Only 24 college basketball teams changed coaches before the 2020-21 season, the fewest recorded changes in decades (and down from 60 changes in 2019-20) as schools were cautious in the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. One day after Selection Sunday, we already surpassed last year’s changes.
The coaching carousel began spinning with last year’s change at IUPUI and picked up speed with the preseason departures of Gregg Marshall at Wichita State and Danny Kaspar at Texas State, both of whom were ousted for player mistreatment issues. Then came several in-season moves, including Boston College firing Jim Christian and the shocking death of 55-year-old UT Rio Grande Valley head coach Lew Hill, and dozens in the days after the season.
Full college basketball coaching change tracker and grades for the 2021-22 season:
Abilene Christian – Brette Tanner
Over the last few years, it was evident Abilene Christian would eventually lose longtime head coach Joe Golding to a bigger-budget program. Three weeks after beating Texas in the NCAA Tournament, Abilene Christian lost Golding to UTEP. And while the departure sucked for a program that lost only 11 conference in three years, Golding left behind a capable replacement in longtime assistant Brette Tanner.
Albany – Dwayne Killings
Dwayne Killings is coming from Marquette, but he’s a northeast guy. A Massachusetts native who played at UMass (and Hampton), he was an assistant at Boston, Temple, and UConn before going west in 2018. Killings, 39, is a well-liked, highly regarded recruiter who’s helped land some of his teams’ biggest recruits over the last decade. Albany hit the jackpot with Killings’ willingness to jump on an opportunity now.
Arizona – Tommy Lloyd
Sean Miller was fired for losing, not for revelations from the FBI investigation into college basketball corruption or the NCAA’s allegation of Level 1 violations, Arizona athletics director David Heeke said after “parting ways” with Miller.
Instead of settling for an inexperienced alum, Arizona took a swing and landed one of the most sought-after assistant coaches in college basketball history, Gonzaga’s Tommy Lloyd. The 46-year-old Washington native finally left Mark Few’s staff after 21 years and inherits a program in need of high-level stability.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff – Vacant
George Ivory led the Golden Lions to their lone NCAA Tournament appearance (2010) and repeatedly rebuilt them into a SWAC contender after mass departures. He also led them to eight total wins the last two years and resigned in early April.
Austin Peay – Nate James
Not many programs are worried about losing their head coach to a WAC program. Austin Peay was presumably among those who never considered losing head coach Matt Figgers to a WAC program. But that’s what happened with Figgers’ departure for UT Rio Grande Valley after winning 76 games over four seasons.
After losing Figgers to a low-level mid-major, the Governors grabbed his replacement from a blue blood in longtime Duke assistant Nate James. James is a highly respected assistant but has never coached outside Durham. He’s not walking into a dumpster fire but he’s also not walking into a familiar situation.
Bethune-Cookman – Vacant
After losing Ryan Ridder to UT Martin, Bethune-Cookman is in a strange position as a coach-less program 13 months removed from its last game. The Wildcats opted out of the season and are now forced into their third coaching search in the last 10 years.
Binghamton – Levell Sanders
Binghamton finally fired Tommy Dempsey after nine miserable seasons and promoted second-year assistant Levell Sanders. A former Seton Hall star who, before arriving at Binghamton in 2019, spent the previous two decades overseas as a player (1998-2014) and coach (2014-19).
There’s nothing great or terrible about this hire for one of the worst programs in the country; the Bearcats can only go up, so why not roll the dice on a guy who’s been in college basketball for two years?
Boston College – Earl Grant
Boston College was supposed to hire a mid-major coach from the northeast with strong ties to the region and/or program (i.e., St. Bonaventure’s Mark Schmidt or Northeastern’s Bill Coen). And Earl Grant was supposed to get a high-major job in the southeast, likely in his home state of South Carolina, where he’s spent all but three years of his coaching career.
Instead, Boston College hired Grant in a stunning move. While Grant has a worthy résumé–75 wins and one NCAA Tournament appearance in three years from 2016-19, five straight above-.500 CAA records, and six years under Gregg Marshall at Winthrop and Wichita State–he’s never coached and rarely recruited anywhere near a region where the Eagles are forced to dig through the leftovers over Big East and ACC powers.
