2006...
TGS HOOPS SPECIAL REPORT...FIRST-YEAR COLLEGE COACHES
by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet, com Editor


AIR FORCE: Jeff Reynolds out, Dave Pilipovich in...Pilipovich actually got a jump start on the Falcon job when promoted as the interim replacement for the ousted Jeff Reynolds late last season. Word from Mountain West sources was that the players enthusiastically supported the decision to retain Pilipovich, under whom the team displayed a brief spark late last season despite a mere 2-6 record. Pilipovich’s appointment became permanent before last March’s Mountain West Tourney in Las Vegas. Expect the Falcs, with four returning starters (including star G Michael Lyons), to be pesky again with their usual deliberate tactics this winter. But there doesn’t appear to be as much quality depth as there has been at times in the past decade when the Falcs contended for postseason berths.

BROWN: Jesse Agel out, Mike Martin in...Perhaps President Obama’s brother-in-law Craig Robinson knew what he was doing four years ago when high-tailing it out of Providence (for Oregon State) at the first opportunity. Successor Agel never had the Bears contending in the Ivies as did Robinson, and last season’s meltdown (augmented by injury, illness, and ineligibility) was the final straw. Enter 29-year-old Martin, who knows something about Brown after playing and coaching there within the past decade and very familiar with the ivies after serving on Penn’s staff in recent years. Three starters return, but Martin inherits the Ivy’s worst defense, which should keep the Bears anchored in the second division of the loop.

CAL STATE FULLERTON: Bob Burton out, Andy Newman in...We’re still a bit puzzled how the Titans unraveled last March, with an internal revolt against personable HC Bob Burton resulting in late-season internal strife and threats of a mass player exodus. Burton stayed on the job until summer, when he was either fired or resigned (take your pick; we believe the former) while AD Brian Quinn was also demoted to a fundraising position. Which leaves Fullerton with an interim AD and an interim HC in Newman, Burton’s assistant who will effectively be conducting a season-long audition for himself while the school slowly gets around to hiring its new AD. But Newman inherits a team that figures to contend in the Big West, as star Gs D.J. Seeley and Kwame Vaughn didn’t skip town, and USF transfer G Michael Williams might give CSF the best backcourt tandem in the conference. Which has set the bar pretty high for Newman, who effectively has a postseason-or-else mandate to have a chance at keeping his job.

CENTRAL MICHIGAN: Ernie Ziegler out, Keno Davis in... The rehabilitation of the career of Davis, Dr. Tom’s son and once a rising star in the coaching ranks a few years ago at Drake before an ill-advised move to Providence and a short stint as an analyst on the Big Ten Network, begins this fall at Mt. Pleasant. Davis, whose 2008 Drake team finished 28-5 and made it into the Big Dance, is familiar with the territory, having recruited much of that Bulldog team from Michigan. But don’t expect any immediate Drake-like success with the Chips, who lost 21 games each of the past two seasons (prompting Ziegler’s ouster) and returns just five players and 27% of the scoring from last year’s team. Worse, three expected key contributors (including Ernie Ziegler’s son Trey, who landed at Pitt) transferred out after last season. This is not going to be any quick-fix job for Keno at CMU.

COLORADO STATE: Tim Miles out, Larry Eustachy in...We actually think the one who got the worst of the little merry-go-round at Fort Collins was former HC Miles, who admittedly parlayed his success with the Rams into a big-money deal at Nebraska, but takes over a hoops program at what might be the ultimate football school while having lots of ground to make up vs. numerous established Big Ten programs. Meanwhile, the well-regarded Eustachy, whose latest resurrection job was at Southern Miss, which made it into last season’s Big Dance, inherits an NCAA qualifier from a year ago with some interesting pieces remaining in the puzzle, including top-flight sr. Gs Wes Eikmeier and Dorian Green. Athough we want to make sure that workhorse 6-5 sr. PF Pierce Hornung, the Rams’ “glue” guy, is beyond summer back problems. CSU has already taken a hit in its backcourt depth with the season-ending knee injury suffered by sr. G Jesse Carr.

