It’s the line that gets dropped and repeated time and again when a coach with minimal experience or a lack of regional ties gets a head coaching gig.
“The staff will be so important.”
It’s cliched at this point, but it’s also true. A head coach sometimes is only as good as the three people he hires to be his assistants. The three people that will recruit the players to the program and help guide the day-to-day as much – if not more – than anyone. It gets repeated because it’s true. A coach fortifying his program with smart and pragmatic hires is paramount.
Juwan Howard appears to have just done exactly that at Michigan.
The newly-appointed Wolverines coach is adding former St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli to his staff, giving the first-time head coach who has never spent time on a bench at the collegiate level the benefit of an experienced, veteran head coach of over 20 years who has been a National Coach of the Year while winning and recruiting big at a mid-major program.
Martelli, who was awkwardly fired from St. Joe’s after 24 years this spring, knows the college game as well as maybe anyone in the country. Whether it’s advice on recruiting, practice plans, games strategy, booster relations or working with an administration and compliance, Martelli is going to be able to give Howard an informed opinion on nearly any question that gets posed. Martelli has the precise profile of a former head coach that Howard was looking to add.
Sure, Martelli may not be a powerhouse on the recruiting trail for Michigan, but Howard’s NBA ties, as well as those of his other reported hire of Howard Eisley, and the college know-how and continuity of Saddi Washington, who is expected to be retained from John Beilein’s staff, the Wolverines should be pretty well set on the trail. Getting players is always the first step, but helping them win is the next – and often helps with the first. Martelli can be of serious service there, especially for Howard, who has experience as an assistant with the Miami Heat but whose last college experience came as a player 25 years ago.
One of the best signs that someone has the chops to make it in coaching – and maybe in any industry – is when they know what they don’t know. Howard’s hiring of Martelli suggests he’s aware of the shortcomings on his resume, and immediately sought to buttress those weaknesses with someone who has serious, high-level experience. There’s a long way to go before we can even begin to judge the Howard era in Ann Arbor, but the first steps seem to be on the right path.
Louisville lands key grad transfer in guard Lamarr Kimble
Louisville has landed a key graduate transfer for the 2019-20 season as St. Joseph’s guard Lamarr Kimble pledged to the Cardinals, according to a release.
After infusing Louisville with graduate transfers to lead them to a surprising 2018-19 season, head coach Chris Mack is continuing to remain aggressive pursuing talented transfers who can contribute right away. Kimble returned from a season-ending injury in 2017-18 to put up 15.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game as a redshirt junior last season.
A double-figure scorer during his last two healthy seasons, Kimble’s three-point shooting dipped to 29 percent in 2018-19 after starting his career as a promising 37 percent three-point shooter (with a smaller sample size) as a freshman.
Although Louisville has a loaded six-man high school recruiting class in the Class of 2019 coming in, which some say is the deepest of any group in the country, the addition of a veteran guard like Kimble is a big addition for the Cardinals. Kimble’s experience should be key for a young Louisville rotation, and if he can get his shooting numbers back up a bit, he’ll be a nice addition.
If the NCAA had the NBA’s trade deadline, what deals would get made?
I’m convinced of it. Imagine, for a second, the offers that would get thrown around as Duke looks for some shooting, or Michigan looks for another playmaker, or Kansas tries to find a way to avoid losing the Big 12 for the first time since Hoobastank was still a thing.
It wouldn’t make the headlines that this Anthony Davis soap opera has, but it would be one of the biggest story in sports.
So with that in mind, let’s pretend this trade deadline exists. What would happen? We have the answers.
One major caveat here: These trades have to benefit both teams, and they have to be trades that, in theory, would be accepted. So, for example, no matter how much I want to imagine someone like Cam Reddish with the freedom he’d have at Kansas. The same can be said for someone like Dylan Windler or Ja Morant or Chris Clemons. Those mid-majors superstars are on teams with the talent to win their league. They’re not making moves right now.