Central Connecticut – Vacant
Two decades after an All-American playing career at UConn, Donyell Marshall flopped at Central Connecticut, winning just 40 of 144 games over five years.
Central Michigan – Tony Barbee
Just two years after a 23-win season, Keno Davis was fired by Central Michigan. The ninth-year head coach went 3-13 in the MAC last year and had 10 total MAC wins the last two seasons.
Davis’ replacement is former Auburn head coach – and current Kentucky assistant – Tony Barbee. The former UMass star won big at UTEP but flopped at Auburn and spent the six years rebooting his head-coaching stock on John Calipari’s staff.
Charleston – Pat Kelsey
Fifth-year athletics director Matt Roberts surely knew he’d lose Earl Grant eventually, although he probably didn’t expect to lose Grant to Boston College. Before landing Pat Kelsey from Winthrop, Roberts had never made a men’s basketball hire; he arrived at Charleston after Grant’s second season as head coach.
Charleston landed a 45-year-old veteran head coach who was floated as a potential high-major candidate after leading the Eagles to 27 wins over the last two seasons.
Cincinnati – Wes Miller
For the second time in 25 months, Cincinnati will hire a new head coach. They hired three head coaches in the 39 years before Mick Cronin’s departure led to a disastrous two-year run for John Brannen.
The Bearcats managed to pull Wes Miller from UNC Greensboro after the 38-year-old built his hometown program into an annual NCAA Tournament contender. While he’s never coached outside North Carolina and hasn’t routinely recruited in or near Ohio, Miller is a highly respected young coach who can return stability to Cincinnati.
Delaware State – Vacant
The bar is low for Delaware State basketball. The Hornets have one all-time tournament appearance, have more sub-10-win seasons than 15-win seasons, and have one of the lowest budgets in college basketball.
Eric Skeeters couldn’t reach that bar; he was fired on April 1 after winning 15 total games over three seasons.
Denver – Jeff Wulbrun
The Pioneers tapped Denver native and alum Rodney Billups in 2016 to deliver the first NCAA Tournament berth in program history. He didn’t do that, going just 48-94 in five seasons.
Three decades into a coaching career that includes stops at Cal, Illinois State, UAB, and, most recently Stanford, Jeff Wulbrun is a first-time head coach. He had spent the last nine years with Jerod Haase (the last five at Stanford) and is known as one of the better frontcourt assistants in the country.
DePaul – Tony Stubblefield
Dave Leitao’s second stint at DePaul wasn’t as fruitful as his first. He failed to win 10 games in three of his six seasons and went 21-85 in the Big East.
Tony Stubblefield, 51, arrives after 11 seasons at Oregon, where he recruited some of the program’s best players during their return to national relevance. He’s a first-time head coach who hasn’t coached in Chicago, and doesn’t have strong ties to the city or program, but should assemble a strong staff to begin a methodical rebuild.
East Tennessee State – Desmond Oliver
Jason Shay resigned as ETSU head coach after one season “in the best interest” of himself, his family, and the Pirates’ basketball program, Shay said. Jason Shay was forced because he supported his players’ peaceful protest of racial inequality, the players said. We don’t know why Shay resigned after one season but we do know Tennessee assistant Desmond Oliver is their new head coach.
Oliver was Rick Barnes’ lead recruiter for several notable Vols over his six seasons, including Grant Williams. Oliver would’ve been a great hire regardless of the circumstances. Given the circumstances, it’s a phenomenal hire.
Eastern Illinois – Marty Simmons
Eastern Illinois went outside the box in hiring Jay Spoonhour from Moberly Area Community College (Missouri) in 2012. Spoonhour flirted with Ohio Valley contention a few times but finished above .500 in OVC play only twice in nine years.
Nine years later, they stayed inside the box with an Illinois native and experienced head coach in Marty Simmons. He led SIU Edwardsville to two Division-II tournaments before winning 184 games over 11 seasons at Evansville. He should stabilize Eastern Illinois and return them to the fringe of OVC relevance, but, if his time at Evansville is any indication, will have a limited ceiling.
Eastern Michigan – Stan Heath
Rob Murphy left Eastern Michigan after his 10th season to become the president and general manager of the Motor City Cruise in the G League. A Detroit native and former longtime Jim Boeheim assistant, Murphy went 164-153 overall and never reached an NCAA Tournament.