UCONN: Jim Calhoun out, Kevin Ollie in...This move had been widely predicted by Big East sources who were a bit surprised Calhoun didn’t hang ‘em up a year earlier when he had the chance to go out on top following the 2011 national title. Since then, however, it has been one distraction after another in Storrs, with Calhoun suffering physical hardship and the program nailed by the NCAA for violations that resulted in a postseason ban for this season. Calhoun waited until September to retire, handing over the reins to top aide Ollie (veteran assistant George Blaney stays on in the same capacity), but don’t think this is a North Carolina-like situation from 1997, when Dean Smith effectively handed a Final Four-caliber team to longtime assistant Bill Guthridge. Ollie instead inherits a probation-shackled program that has lost most of its key components from last year, with C Andre Drummond and F Jeremy Lamb opting to leave early for the NBA, and Fs Roscoe Smith (to UNLV) and Alex Oriakhi (to Missouri) having transferred out. This is an interim one-year audition for Ollie, although we would suspect any ultimate determination about his credentials for the full-time appointment would take into consideration the situation this winter at UConn.

DUQUESNE: Ron Everhart out, Jim Ferry in...Regional sources weren’t so sour on Everhart, who had the Dukes mostly competitive in recent years, but another late-season fade last winter cost him his job. Ex-Long Island HC Jim Ferry is now on board after leading the Blackbirds to back-to-back NCAA berths while overseeing a go-go offense that scored over 81 ppg last term. Not sure Ferry has that sort of talent on hand on The Bluff, although sr. G Sean Johnson (13.5 ppg LY and one of only two returning starters) could post some nice numbers in the Ferry offense.

FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL: Isiah Thomas out, Richard Pitino in...This Sun Belt job got a bit more attention than it probably warranted simply because of the names involved, including Thomas, a controversial hire three years earlier and seeming more interested in maintaining a connection with New York Knicks owner Jim Dolan than developing the program in Miami, which went only 26-65 the past three seasons. Thomas’ ouster was no surprise, and frankly neither was the hire of Pitino, you-know-who’s son. The young Pitino did his apprentice work under Pop at Louisville and before that with family friend Billy Donovan at Florida and will want to push the pace. But he inherits a team with no starters returning (in fact, only 14% of the scoring returns from last year’s Golden Panthers) and a whopping nine-man recruiting class, so they’ll be wearing name tags at FIU through December, at least. Insiders expect the 30-year-old Pitino to eventually move up, but not for a few years as he starts a big rebuild job in Miami.

ILLINOIS: Bruce Weber out, John Groce in...In the end, Weber just didn’t win enough to satisfy the demanding Illini support base, especially with the 2005 Final Four and title game run looking further and further back in the rear-view mirror. Weber’s rep wasn’t harmed enough to prevent him from getting another gig, however (more on that in a minute). Enter Groce, one of last season’s coaching flavors after being fresh from taking Ohio U to the Sweet 16. Groce knows the region well from not only his MAC days but also a stint on Thad Matta’s Ohio State staff, so we think he might have been a better fit than Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens, the two coaches Illini backers really wanted. Illinois could make some noise this season with four returning starters, although it could miss the presence of departed 7-2 C Meyers Leonard.

ILLINOIS STATE: Tim Jankovich out, Dan Muller in...After nearly steering ISU into the Big Dance last season (last second-loss in the Valley’s Arch Madness finale vs. Creighton), Jankovich was tapped by SMU to be the heir apparent at SMU to newly-hired Larry Brown, who will have Tim as his top assistant for the next few years. Enter Muller, a Redbird through and through from his playing days in Normal under Kevin Stallings, under whom Muller had also served as an assistant at Vanderbilt the past few years. So, if nothing else, there’s a “family” feeling about the Muller hire. Valley sources expect Muller, who won’t alter the Jankovich offense, to hit the ground running with four returning starters, including versatile 6-9 sr. F Jackie Carmichael and explosive 6-4 sr. G Tyler Brown.


KANSAS STATE: Frank Martin out, Bruce Weber in...Martin and his recruiting pipeline were never destined to remain in Manhattan too long, and when South Carolina came calling with the big money, Frank couldn’t resist. Weber is a proven winner, but his Illinois teams did slip in recent years, and recruiting into Manhattan might be even tougher. Weber inherits his sort of team, however, a defense-minded bunch with four starters back in the fold. But among those, only G Rodney McGruder (15.7 ppg) can be remotely considered a go-to scoring threat. If Weber can find some more offense in his lineup, K-State likely goes dancing in March.

