Stony Brook: Steve Pikiell OUT; Jeff Boals IN
UMBC: Aki Thomas OUT; Ryan Odom IN
Thoughts: After eleven seasons of building at Stony Brook, head coach Steve Pikiell was finally able to enjoy the fruits of his labor as his team won the America East regular season and tournament title, earning the Seawolves an NCAA Tournament bid. Pikiell parlayed his success at the Long Island school into a new gig at another metro-area institution, and a member of the Big Ten, Rutgers University. Following his head coach’s departure, Stony Brook Athletic Director Shawn Heilbron seemed determined to have the program continue riding a wave of positive momentum. Heilbron envisions Stony Brook as a perennial NCAA Tournament team whether it be through winning the America East or vying for an at-large bid. The latter aspiration seems a bit lofty considering the America East is rarely, if ever, in the multi-bid conference discussion, but nevertheless, the desire to redefine and elevate Stony Brook Basketball’s figurative ceiling was on the forefront of Heilbron’s occupational consciousness when searching for Pikiell’s successor. The result? Jeff Boals, an assistant at Ohio State, was officially named Stony Brook’s head coach on Saturday, April 9. This hire has its obvious pros and cons. The Pros: Boals is young, highly recommended, a national name, and has spent the past seven years learning from one of the best coaches in the country, Thad Matta. The Cons: Boals is young, he has no head coaching experience, and aside from two years as an assistant at Robert Morris, he has no experience in the northeastern part of the country or — more importantly — the New York metro area. While Boals is an intriguing choice, we’ll have to let time tell whether or not he is the right fit for Stony Brook.
Memphis: Josh Pastner OUT; TBD
Tulane: Ed Conroy OUT; Mike Dunleavy IN
UCF: Donnie Jones OUT; Johnny Dawkins IN
Thoughts: As the competition got stiffer following UCF’s move to the American Athletic Conference, Donnie Jones was unable to maintain or improve upon the moderate success his team had experienced in Conference-USA. Johnny Dawkins isn’t really a huge splash hire for the Knights, considering it was moderate success in the Pac-12 at Stanford that earned him the boot after eight seasons. However, though it is certainly not easy to be successful in the AAC, the Pac-12 is on another level entirely — and to Dawkins credit, apart from the 2015/16 campaign, his previous five seasons with the Cardinal yielded two NIT championships and one NCAA Sweet 16. Still, finishing ninth in the Pac-12 with a sub-.500 in-conference record last season was enough for Stanford to end their relationship with Dawkins. Perhaps their loss will be UCF’s gain? Maybe. Kevin Ollie, Kelvin Sampson, Larry Brown, Fran Dunphy, Frank Haith, Mick Cronin and a Memphis coach to be named later, all might have something to say about whether Johnny Dawkins is to rent or buy a home in Orlando. MEMPHIS- article to follow.
Georgia Tech: Brian Gregory OUT; Josh Pastner IN
Pittsburgh: Jamie Dixon OUT; Kevin Stallings IN
Thoughts: I’m so confused. Pitt… what is the goal of your program? Is Kevin Stallings a stop-gap hire or do you seriously believe he’s the guy that’s going to win Pitt its first ACC title? I expect more of the same results from the Panthers under Stallings as under Jamie Dixon… or worse. Probably worse, to be honest. I don’t know if Stallings’ track record in the SEC (particularly his 2015-16 campaign) has anyone in Pittsburgh, PA convinced that they are en route to the promised land. I know a portion of the fanbase was eager for a change in the program, but I don’t think this is what they had in mind.
Georgia Tech… I get you. Sort of. The powers-that-be at the Atlanta school weren’t happy with Brian Gregory’s lack of success after five years at the helm. I can understand that. In conference play, Gregory’s Yellow Jacket teams were 27-61, had no winning records and their highest finish was 9th place. Mind you, Gregory was tasked with turning Georgia Tech — a team that had not had a winning conference record in 8 years — into a contender in an Atlantic Coast Conference that welcomed Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse just two years after his hire, and Louisville one year after that! Just as an aside, compared to Gregory’s five year tenure, his predecessor, Paul Hewitt, coached Tech for 11 seasons. Guess how many winning records Hewitt had in the ACC (all before the conference’s most recent ULTRA-expansion)? One. How many .500 seasons? Three. That means Hewitt guided his Tech teams to SEVEN sub-.500 conference records. Hard to call those results impressive. Georgia Tech has not sniffed any sustained success like they had during the heart of the Bobby Cremins era over 20 years ago, so why did Gregory get, what seems like, an early hook in comparison to Hewitt? If I had to pick one reason: recruiting. Too many misses on big time players (even in-state) and too many defections or dismissals of talented commits. Naturally, Georgia Tech’s answer to Brian Gregory’s glaring deficiencies would be a proven recruiter who could deliver elite talent, much like Paul Hewitt was able to for a couple of seasons. Enter, Josh Pastner. Ideally, Tech would have been best served by a hire who had a combination of Gregory’s ability with the X’s and O’s and Pastner’s knack for signing McDonald’s All-Americans. Unfortunately, that coach was not available, at least not for Georgia Tech. My gut tells me that, in five years time, the Yellow Jackets will look eerily similar to Pastner’s 2015/16 Memphis team: unbelievably talented, incredibly immature and terribly coached. More on that in tomorrow’s Memphis/Pastner article.
