La Salle just didn’t have enough to get past Villanova and earn its biggest win since it reached the 2013 Sweet 16.

The Wildcats sealed the win on Donte DiVincenzo’s late dunk and avoided the upset.

BIG PICUTRE

La Salle: The Explorers lost three times to No. 1 teams in the 1950s, once each in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2010s. La Salle last lost to a No. 1 team 90-65 to Kansas on Dec. 12, 2009.

Villanova: The Wildcats went 5-1 as an AP Top 25 No. 1 last season. They were the top team in the country for three weeks and proved they were worthy of the ranking with the program’s second national championship. The Wildcats are trying to become the first repeat champs since Florida in 2006-07.

UP NEXT

La Salle faces another Big East team Saturday against Georgetown.

Villanova gets its toughest test in weeks when it plays No. 23 Notre Dame in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

No. 9 Villanova uses 3-point shooting to beat La Salle 76-47

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VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) Josh Hart scored 18 points and Ryan Arcidiacono had 14 to lead No. 9 Villanova past La Salle 76-47 on Sunday.

The Wildcats (8-1) bounced back from their first loss of the season, 78-55 to No. 7 Oklahoma on Monday. They hit 13 3-pointers and had 24 assists on 28 baskets and again flexed their muscle as the class of Philadelphia basketball.

The Wildcats have won 12 straight games in the Big 5, round-robin play among five Philadelphia Division I basketball teams that dates to 1955.

Hart connected on two straight 3s midway through the first half to open a double-digit lead, and Villanova dominated from there.

The Wildcats missed 28 of 32 3-pointers against Oklahoma. They had made 11 of 19 when they doubled up the Explorers 66-33 midway through the second half.

Villanova holds the city series record with 14 straight victories from 2004-05 to 2007-08. The Explorers beat the Wildcats three seasons ago, the year they reached the Sweet 16.

La Salle hasn’t made the postseason since that remarkable run and played like a team on the brink of extending that streak another season.

Jordan Price, who entered third in the nation in scoring at 25.9 points per game, led the Explorers with 16 points on 6-of-17 shooting.

The Wildcats reached 70 points with 6:30 left and have won 36 consecutive games when scoring at least that many.

Hart, Jalen Brunson and Arcidiacono opened the second half with 3-pointers that turned a comfortable lead into a full-blown rout. Brunson, the highly touted freshman guard, scored 13 points.

Without much reason for sustained excitement, Daniel Ochefu snapped the crowd out of a funk with three rim-shaking dunks. He also grabbed 10 rebounds.

Inside or outside, the Explorers were no match for a Villanova team again stamped the Big East favorite.

TIP-INS

La Salle: The Explorers have made a 3-pointer in 786 straight games, the 13th-longest streak in the nation. … La Salle has lost three straight games.

Villanova: F Kris Jenkins was benched for a minor academic infraction. Phil Booth got the start. Jenkins scored three points and Booth had 10. … The Wildcats had 13 assists on 14 baskets in the first half. … Coach Jay Wright emptied the bench with 2:48 left.

UP NEXT

La Salle returns from a long break for exams Dec. 22 at the Palestra against Miami.

Villanova plays Saturday at No. 10 Virginia.