Murphy’s replacement, Stan Heath, has four NCAA Tournament appearances in 13 seasons as a head coach with three different programs. Heath has spent the last two decades of his career in Arkansas and Florida, therefore there’s fair geographical concerns. Still, he’s a Michigan native with MAC experience and ties throughout the region.
Eastern Washington – David Riley
In winning 28 of 34 Big Sky games over the last two seasons and delivering the program’s third-ever NCAA Tournament berth, Eastern Washington must’ve expected to lose head coach Shantay Legans to another job. They probably didn’t expect to lose Shantay Legans to one of the worst programs in the country.
Two days after the Eagles scared Kansas for 35 minutes of their First Round game, Legans bolted for Portland and was replaced by assistant coach David Riley. The 32-year-old nephew of former Oregon State and Nebraska football coach Mike Riley was the safe and correct hire for a program seeking continuity.
Fordham – Kyle Neptune
In one of the most surprising moves of the 2015 cycle, Jeff Neubauer left Eastern Kentucky for Fordham. He won 15 total A-10 games in his first two seasons but coached four miserable teams since then.
Regarded as one of the best identifiers of high school talent in the country, Kyle Neptune is the latest Jay Wright assistant to leave Villanova for a head-coaching opportunity. He’s a Brooklyn native and has spent 10 of the last 13 years on Wright’s staff. Low-level Atlantic 10 programs like Fordham don’t often get the opportunity to hire high-level high-major assistants like Neptune.
George Mason – Kim English
Dave Paulsen had George Mason heading in the right direction with 29 A-10 wins over three years (2016-19) before the Patriots cratered to irrelevancy. The fifth-year head coach was fired on March 16 and replaced with Tennessee assistant Kim English one week later.
English, 32, landed his first head-coaching job only six years into his coaching career. The former Missouri star was a recruiting star for Rick Barnes and reportedly beat out several high-major assistants with more experience.
Hofstra – Speedy Claxton
Joe Mihalich won’t return for a ninth season due to health issues, Stadium’s Jeff Goodman reported on Friday, 11 days after the Pride’s season ended in the CAA Tournament. Mihalich led Hofstra to 53 total wins the previous two seasons, the highest two-year total in program history.
Unsurprisingly, Hofstra kept it in the family in promoting longtime assistant and former Pride guard Speedy Claxton. A Queens native, Claxton joined Mihalich’s first Hofstra staff in 2013 and never left. The 42-year-old former NBA player has zero head-coaching experience but knows the program as well as anyone.
Indiana – Mike Woodson
Widely applauded in 2017 as the right coach to return Indiana to national prominence, Archie Miller was a disaster in four seasons. And one Indiana donor paid big to get him out, writing a $10-million buyout check and allowing athletics director Scott Dolson to hire a 63-year-old sub-.500 NBA coach who’s never coached college basketball.
Woodson needs a phenomenal staff heavy on recruiters and college-experienced coaches to have any prayer to meeting high expectations at his alma mater. New associate athletics director Thad Matta is the only reason Woodson isn’t an F-hire. He was, at best, Indiana’s third option after Brad Stevens and Chris Holtmann rejected offers.
Indiana State – Josh Schertz
Greg Lansing was the toast of the Terre Haute after leading Indiana State to the NCAA Tournament in 2010, his first season as head coach after spending eight of the previous 15 years on the Sycamores’ bench. He didn’t reach another tourney in his final 10 seasons.
Lansing was replaced with Division-II coach Josh Schertz, who makes the jump after winning 83 percent of his games (and reaching four Final Fours) in 13 seasons at Lincoln Memorial. Most ADs are unwilling to hire lower-division coaches; bravo to Sherard Clinkscales for luring one of the nation’s most successful coaches, at any level, to Indiana State.
Iowa State – T.J. Otzelberger
Two years ago, Iowa State fought Alabama interest in Steve Prohm and extended their fourth-year head coach. Prohm went 14-42 after that and was replaced by T.J. Otzelberger.
Immediately reported to be atop Iowa State’s list, Otzelberger knows the program better than any active coach in college basketball. He was a Cyclones’ assistant for four years under Greg McDermott and four years (split between two stints) under Fred Hoiberg.