Wisconsin: Bo Ryan OUT; Greg Gard IN
Rutgers: Eddie Jordan OUT; Steve Pikiell IN
Thoughts: Greg Gard inherited a mess in midseason last year at Wisconsin. The Badgers started the year without five of their top seven performers from the previous year’s runners-up squad. And when Bo Ryan resigned in the middle of the year, Wisconsin had already tallied five out-of-conferences losses in unexpectedly poor fashion. Gard went 1-4 in his first five Big Ten fixtures but then guided Wisconsin through one of the more impressive turnarounds I’ve seen in college basketball. The Badgers finished the season with a 12-6 record in the Big Ten, 22-13 overall, and capped off their improbable renaissance with a run to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament, narrowly missing the elite eight with a five point loss to Notre Dame. If his second season is comparable to the 2015-16 campaign and UW can land a nice recruiting class, I’m pretty damn certain this hire gets an A+ rating.
Rutgers Basketball needs a great many things to resurrect… wait, forget resurrection, this is ground zero. Steve Pikiell has the prodigious, undesirable task of BUILDING (this is not a rebuild, RU fans) a program, yet again, except this time he will have to do it in one of the toughest conferences in the country. Is Pikiell the right guy for the job? Well, he had the gall to actually take the gig, so, I’m going to say, “Yes, he is!” Rutgers fans should know relatively quickly if their AD, Patrick Hobbs, made the right hire because, plain and simple, the bar has been set so incredibly low by Eddie Jordan that any signs of life — say, a few wins against the bottom half of the conference and a respectable OOC record — should indicate which way the wind is blowing in Piscataway. The Scarlet Knights won’t be able to manage too many conference wins, though, if Pikiell fails to deliver a major infusion of talent into the lineup in his first 2-3 years. Does he really have the ability to recruit Big Ten-level talent to Rutgers? I hope so.
Oklahoma State: Travis Ford OUT; Brad Underwood IN
TCU: Trent Johnson OUT; Jamie Dixon IN
Thoughts: Both seem like very good hires. I know Jamie Dixon will improve the level of play and make TCU respectable. He’ll ultimately have the program contending for at-large bids out of the Big 12. Will he get TCU a conference title? No, probably not. Brad Underwood did a masterful job with Stephen F. Austin, but the Big 12 is not the Southland. Can Underwood handle the murderous row of a conference schedule and recruit with the likes of Oklahoma and West Virginia? I tend to think he will bring the Oklahoma State program to a better place than Travis Ford did. With both of these hires, if everything stays the same in the conference, I’m having a hell of a time finding a lower-tier of the Big 12. What a powerhouse conference.
Delaware: Monte Ross OUT; TBD
Drexel: Bruiser FLint OUT; Zach Spiker IN
James Madison: Matt Brady OUT; Louis Rowe IN
Thoughts: Not many. I’ll miss Bruiser, though. Philly basketball will not be the same without him. Zach Spiker? Well, I’ll give him this: getting 19 wins with Army, in any conference, is pretty damn remarkable. If Spiker can win 19 at West Point, a trip to the NCAA Tournament with Drexel is not a pipe dream. I’d love to see the Dragons back in the dance.
Western Kentucky: Ray Harper OUT; Rick Stansbury IN
UTSA: Brooks Thompson OUT; Steve Henson IN
UAB: Jerod Haase OUT; Robert Ehsan IN
Thoughts: UAB has built one hell of a tradition since 1978: 12 NIT appearances, 2 NIT Final Fours, 15 NCAA tournament appearances, 3 Sweet Sixteens, 1 Elite Eight, 5X Conference Tournament Champions, 7X Conference Regular Season Champions. Every coach in program history has gotten the squad to the NCAA and NIT tournaments at least once. Can Robert Ehsan keep the streak alive? I don’t see why not. “A ‘Blazer’ is a damn jacket!” -Matt Cortina. Words to live by, UAB fans.