LSU: Trent Johnson out, Johnny Jones in...Proving that there really is staying ahead of the posse in college spots, Trent Johnson traded a must-win season at LSU for a new contract at TCU, starting his clock all over again. Enter Jones, a former star for Dale Brown during his playing days (including the 1981 Final Four) and recently a relative success at North Texas, which qualified for multiple NCAA Tourneys on Jones’ watch. But a quick turnaround in Baton Rouge might be tough after a couple of potential contributors, C Justin Hamilton (who opted for early entry into the NBA Draft) and G Ralston Turner (transfer to NC State) left the program in the offseason.

MIAMI-OHIO: Charlie Coles out, John Cooper in...One of our personal favorites, the wily Coles, decided to hang ‘em up after last season and leaves a tough act for Cooper (recently at Tennessee State) to follow. But there is room to make noise in the MAC, and Coles didn’t leave a bare cupboard, especially if F Bill Edwards and G Allen Roberts are back 100% from wrist and knee surgeries, respectively.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: Rick Stansbury out, Rick Ray in...Bulldog backers got tired of watching MSU underachieve with so much talent on the roster and decided to move in a different direction than Stansbury, in whose 14 years also never had problems attracting players to Starkville. Which should be remembered because the Maroon couldn’t attract top HC choices Steve Prohm (Murray State) or Bryce Drew (Valparaiso), justifiably worried about the rep of MSU as one of the SEC’s two or three toughest jobs. Could MSU really do much better than Stansbury? Ray, a Clemson assistant under Brad Brownell and never before a D-I head coach, inherits a rebuild situation after the loss of all five starters from last season. Good luck.

NEBRASKA: Doc Sadler out, Tim Miles in...We earlier mentioned Miles, for whom we have great respect for the jobs he has done at Colorado State and North Dakota State, but let’s remember that the man he replaced, the intense Doc Sadler, was also a coach du jour a few years ago before taking one of the toughest hoops jobs in the country, even more so since the Huskers have moved into a traditionally-strong basketball league like the Big Ten. Miles returns only one starter, so expect a long season in Lincoln before the new Pinnacle Bank Arena opens next season.

NORTH TEXAS: Johnny Jones out, Tony Benford in...Nobody in Denton begrudged Jones for taking the job at alma mater LSU, especially after making the Mean Green relevant in recent years. He also left the cupboard full (all five starters returning, including star soph F Tony Mitchell) for Benford, a onetime star player in the region at Texas Tech and most recently on Buzz Williams’ Marquette staff. Benford looked ready to land and inherits a very good situation at the Super Pit.

OHIO: John Groce out, Jim Christian in...We talked earlier about Groce taking a big pay raise to move to Illinois. As for Christian, he returns to the MAC where he had great success at Kent State before taking the TCU job four years ago. As part of an interesting merry-go-round involving the Frogs job, Christian left Fort Worth as he was entering a must-win season, replaced (as mentioned earlier) by Trent Johnson, who was escaping a similar situation at LSU. And Christian lands in a very good spot, inheriting a Sweet 16 team featuring the electric backcourt combo of D.J. Cooper and Walter Offutt.

RHODE ISLAND: Jim Baron out, Dan Hurley in...Rhody backers finally lost patience with Baron, whose teams often teased but routinely fell apart down the stretch each season until the collapse began in December a year ago. Enter one of the famous New Jersey Hurley clan, Danny, most recently at Wagner, where he had some competitive Seahawks teams on Staten Island. Hurley landed a blue-chip recruit in 6-10 Jordan Hare, but returns just five players and a non-deep roster that appears a bit too thin to implement the Hurley up-and-down-the-court style. We’ll see if Hurley can at least make the Rams a bit more competitive this winter.