Otzelberger won only 29 games in two seasons at UNLV but went 52-16 in his final two years at South Dakota State. He saw the Iowa State program transform from Big 12 irrelevancy into an annual Big 12 contender and seems like a near-perfect fit.
IUPUI – Matt Crenshaw
Byron Rimm II was the interim coach for two full seasons after Jason Gardner resigned in August 2019 following a DUI arrest. Finally, in mid-April, the Jaguars made a permanent hire in former point guard and assistant coach Matt Crenshaw. He’s spent all 15 years of his college coaching career in the state of Indiana.
Jacksonville – Jordan Mincy
Tony Jasick delivered some stability to a program that hasn’t been relevant in decades but never won more than 17 games or reached an NCAA Tournament in seven years.
Jasick’s replacement is Jordan Mincy, a former all-conference player at Kent State who spent the last six years on Mike White’s Florida staff. The highest-ranked assistant on ESPN’s 40 Under 40 list last year, Mincy has no head-coaching experience but has recruited the entire state (and much of the southeast) and is widely regarded as a future high-major head coach.
Lamar – Alvin Brooks
Former New Orleans and Memphis coach Tic Price was promoted when Lamar fired head coach Pat Knight during the 2013-14 season. Price won at least 19 games in three straight seasons (2016-19) but dropped to 17 wins last year and only 10 wins this year before his dismissal.
Occasionally, the obvious candidate is the wrong candidate. This isn’t one of those times; Alvin Brook was the obvious candidate but he wasn’t the wrong candidate. A Houston native who played at Lamar and began his coaching career with the Cardinals before coaching at five different programs across Texas over 35 seasons, including five years as Houston head coach in the 1990s.
Loyola Chicago – Drew Valentine
Loyola held onto Porter Moser at least one or two years longer than most expected after the 2018 Final Four run. He could’ve left with sky-high stock three years ago but continued building a once-dormant program. It’s a devastating blow to the Ramblers, though not nearly as bad as it could’ve been three years ago.
Drew Valentine, 29, has been mentioned as Moser’s potential successor for the last couple years after arriving in Chicago in 2017. Age and inexperience (seven total years as an assistant in college basketball) are fair critiques, though he’s widely viewed as one of the best young coaches in the nation. It was the smart hire instead of handing the program to an outsider.
Marquette – Shaka Smart
Five missed tournaments in seven seasons was enough to pull the plug on Steve Wojciechowski. The former Duke player longtime Coach K assistant failed to win 20 games four times at Marquette and never won a tourney game.
Shaka Smart didn’t win a tourney game in five seasons at Texas and hasn’t reached the Second Round since 2013 at VCU. He was a miserable in-game coach and was never able to build a decent offense in Austin. Smart will recruit well at Marquette but unless he revamps a stale system, this won’t be a prosperous marriage.
McNeese – John Aiken
Head coach Heath Schroyer, also McNeese’s athletics director, resigned on March 11 and promoted assistant John Aiken to lead a bad program with one 20-win season in the last 19 years.
Aiken has been with McNeese for three years, has head-coaching experience (NAIA), and called this a “dream job.” The Cowboys, who have two NCAA Tournament appearances all-time, including zero since 2002, couldn’t have done better, but it’s still a curious decision to promote from within for a program that might need a total overhaul.
Minnesota – Ben Johnson
Richard Pitino lasted longer in Minnesota than most expected after Norwood Teague hired the 30-year-old FIU coach in 2013. Also hired in 2013 was Ben Johnson as an assistant coach. Eight years later, Johnson is replacing his former boss.
A Minneapolis native and former Gophers’ player, Johnson spent five years with Pitino before joining Travis Steele’s new staff at Xavier in 2018. Unlike Craig Smith, Brian Dutcher, and nearly every other prospective candidate for athletics director Mark Coyle, Johnson has zero head-coaching experience. He does, however, have strong local ties and will attempt to build the program with in-state talent that’s been leaving the state for decades.
New Mexico – Richard Pitino
New Mexico could’ve done worse than a 38-year-old Big Ten coach with 159 career wins and two NCAA Tournaments. Nonetheless, Richard Pitino is a questionable geographical fit at one of the most isolated programs in college basketball coming off a disastrous season.
