College basketball: 9 under-the-radar coaches to watch
Last week we looked at the marquee coaching hires in college basketball during the offseason. Those guys will spend so much time in front of the television cameras in 2015-16 that when March arrives it might feel like they’ve been at their new schools for several seasons.
Today, we take a look at coaching changes a little farther down the college basketball hierarchy. These jobs are perfect spots for young coaches to master their craft or build a reputation. Some are traditional winning programs where the foundation is solid. Others will need more time and care to contend for a conference championship. But this much is certain: there are future stars of coaching on this list. Remember that Mike Krzyzewski spent four seasons at Army before his three decades of greatness at Duke. John Calipari got his start at Massachusetts. And Billy Donovan coached Marshall for two seasons, before his tremendous run at Florida.
Michael Huger, Bowling Green
After a decade as an assistant under Jim Larranaga at George Mason and Miami (Fla.), Huger, 45, returns to his alma mater for his first shot at being a head coach. A former all-conference point guard at Bowling Green (where he also played for Larranaga), the New York City native also has 13 years experience playing professional basketball in Europe. Bowling Green was 21-12 overall and 11-7 in the Mid-American Conference last season under Chris Jans.
Eric Konkol, Louisiana Tech
Another branch on the Larranaga coaching tree, Konkol is also sliding over to the boss’ seat for the first time. He was the offensive coordinator during a decade as an assistant at George Mason and Miami (Fla.). Konkol also played two years for now Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan at UW - Platteville. The Bulldogs were 83-24 overall and 44-8 in conference the last three seasons under Michael White, who took the Florida job.
Matt McCall, Chattanooga
Spending four seasons as an assistant under Billy Donovan at Florida prepared McCall to lead the Mocs, who expect to contend for the Southern Conference title. A Florida graduate, McCall, 33, also spent three seasons as an assistant at Florida Atlantic from 2008-2011. Prior to that he was a student manager and director of basketball operations under Donovan at Florida. Expect to see Chattanooga play the up tempo, 3-point centric style similar to the Gators.
Matt McMahon, Murray State
The Racers have been one of the premier programs outside the power five conference schools recently, and McMahon played a significant role in that success. He was at coach Steve Prohm’s side as Murray State won 104 games the last four seasons. When Prohm took the Iowa State job, McMahon returned to Murray State, which he’d left briefly for an assistant position at Louisiana Tech.
Jeff Neubauer, Fordham
In 10 seasons at Eastern Kentucky he compiled a 188-134 record and led the program to two NCAA tournament appearances. The Colonels were 105-73 in the Ohio Valley Conference during that span. Neubauer, 44, will now try to turn things around at Fordham, which has enjoyed just one winning season since 1992 (18-12 in 2006-07).
Dave Paulsen, George Mason
George Mason was the first ‘mid-major’ program to break through and reach the Final Four in 2006. They hired Paulsen, 51, to help return their program to those glory days. He won four Patriot League titles in seven seasons at Bucknell, including a three season stretch where the Bison won at least 25 games. Bucknell was 74-32 in the Patriot League during his tenure. George Mason, an Atlantic 10 member, was 20-42 the last two seasons.
Mark Price, Charlotte
In 12 NBA seasons this former Georgia Tech star shot 40 percent on 3-pointers, 50 percent on 2-pointers, 90 percent on free throws and scored more than 10,000 points. Price, 51, spent the last two seasons as an assistant for the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, but now he’s moved across town for his first head job and a shot at the college game.
Al Skinner, Kennesaw State
The 2001 National Coach of the Year at Boston College, Skinner is by far the most experienced coach on this list. He has a career record of 385-291 (.570) in 22 seasons on the sidelines at Rhode Island and BC. His most recent stint was as associate head coach at Bryant University. Skinner, who won an ABA title as a player with the New York Nets, takes over a program that’s never had a winning season since it joined Division I in 2006.
Will Wade, VCU
An integral piece of VCU’s 2011 Final Four run, the former assistant returns to Richmond aiming to sustain the unprecedented run the program enjoyed under his old boss, Shaka Smart. Wade assisted Smart for four seasons before taking the head job at Chattanooga, where he steered the team to a 40-25 overall record and 27-7 Southern Conference mark in two seasons. The Rams will stick with some form of the Havoc style they’ve used to make five consecutive NCAA tournaments.