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Brian Mull | | October 20, 2015

College basketball: Nine coaches debuting at new schools

  Shaka Smart has landed the job at Texas after six stellar seasons leading VCU.

It happens every spring, sure as birds hatch, flowers bloom and happy players trim the nets while enjoying their One Shining Moment.

The coaching carousel spins in Division I men’s basketball each offseason. It cannot be stopped, only watched with amusement. Generally, 10 percent or more of the 357 programs find a new man to direct their fortunes. Entering this season 40 schools have a new coach. The hires are graded, evaluated, analyzed and criticized but the answers remain a mystery answered only when the ball begins to bounce again. It can take a year or two to know if the new marriage is a good fit or not. Some new coaches will slide into place and try to build on recent success. Others have a stiffer task as they recruit, rebuild and plant seeds that they hope to watch blossom one season soon.

Here’s a look at the new faces in place at the higher profile programs in college basketball. Soon, we’ll recap the the new coaches in place at the mid-major level.

Rick Barnes, Tennessee - In 17 seasons at Texas, Barnes was 402-180, won 20 games in all but two seasons and reached one Final Four. He heads to Knoxville to replace Donnie Tyndall, who was 16-16 in one season. Barnes, 61, aims to point the Volunteers back to the NCAA tournament, which they’ve missed three of the last four seasons. He’ll rely on the experience and insight that’s driven him to 604 career victories.

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Ben Howland, Mississippi State - With a career record of 401-206 and three Final Four appearances at UCLA to his credit, Howland goes to work hoping to steer a swift rebuilding effort. The Bulldogs went 37-60 the last three seasons under Rick Ray, and last competed in the NCAA tournament in 2008-09, which was their eighth appearance since 1994-95.

Bobby Hurley, Arizona State - The fiery former point guard and son of a legendary high school coach won two national championships as a player at Duke in the early 1990s. He’ll try to elevate the Sun Devils to a position of national prominence from the sidelines. In two seasons as coach he guided Buffalo to a 42-20 record, including a No. 12 seed in the 2015 NCAA tournament where it lost to West Virginia by six points. He replaces Herb Sendek, who was 154-138 in nine seasons.  

Avery Johnson, Alabama - In yet another Southeastern Conference move, the personable former NBA point guard and coach tries to turn Tuscaloosa into a town where two sports can thrive. Johnson, a college coaching rookie, replaces Anthony Grant, who was 117-85 in six seasons with one NCAA tournament appearance.

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Dave Leitao, DePaul - You can come home again. Successful in his first stint at DePaul (58-34 from 2002-05), Leitao returns to try and rejuvenate the Blue Demons, who were 54-105 in five seasons under Oliver Purnell. Leitao spent recent seasons as an assistant under Frank Haith at Missouri and Tulsa. His last head job was at Virginia, where he posted a 63-60 record from 2005-09.

Chris Mullin, St. John’s - Perhaps the most intriguing new coach in the nation. Mullin was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2011 after a sensational 16-year playing career. The former St. John’s star also spent time in NBA front offices. Now he returns to try and restore his alma mater to the status it enjoyed in the 1980s. Mullin replaces Steve Lavin, who won 81 games in five seasons.

Steve Prohm, Iowa State - A bigger job was bound to come Prohm’s way after he led Murray State to a 104-29 record in five seasons. Now he replaces the widely popular Fred Hoiberg on the Cyclones’ sidelines. Hoiberg, a former Iowa State star, moved on to the NBA to coach the Chicago Bulls. Prohm, 41, will try to add on to the program’s four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.

Shaka Smart, Texas - Leading VCU to five NCAA tournament appearances and a .744 winning percentage in six seasons, made Smart a top target for athletic directors every spring it seemed. The opportunity in Austin was too attractive for Smart to resist. He’ll try to return the Longhorns to elite status - in the Big 12 and nationally. The program has reached three Final Fours but just once in the last 60 years (2002-03).

Michael White, Florida - Doubtful anyone on this list has larger shoes to fill than White, who earned the opportunity by guiding Louisiana Tech to three regular season conference championships and 101 victories in four seasons. The former Ole Miss point guard replaces Billy Donovan, who won 467 games and two national championships, of course, during his 19 seasons in Gainesville. Last spring he opted to leave college for a chance to coach Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA.  


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