UW-Milwaukee: Rob Jeter OUT; LaVall Jordon IN
Valparaiso: Bryce Drew OUT; Mott Lottich IN
Wright State: Billy Donlon OUT; Scott Nacy IN
Thoughts: SCOTT NAGY! Big fans of Coach Nagy here at the CHP. In 21 seasons at South Dakota State: 410-240 (W-L),15 overall winning records, 15 conference winning records, 12 20-win seasons, AND he coached the program through a transition from Division II to Division I. In the past five years: 4 20-win campaigns, 4-time conference tournament champions, 3-time conference regular season champions, 3 trips to NCAA tournament, 1 NIT appearance and 1 CBI appearance. At the age of 49, Nagy leaving a mid-major like SDSU after 21 years for another mid-major was a perplexing move at first glance. I thought Nagy would have taken an offer from a more high profile program. Upon further consideration, the decision to make a more gradual step up from the Summit to the Horizon league, into another midwestern program and a good situation at Wright State, seemed like the fitting, patient decision of a coach whose wisdom outweighs his ambition. Wright State has a solid program, and although they’ve only reached the NCAA tournament once in the past 10 years the Raiders have been perennial Horizon League contenders in all but a couple of seasons. Most recently, coach Billy Donlon had WSU knocking on the door of the big dance a few times but his squads could never quite break through. In Nagy, Wright State has found a good recruiter who is familiar with the region and is a proven winner with NCAA Tournament experience. Great hire.
Columbia: Kyle Smith OUT; Jim Engles IN
Cornell: Bill Courtney OUT; TBD
Dartmouth: Paul Cormier OUT; TBD
Thoughts: Columbia replaced one great coach with another. To say Jim Engles did an incredible job at NJIT would be an understatement. There’s simply not enough time to describe how difficult of a task it was for Engles to turn such a disastrous situation at NJIT into a winning program. Highlanders fans, and his successor in Newark, should be forever grateful.
UNLV: Dave Rice OUT; Chris Bears IN
Wyoming: Larry Shyatt OUT; Allen Edwards IN
Thoughts: Former UA-Little Rock Head Coach Chris Beard is going to be very, very successful at UNLV (assuming he doesn’t have to contend with any major off-the-court problems). The end.
Denver: Joe Scott OUT; Rodney Billups IN
South Dakota State: Scott Nagy OUT; TBD
West Coast Conference
Santa Clara: Kerry Keating OUT; Herb Sendek IN
Pacific: Ron Verlin OUT; Damon Stoudamire IN
San Francisco: Rex Walters OUT; Kyle Smith IN
Portland: Eric Reveno OUT; Terry Porter IN
Thoughts: I always thought the WCC could be the Left Coast version of the Big East (small basketball schools, some religiously-affiliated, no D1 football) if they had better leadership and more parity. The top 2-3 WCC programs (Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, and relative newcomer BYU) all care very much about basketball, they dominate the conference and expect to play in the postseason every year. A fourth member, Pepperdine, is finally out of rebuild mode heading into year six under coach Marty Wilson and seems to be on the right track with back-to-back 18-win seasons and fourth place finishes in the WCC. If you look at the conference standings you’ll find that, just beyond Pepperdine, lies an abyss where the remaining six programs reside. “Attn: Bottom 6 WCC Men’s Basketball Programs: We want you to start taking basketball seriously. Right Now!” - Lynn Holzman, WCC Commissioner. Memo received, Commissioner! Apparently the WCC bottom feeders are now motivated to make the necessary moves to build their programs and ultimately compete with the big boys. Four of the bottom six have cleaned house — Loyola Marymount is still rebuilding in year two of the Mike Dunlap era (good luck with that) and San Diego just finished a miserable first year (9-21, 4-14) under Lamont Smith — and I like every hire that was made. All four of the programs selected a high-profile candidate: Sendek is a long-time, decorated coach who has taken three different programs to the NCAA Tournament; Stoudamire is a former pro and college All-America;, Smith is just coming off a CIT Championship season with Columbia — a program he rebuilt; and Porter is a former all-pro and a legend in Portland. We know Sendek and Smith will legitimize their programs and do a good job coaching whatever talent they have. We should also expect Stoudamire and Porter to land some quality recruits based on celebrity status alone. Looks like the the WCC is about to get more balanced in a hurry.
Stanford: Johnny Dawkins OUT; Jerod Haase IN
Vanderbilt: Kevin Stallings OUT; Bryce Drew IN
Saint Louis: Jim Crews OUT; Travis Ford IN
UA-Little Rock: Chris Beard OUT; Wes Flanigan IN
Stephen F. Austin: Brad Underwood OUT; Kyle Keller IN
Thoughts: Part of me thinks Travis Ford will do well at Saint Louis. Part of me thinks I’m insane. We’ll see which part is right in a couple of years. I like Bryce Drew but I think the SEC is about to get a hell of a lot stronger, really soon: Alabama surprised people this year; Auburn won’t stay down for long with Bruce Pearl; Ben Howland is bringing in a ton of talent at Miss. State; Florida should continue to improve; and the list goes on. Can Drew compete with the recruiting giants down south?