Another offseason brought several dozen coaching changes in college basketball, once again.
Here are eight moves in the upper level of Division I worth following this season.
Georgia Tech - Josh Pastner
Self-proclaimed workaholic Pastner wants his assistants to chase blue-chip prospects not birdies. Upgrading the talent level is top priority for the Yellow Jackets, who graduated three double-figure scorers from a 21-15 team. Especially considering the competition in the ACC, where future NBA pros are sprinkled across every roster. Pastner won 70 percent of the time in seven seasons at Memphis, leading the program to four NCAA appearances. Georgia Tech danced last in 2010.
First fix: Finish above .500 in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets have accomplished this once since 2002 (9-7 in 2004 under Paul Hewitt).
Memphis - Tubby SmithIn 25 years at five stops, Smith’s teams have made 18 NCAA tournament appearances. He’s led each program to March Madness and won a national championship at Kentucky in 1998. He’s 11th on the list of active coaches with 557 wins and has a nifty winning percentage of .669. John Calipari proved the potential at Memphis, steering the Tigers within a missed free throw or two of a national title. Realistic or not, those remain the expectations for hoops fans on the banks of the Mississippi River.
First fix: Shooting. The Tigers were alarmingly atrocious at finding the basket as they scuffled to a 19-15 record last season. They shot 32 percent on 3-pointers and 45 percent on 2-pointers, which was well below the national average in each category.
Oklahoma State - Brad Underwood
Stephen F. Austin was a juggernaut with Underwood in charge. He led the Lumberjacks to a ridiculous 89-14 (.864) record in three seasons. And of course, they dispatched West Virginia in the NCAA opener before losing by one point to Notre Dame in the second round. The Lumberjacks forced turnovers at the highest rate in the nation (25.9 percent) last season and fans in Stillwater could stand similar excitement breathed into their program, which made five NCAAs in eight years under Travis Ford but never advanced beyond the second round.
So excited to be a Cowboy! Looking forward to a lot of fun in this building. pic.twitter.com/jEgllW9iNO— Brad Underwood (@OSUCoachBrad) March 22, 2016
First fix: Hang on to the ball. Nothing upsets sharp hoops fans worse than a team that doesn’t value the ball. The Cowboys earned that dubious distinction last season, losing the ball on 19 percent of possessions (244th in the nation) in a 12-20 campaign.
Pittsburgh - Kevin Stallings
When his alma mater asked, Jamie Dixon answered. So, he’ll try to rebuild TCU after a solid 13-year run at Pitt, where he won 328 games at at 73 percent clip. Stallings was an interesting hire, but while he might not win the press conference his teams are always prepared and he coached his share of pros (Festus Ezeli, Wade Baldwin IV) in his final seasons at Vandy.
First fix: Win in March. The Panthers have won one NCAA tournament game since 2011.
Stanford - Jerod HaaseAfter leading UAB to a 46-23 record and NCAA tournament win the last two seasons, the former Kansas guard Haase was an attractive candidate. He headed to Palo Alto to replace Johnny Dawkins, a former Duke guard who was 156-115 in eight seasons with the Cardinal - but only made one NCAA appearance.
First fix: Better shooting. Stanford hit 31.8 percent from beyond-the-arc and was an inefficient offensive bunch.
Texas Tech - Chris Beard
No one had a more interesting offseason than Beard, who led Arkansas Little-Rock to a NCAA tournament upset of Purdue. Beard accepted the UNLV job on March 27th but when Texas Tech opened three weeks later, he went from a Running Rebel to a Red Raider. Beard spent 10 years as an assistant at Texas Tech, which was 19-14 and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
First fix: Defensive rebounding. The Red Raiders played adequate ‘first-shot’ defense a year ago, but got crushed on the boards, allowing opponents to collect 32.4 percent of their missed shots (295th in the nation).
Tulane - Mike Dunleavy Sr.
He hasn’t coached in six years and never at the collegiate level.
Still, he brings 17 years experience as an NBA head man to the Crescent City and offers hope for a basketball renaissance. Dunleavy replaced Ed Conroy, who was 92-103 in six seasons. The Green Wave has six winning seasons in the last 20 years and its most recent NCAA tournament appearance is 1995. With competition from Saints and LSU football as well as Pelicans basketball, grabbing a share of the New Orleans sports market can be difficult. Hiring a coach familiar to the area’s NBA fans could prove to be a savvy move for the Tulane basketball program.
First fix: Tulane’s shooting and offense. The Green Wave was 303rd in the nation in offensive efficiency last season, ranking in the 300s in 2-point and 3-point field goal percentage.
Vanderbilt - Bryce Drew
Drew led his alma mater of Valparaiso to a 58-13 record the last two seasons, including an NCAA berth in 2015 and NIT finals appearance in 2016. Building the nation’s ninth best defense at a Horizon League school grabbed the attention of athletic directors around the country and when an SEC school with a solid basketball tradition called, Drew couldn’t refuse. He replaces Kevin Stallings, who was 332-220 (.601) in 17 years.
First fix: Fare better against the better teams. Despite having a top 50 offense and defense, the Commodores were 7-13 vs. teams in the top 100 of the Pomeroy Ratings last season, ending with a 20-point loss to Wichita St. in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The Real MVP pic.twitter.com/t6yCst6eSL— VandyMBB (@VandyMBB) April 15, 2016