If he doesn’t hire one or two assistants with experience in the region, he’ll have the same recruiting issues he did at Minnesota. And if he has the same recruiting issues, he’s not a good enough in-game coach to close the talent gap.
North Carolina – Hubert Davis
Roy Williams is done after 903 wins and three national championships. The 70-year-old Hall of Famer announced his retirement on Thursday, two weeks after his 19th and final season as North Carolina head coach.
North Carolina “took the temperature of a bunch of the big boys,” Jeff Goodman reported, before promoting Hubert Davis. There are legitimate experience questions – Davis hasn’t been a head coach at any level and has only nine years of coaching experience – but this was the smart and right hire instead of rolling the dice on a down-ballot candidate.
Northern Illinois – Rashon Burno
Mentioned as a potential candidate for several high-major openings over the last five years, Rashon Burno lands at Northern Illinois after six seasons on the Arizona State staff. He played at DePaul and began his coaching career at a high school in Aurora, Ill., therefore it’s a logical geographical fit in returning to Illinois.
Low-level MAC programs rarely have the opportunity to hire someone like Rashon Burno.
Oklahoma – Porter Moser
Lon Kruger advanced beyond the Sweet 16 only twice but still delivered a decade of stability and the program’s third Final Four in last 70 years. At 68 years old, he retires with 674 career wins, two Final Fours, and several conference coach of the year awards.
Joe Castiglione is widely considered the best athletics director in college sports for several reasons, among them his ability to spot and land coaching talent. It might take Moser a couple years to get humming but this is an unquestionable fantastic hire.
Penn State – Micah Shrewsberry
No one knows if Micah Shrewsberry can become the first head coach in Penn State to deliver sustained success. But we all know Penn State outkicked their coverage in landing one of the most respected assistant coaches in basketball.
Since his three-year run on Brad Stevens’ Butler staff from 2008-11, Shrewsberry has been mentioned as a future high-major coach. It took longer than most expected–and he didn’t land in a good job as most expected–but the 44-year-old is getting a shot in a difficult job.
Portland – Shantay Legans
Terry Porter went 7-70 in West Coast Conference games in five seasons as Portland head coach, including 1-40 over the last three years. One win in three years!
The Pilots replaced Porter with Eastern Washington’s Shantay Legans, who went 40-15 in the Big Sky over the last three years. They hit the jackpot with the 39-year-old who built an annual conference championship contender in Cheney.
Portland State – Jase Coburn
Two years after leading Portland State to their most conference wins in more than a decade, Barret Peery left to join Mark Adams’ staff at Texas Tech.
The Vikings promoted from within, elevating longtime assistant Jace Coburn to his first Division-I head-coaching job. A former high school and JUCO coach, Coburn arrived in Portland in 2013 and was retained by Peery upon his arrival in 2017. While Coburn’s introductory press conference was bizarre, it was the easy and right hire for a program seeking stability.
Radford – Darris Nichols
Mike Jones’ departure for UNC Greensboro forced Radford into their first head-coaching search in nearly a decade. The search ended with a familiar face in Radford native Darris Nichols.
Nichols has mid-major and high-major assistant experience, most recently on Mike White’s Florida staff, and is widely regarded as one of the best young coaches in college basketball.
San Jose State – Tim Miles
How does a coach earn a fifth year after 20 total wins in four years? Don’t ask Jean Prioleau; he was fired after posting a 20-93 record in four seasons at San Jose State.
Prioleau was replaced by Tim Miles, who returns to college basketball after a two-year hiatus. The former lower-division coach isn’t a perfect geographical fit in San Jose but knows how to build programs and stretch resources. While Miles might have a limited ceiling, he should bring stability to one of the nation’s worst programs.
South Carolina State – Tony Madlock
Once a stable MEAC program in annual contention for an NCAA Tournament berth, South Carolina State is stuck in futility. They fired Murray Garvin after a 1-17 season, his ninth as head coach, which produced only 82 wins and one above-.500 conference record.
The Bulldogs tapped Memphis assistant Tony Madlock to replace Garvin. A longtime high-major assistant coach, Madlock was briefly Ole Miss interim head coach in 2017-18 but has no other head-coaching experience. Who knows if Madlock can turn around the moribund program but we know South Carolina State did as well as they could’ve hoped with this hire.