I know it’s kind of silly to require some sensibility for something that could never possibly happen, but it makes the exercise that much more fun.
Anyway, here are the trades. Drop a note in the comments or hit me on twitter with any I missed:
WICHITA STATE’S MARKIS MCDUFFIE TO DUKE FOR ALEX O’CONNELL
McDuffie is everything that Duke is missing at this point in the season. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-8 wing that is a versatile defender and, most importantly, a senior that has already won a bunch of games in March. He’s have the best year of his career this season, averaging 18.9 points while shooting 38.1 percent from three. He’s a better version of Jack White, a piece that can spell any of Duke’s Big Three while also being able to hold his own if Duke went to their death lineup — with McDuffie on the floor with the four freshmen.
O’Connell would be a good get for Gregg Marshall. He’s going to have to be better defensively to fit in there, but you get better defensively when you spend time in that program. And frankly, playing for one of the better programs in the American is more O’Connell’s level than playing for arguably the best program in America. He hasn’t been great for Duke, but keep in mind, he’s an athletic, 6-foot-6 wing that can shoot it from three and was a top 75 prospect coming out of high school.
Wichita State is dead in the water this year, so it makes sense to give up McDuffie for the rest of a wasted season to get two more years of O’Connell in return.
STANFORD’S KZ OKPALA TO MICHIGAN FOR BRANDON JOHNS AND THE COMMITMENT OF JALEN WILSON
Stanford’s season is done. They’re 11-10 on the year, they’re 4-5 in the horrid Pac-12 and while Jerod Haase isn’t quite on the hot seat just yet, he’s getting closer and closer to that territory by the moment. He also has one of the best sophomores in the country on his roster in K.Z. Okpala, a 6-foot-9 wing that shoots 41 percent from three, can handle the ball and will likely end up being a top 20 pick in this year’s draft.
This season is currently going to waste for Okpala, who is the perfect fit on a Michigan team that can go through stretches were they really struggle to score. Zavier Simpson, Jon Teske and, to a point, Charles Matthews are sensational defenders that can be liabilities on the offensive end of the floor, and when all of them are playing roughly 20 minutes together, Michigan can get bogged down on that end of the floor.
Enter Okpala, who has the length and athleticism to be a plus-defender and whose shooting and playmaking ability will fit in perfectly with a John Beilein offense. He’ll create depth on a roster that doesn’t have a ton of it, and suddenly give Beilein the option of playing a lineup that includes Iggy Brazdeikis, Isaiah Livers, Matthews and Okpala.
Johns is going to end up being pretty good, and Wilson is a top 50 prospect, so that’s a lot to give up, but Johns will play at least one more year behind Teske and Livers, and Wilson can be replaced on the recruiting trail still. Okpala gives Michigan a real chance to win a title this season, and Stanford will be getting good foundational pieces to add to a young core in return.
NORTHWESTERN’S VIC LAW TO KANSAS FOR CHARLIE MOORE
SOUTH CAROLINA’S CHRIS SILVA TO KANSAS FOR MARCUS GARRETT
Charlie Moore has not had anywhere near the impact we thought he would have this season for Kansas. Devon Dotson has taken over starting point guard duties, and Moore — who was good for a bad Cal team as a freshman — has been forced into essentially being a back-up point guard that shoots a bunch of threes. Northwestern is closer to his level, and Law is a perfect piece to add to the Kansas roster. He’s a versatile and talented 6-foot-7 wing defender — he’s averaging better than 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals per game this season — that is averaging 15.0 points and 2.9 assists this season. He’s not shooting it all that well this year, but the last two seasons, he was a 39 percent three-point shooter.
But it is the second trade here that really gets the juice flowing. Marcus Garrett has become surplus to requirements for the Jayhawks with the emergence of Ochai Agbaji and the struggles of Quentin Grimes, which has made it seem more and more likely he’ll end up in Lawrence for a second season. Garrett is one of the nation’s best defenders, but he is not the offensive weapon that Self needs him to be.