SMU: Matt Doherty out, Larry Brown in...We expected SMU to make a change in anticipation of its move to the Big East next season, which made Doherty extra vulnerable when the Mustangs struggled a year ago. Throwing around the big money as SMU is known to do, it made a splash by luring the peripatetic Brown from retirement, but was also thinking down the road by adding Illinois State’s Tim Jankovich as Brown’s top assistant and heir apparent. Brown, who took UCLA and Kansas to Final Fours in previous college stints in the 80s (and winning it all with star Danny Manning, whose name will be mentioned momentarily, with the Jayhawks in 1988), inherits a soph and frosh-filled lineup that looks ticketed for a second-division finish in C-USA, prompting some regional observers to suggest that the evenutal move to Jankovich might come a bit sooner than originally scheduled.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Darrin Horn out, Frank Martin in...Whereas Horn could never quite lure enough SEC-caliber players to Columbia the past four years, recruiting whiz Martin, with his various connections, should immediately open the pipeline of talent into the Gamecock program, which hasn’t won big since Frank McGuire’s days in the early 70s. But Martin will have to make do with leftovers and some newcomers such as Brooklyn products frosh G Tarik Phillips and swingman Thaddeus Hall. No one is expecting Martin to win 21 games and get to the Big Dance as he did in his first season at KSU, but SC might not be a pushover as some expect, either.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS: Chris Lowery out, Barry Hinson in...While many Valley sources were speculating that SIU would be a perfect landing spot for Bruce Weber, who had moved to Champaign-Urbana from a successful stint in Carbondale early in the last decade, the Salukis instead went with another former Valley coach, Barry Hinson, who won a lot at Missouri State not long ago before spending the past four years on Bill Self’s Kansas staff. Despite the return of four starters, Hinson inherits an 8-win team in a top-heavy league; don’t expect much this season.

SOUTHERN MISS: Larry Eustachy out, Donnie Tyndall in...As mentioned earlier, Eustachy left for the opening at Colorado State, but leaves behind a Big Dance qualifier. Only two starters return, but they’re good ones (G Neil Watson & F Jonathan Mills), and Tyndall had success in previous stop Morehead State, where he led the Eagles to the Big Dance two years ago.

TCU: Jim Christian out, Trent Johnson in...We’ve talked about how the many dominoes falling at LSU, TCU, and Ohio resulted in Johnson moving from Baton Rouge to Fort Worth. The clock thus starts anew for Johnson, demonstrating a keen sense of coaching survival. But don’t expect much from the Frogs in their new and tougher Big 12 environment and with only two starters back from last year’s 18-15 team.

TEXAS TECH: Billy Gillispie out, Chris Walker in...This is a sad situation at Tech, where Gillispie’s myriad problems resulted in his resignation in September, after just one uneventful season on the job. Rarely have we seen a coaching star fall as far and as quickly as has Gillispie’s, not long ago in the catbird seat at texas A&M before his career 9and life) began to unravel after a move to Kentucky. Assistant Walker has been promoted on an interim basis; we’d wonder if Tech might ask Bob Knight to return, but from what we hear The General has either already moved out of Lubbock, or is in the process of doing so.

TULSA: Doug Wojcik out, Danny Manning in...There has been a lot of winning history at Tulsa in recent decades under Nolan Richardson, Tubby Smith, and Bill Self, so when the program floundered under ex-Navy star Wojcik the past few years, it was time for a change. Manning, recently on Self’s Kansas staff, finally gets his first shot at a head coaching job and brings much star power and respect to the Golden Hurricane. But Danny has not been a head coach before, and he is not inheriting a big talent base with only two starters back from last year’s 17-14 team.

UAB: Mike Davis out, Jerod Haase in...We thought the classy Davis was rushed out of UAB a bit soon; after all, the Blazers made the Big Dance just the year before, although Davis endured a difficult 2011-12 campaign. But replacement Jerod Haase has been groomed for a head coaching job for a while now while working as Roy Williams’ assistant for the past several years. For the Blazers to make a postseason run, they’ll need Texas A&M/Corpus Christi G Terrence Jones to provide a spark, while also finding someone to fill the gap in the middle created by the graduation of C-USA defensive MVP Cameron Moore.

VIRGINIA TECH: Seth Greenberg out, James Johnson in...Frankly, we’re real dubious about regarding this as an upgrade, as Seth seemed to squeeze about as much as he could out of the Hokie program for several years. But we also know that it can be a lot of work just dealing with Greenberg (whose salty rep, say some, extends to the NCAA Tourney Selection Committee, notorious for not giving VPI a break in recent years), and after last season’s slip to under .500 (16-17), Seth suddenly became vulnerable. Re-enter Johnson, who had just left Blacksburg to take a similar assistant job at Clemson before getting the call from VPI that he could return as the head coach. Johnson, who has had nine different assistant jobs in the last 19 years, will be the latest test case to see if a career assistant can easily step into the head coaching job. But the Hokies also had some key components transfer out after the Greenberg dismissal and lost a commitment from prized recruit Montrezi Harrell. It’s hard for us to envision VPI getting any better this season.


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