Texas – Chris Beard
Texas was going nowhere with Shaka Smart and hit the jackpot in avoiding a $7-million buyout with Smart’s departure for Marquette. They hit the jackpot again in stealing Chris Beard from Texas Tech.
Arguably a top-three coach in college basketball, Beard arrives after transforming the Red Raiders into a Final Four contender. He has deep ties across the state, will likely bring a tremendous staff from Lubbock, and is the best hire of this year’s coaching carousel.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi – Steve Lutz
Willis Wilson built the Islanders into an NCAA Tournament contenders after inheriting a mess from Perry Clark in 2011 but averaged just 11 wins over the last four years. He was fired and replaced with Purdue assistant Steve Lutz. Often mentioned as a potential candidate for high-level mid-major or low-level high-major openings, Lutz returns to Texas.
Lutz hasn’t coached outside the midwest in more than a decade but is from San Antonio, played JUCO and Division-III basketball in the state and had stops at Stephen F. Austin and SMU before going north.
Texas State – Terrence Johnson
Longtime head coach Danny Kaspar resigned in September amidst an investigation into player mistreatment and was replaced by assistant coach Terrence Johnson on an interim basis. The Bobcats removed the interim tag on March 11, five days after finishing an 18-win season that earned Johnson Sun Belt Coach of the Year honors.
For a program that won at least 20 games in three of the previous four seasons after three decades of irrelevance, promoting Johnson after six years on Kaspar’s staff was the easy and right call. He’s a former AAU coach with strong recruiting ties across the state.
Texas Tech – Mark Adams
Losing Chris Beard is a devastating blow to this program. There are no words to appropriately describe a loss like this.
Mark Adams is a Texas native, Texas Tech alum, and has coached college basketball in the state for 40 years. He’s not Chris Beard but he’s taken a similarly bizarre career path in becoming a Division-I head coach for the first time. A defensive guru, Adams was the right pick to succeed Beard instead of opening the job to outsiders.
UC Riverside – Vacant
Mike Magpayo was elevated to interim head coach when David Patrick joined the Arkansas staff last summer. He’s expected to get the full-time job after a 13-7 season, CBS Sports reported.
UMBC – Jim Ferry
UMBC tried to retain their golden boy Ryan Odom with raises and other financial investments after the 2018 upset of Virginia but was never in a position for long-term competition against high-majors and high-level mid-majors. The Retrievers are in a much better hiring position now than when Odom inherited a sewage plant five years ago.
Speaking of sewage plants, new head coach Jimmy Ferry arrives after one season as Penn State interim head coach. While he did an admirable job under tough circumstances in State College, Ferry flopped at Duquesne and is a full decade removed from two good years at LIU Brooklyn.
Five years ago, this would’ve been a good hire for the Retrievers.
UNLV – Kevin Kruger
UNLV had one head coach from 1973-92. In the 30 years since then: Nine head coaches, including new head coach Kevin Kruger.
Kruger played for the Runnin’ Rebels 15 years ago when his father, Lon Kruger, was head coach. He’s only seven years into a coaching career that included three years on his father’s Oklahoma staff (2016-19) and the last two years on Otzelberger’s staff. It’s a feel-good hire that will please current players and much of a fan base that wanted someone with stronger local ties, or any at all, after some of the recent hires.
UNC Greensboro – Mike Jones
Ten years ago, UNC Greensboro took a chance on a 28-year-old Wes Miller. They were rewarded with the most fruitful and period in program history as Miller built the Spartans into a SoCon force.
In replacing Miller, the Spartans passed on an in-house hire in favor of longtime Radford coach Mike Jones. The 55-year-old had one NCAA Tournament appearance and five 20-win seasons in a decade at Radford.
UT Arlington – Greg Young
Four years after the bizarre dismissal of Scott Cross, UT Arlington lost Cross’ replacement, Chris Ogden to Chris Beard’s new Texas staff. Ogden, a former Texas assistant who spent three years on Beard’s Texas Tech staff, was replaced by longtime Mavericks’ assistant Greg Young.
Young was retained by Ogden in 2017 and has been on the bench for the most stable period in program history. It was the obvious and right hire.
UT Martin – Ryan Ridder
Days before the start of the season, fifth-year head coach Anthony Stewart died at the age of 50. Montez Robinson led the Skyhawks to an 8-16 record.