He is, however, the perfect fit longterm for a South Carolina program that is more or less dead in the water right now. They aren’t going to get an at-large bid and currently sit three games behind the No. 1 team in the country and two games behind the No. 5 team in the country in the SEC title race. Chris Silva is a hoss in the paint and maybe the most underrated big man in the sport. He’s precisely what Kansas needs for the rest of the year with Udoka Azubuike out and the rest of their frontcourt not ready.
These two deals would make Kansas the best team in the Big 12 and would not totally mortgage the program’s future.
USC’S BENNIE BOATWRIGHT TO SYRACUSE FOR JALEN CAREY
Bennie Boatwright is perfect for Syracuse. He’s 6-foot-10 and he’s not all that interested in playing defense, which makes him a perfect fit to be hidden in that zone. He also can shooting the cover off the ball, and what the Orange need more than anything else is someone that can create some space offensively. He’ll pull defenses out of the lane and allow Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett to do what they do best.
Jalen Carey has had some flashes for the Orange, but he’s on the smaller side and he can’t really shoot it, which has limited his effectiveness as the season has gone on.
TULSA’S DAQUAN JEFFRIES TO TEXAS TECH FOR KYLER EDWARDS
Finding the right fit for Texas Tech was tough. I toyed with Justin James of Wyoming, a number of the other wings you currently see on this list as well as Robert Franks from Washington State. I finally settled on Jeffries.
A lot of people won’t be familiar with Jeffries, but he would be a perfect fit for the Red Raiders. He’s tough as hell, he’s a really good defender and, most importantly, he can shoot it from three. That is the big thing that this team needs — floor-spacing. Someone that can ease the burden that is on Jarrett Culver’s shoulders. Jeffries can be that guy.
Giving up Kyler Edwards would not be ideal, but Texas Tech does have some depth on their perimeter and some pieces coming in in their backcourt. He’ll be a star for Tulsa in the American, and would give Frank Haith a nice building block moving forward.
ST. JOSEPH’S CHARLIE BROWN TO KENTUCKY FOR JEMARL BAKER
Charlie Brown is a talented, 6-foot-7 sophomore with an NBA future that has struggled to find his way within the St. Joe’s program. He needs a fresh start, and his length and athleticism on the perimeter would be a really nice fit on Kentucky’s roster. He can shoot it as well, meaning that the Wildcats won’t lose much with Baker leaving.
St. Joe’s, on the other hand, will be getting a former four-star recruit that needs a place where he can get more minutes to prove how good he can be.
UTAH’S SEDRICK BAREFIELD TO INDIANA FOR TWO FRESHMEN TO BE NAMED LATER
There are two things that this Indiana program needs: Veteran leadership at the point guard spot, and someone that can consistently hit jumpers to create space for Romeo Langford, Juwan Morgan and De’Ron Davis to operate. Barefield is a senior that is averaging 16.3 points and 3.8 assists for Utah while shooting 40.6 percent from three. He’s the perfect fit for the Hoosiers, who, in exchange, would send back some of their young pieces. Who do you like? Clifton Moore? Damezi Anderson? Jake Forrester? Jerome Hunter? If I’m Archie Miller, the only guy that I’m not giving up is Robert Phinisee.
NEW MEXICO’S ANTHONY MATHIS TO VCU FOR P.J. BYRD
I really think that this VCU team has a chance to be dangerous this year … if they can find a way to start consistently making threes. Anthony Mathis is a guy that will consistently take, and make, threes. He plays in a system at UNM that is not all that different from what VCU does, and while Byrd has looked promising in his limited minute with the Rams, VCU will be getting Marcus Evans back next season. There won’t be many minutes for him available, and it shouldn’t be that hard for Mike Rhoades to find another point guard to fit what he wants to do.