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Coaching Carousel: Up and Coming/ Hot Coaches

February 23, 2008

With bracketbusters on tap on ESPN Networks today, and many teams in the search for a coaching upgrade, I put together a list of up and coming/ hot coaches from strong programs who may be moving on to bigger money gigs, trying to revive struggling programs, testing their mettle against the best coaches. And it’s nice to have a list less negative than the Coaches on the Hot Seat list.

Kansas Carousel

Every year the pundits and bloggers look at the gaudy mid-major records of young coaches and think “that coach could be our Bruce Pearl. He could be our Thad Matta.” But how many of these coaches move on to definite success? And how many become mediocre coaches, hampered by their school’s status and/ or funding?

Coaching and recruiting has very few sure things for most schools, even when they open the pocketbooks up wide; for my tastes, I like a coach who has proven to be able to teach players how to be effective season in and season out in their conference, coaches who can find ways to get players to score with at least a credible attention to defense.

And, of course, I pulled this list from personal observation, looking over records, and coaches who local journalists and/or fans mention as possibilities for schools. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and most of these coaches are lined up for a shot at major conference success.

The East Coast Bias’ List of Up And Coming Coaches

Sean Miller – Xavier: Former Pitt star is having great success; I’d count on him reaching the second weekend of this year’s NCAA Tournament. Like Skip Prosser and Thad Matta before him, this coach will see his bank account swell in a few months’ time.

Travis Ford – Massachusetts: The Boyish Wonder (and all-around good guy) has put U Mass back on the map. He’s 37-24 with the minutemen, and expect the southern schools to start calling.

Anthony Grant – Virginia Commonwealth: Grant was tabbed as next coach at Florida for a day before Billy Donovan returned, knocked off Duke in NCAA tournament in 2007. Coached under Donovan. He’ll be a hot ticket this offseason.

Darrin Horn, Western Kentucky: 4 consecutive seasons of 20 or more wins? A former Marquette assistant under Tom Crean, he’s 82-41 overall. And look at the efficiency numbers—that’s a pretty good Sun Belt team.

Brad Brownell, Wright State: 126-56 as the coach of Wright State and before that, UNC-Wilmington. Note his Indiana roots. His name has come up in conversations about IU’s next coach, if they do not keep one of the assistants in charge.

Jim Larranga – George Mason: got them to the final four; he’s a former Bowling Green coach, Archbishop Molloy (Queens) grad, played for Jack Curran, graduated from Providence. Beat U Conn to get to the Final Four; his last two teams have peaked well at the end of the year.

Keno Davis – Drake: Bright young son of Coach Dr. Tom Davis, has Drake ranked. Drake. You didn’t even know that was a school. This is his first full year as a head coach, however. He has worked under Bruce Pearl, his father, and Gary Garner, former coach at Southeast Missouri State (located in one of the nation’s cruddiest cities, Cape Griardeau).

Jim O’Brien – former Ohio State coach, brought the Buckeyes to the Final Four in ’99. From St. Francis Prep and Boston College, he was fired for NCAA rules violations—improper payments to players. The restrictions on his coaching (an effective ban) were lifted this year.

Mike Montgomery – former Stanford and Golden State (NBA) coach; he might look to get back into coaching on the West Coast. Always had solid teams at a tough academic school, and has a Final Four appearance. Has a 547-244 record at the University of Montana and in 18 years at Stanford. He’s working as an Assistant to the Athletic Director at Stanford.

Scott Sutton – Oral Roberts: He’s the other Sutton son, and doing a better job than his brother at Oklahoma State, getting to the NCAA Tournament in ’06 and ’07. Last ear, he beat former boss Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse.

Chris Lowery – Southern Illinois: The Salukis coach was mentioned for some jobs in the past, his tough defensive team has had offensive struggles this year. At their best, the patient offense and in-your-shirt defense has brought deep in the NCAA Tournament; last year’s team gave #1 seed Kansas fits in their Sweet Sixteen loss, playing a near-perfect basketball game given their talent.

Tommy Dempsey – Rider: The Bloomsburg university graduate has coached at Division III, Junior College, and Division II, and for 2 years at Rider. His overall record is 104-27; his record at Rider so far is 34-24.

Jim Baron – Rhode Island: The season is falling apart a little for the Rams (20-7; 6-6 in conference), but they beat Providence and Syracuse early, and they can score. He’s been at St. Francis, and St. Bonaventure, has 5 NIT appearances and 2 NCAA appearances; his overall record is 293-297 in 20 years.

Steve Alford – New Mexico: This can’t be the final destination for Alford, the former Indiana player and Bobby Knight star and Iowa coach. He has an overall record of 389-189, and he was 61-67 in the Big Ten.

Brian Gregory – Dayton: The former Tom Izzo/ Michigan State assistant coach probably had a better shot at a big time job before his team started tanking in conference. 75-49 in 5 seasons at Dayton so far, he apparently has a good reputation as a recruiter. He played at the Naval Academy and the University of Oakland.

Bob McKillop – Davidson: Seems to like where he is, and having a year or two more of Stephen Curry’s shooting talents at the small academic southern school.

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