Robinson wasn’t retained as the UT Martin hired Ryan Ridder away from Bethune-Cookman. The 36-year-old landed the Bethune-Cookman job after four outstanding seasons as as a JUCO coach at Daytona State and delivered stability to a low-level program.
UT Rio Grande Valley – Matt Figgers
Twelve games into his fifth season as head coach, Lew Hill died after fighting COVID-19 and other medical issues. Hill, 55, was planning to step down prior to his death and was replaced by Jai Steadman.
Hat tip to the Vaqueros for landing an active Division-I head coach in Austin Peay’s Matt Figgers. A former lower-division assistant with high-major experience who spent a decade with Frank Martin at Kansas State and South Carolina, Figgers is a surprising hire for one of the most difficult jobs in college basketball.
Utah – Craig Smith
Larry Krystkowiak rebuilt the Utes into a stable program in annual contention for Pac-12 titles and NCAA Tournament bids but never got over the hump. He went 45-42 (26-29, Pac-12) over the last three years.
A disciple of Tim Miles, Craig Smith is a former lower-division coach who rebuilt South Dakota and went 74-23 in three seasons at Utah State. He’s done well identifying lower-ranked recruits and built one of the nation’s best defensive teams. Rumored to be a potential candidate Minnesota, the 48-year-old Minnesota native signed an extension at Utah State just four weeks ago.
Prediction: Smith will win a Pac-12 Championship and reach (at least) the Elite Eight within five years at Utah. This will prove to be one of the best hires in college basketball this decade.
Utah State – Ryan Odom
“Under Craig’s leadership, we look forward to continued success in the Mountain West Conference and on a national level,” Utah State’s athletics director John Hartwell said on Feb. 22 in announcing Craig Smith’s contract extension through the 2025-26 season. Six weeks later, Hartwell is looking forward to continued success under Ryan Odom’s leadership.
Rumored to be a potential candidate for several jobs in the northeast since the 2018 win over Virginia, Odom instead jumps to Utah State. A North Carolina native, Odom has never coached west of Asheville and rarely ventured west in two decades as an assistant and head coach. He worked magic at UMBC but this is a bizarre geographical fit.
UTEP – Joe Golding
Chris Beard also poached UTEP head coach Rodney Terry for his new staff. Another former Texas assistant, Terry won eight Conference USA games in each of the last two years, and left El Paso in a move that worked out for both him and the Miners.
With all due respect to Terry, UTEP hit the jackpot with the timing of his departure. They landed an elite program builder with strong ties across the state.
Western Carolina – Justin Gray
Western Carolina went 13 years without a head-coaching search during the Larry Hunter era. Now, the Catamounts have a second search in the last three years after Mark Prosser left for Winthrop.
As Prosser left for Winthrop, Justin Gray arrived from Winthrop. The 37-year-old former Wake Forest star spent the last two years on Pat Kelsey’s bench, his only two years of coaching experience.
Wichita State – Isaac Brown
Isaac Brown spent six seasons on Gregg Marshall’s bench, but Isaac Brown isn’t Gregg Marshall.
Wichita State replaced one of the most experienced and disliked head coaches in college basketball with an inexperienced and beloved head coach lauded by players, recruits, and high school coaches across the country.
“They need to give him the job,” Shockers’ leading scorer Tyson Etienne said before Brown was named permanent head coach in February. “We’ve had a lot of stuff going on within our program this year and the way we’ve handled it has been something really good and something really remarkable. And not just IB, our entire coaching staff has done a great job of banding us together and leading us. IB has done an amazing job and I believe he’s going to get the job. I hope he does. I’m rocking with him.”
Brown was named AAC Coach of the Year after leading Wichita State to a 16-5 record and back to the NCAA Tournament after missing the 2019 tourney.
Winthrop – Mark Prosser
Winthrop was going to lose Pat Kelsey eventually. But they probably didn’t think they’d lose Kelsey to an in-state CAA program. This is just their third head-coaching search in the last 23 years.
The search ended with Mark Prosser, an alum and former assistant who returns to Rock Hill after three up-and-down seasons at Western Carolina. The local ties are great but his head-coaching results are tough to swallow.
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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @DoughtyBetMGM