College Basketball's 5 Most Under-the-Radar Fantastic Coaching Jobs of 2011-12
The 2011-12 college basketball season is wrapped up, and throughout the nation there were marvelous coaching jobs.
Frank Haith of Missouri won AP Coach of the Year and Bill Self of Kansas won Naismith Coach of the Year; both turned teams with relatively low preseason expectations to No. 2 seeds in the NCAA tournament, and Self led Kansas all the way to the national championship game.
But aside from the big dogs who get most of the national attention, here are a few coaches who did spectacular jobs at their respective programs, but are on too small a stage to get full recognition.
5. Tod Kowalczyk, Toledo
(The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth)
Tod Kowalczyk abandoned his project at Wisconsin-Green Bay to try to rebuild Toledo. The Rockets had gone just 4-28 the year before Kowalczyk took the job, and in the new head coach's first year they posted the same record.
But after having a little bit of time to put his system into place, Kowalczyk turned Toledo into the second-best team in the MAC West.
The Rockets won 19 games this year, more than they had in the last three years combined, and received a bid to the CIT. In the postseason, Toledo defeated McNeese State by 13 points before falling victim to Robert Morris in the second round.
Kowalczyk can now add Toledo to a list of programs he has rebuilt.
When he took his first head coaching job at Green Bay in 2002, he led a team that had only nine wins the year before. By the time he left for Toledo, he led the Phoenix to a pair of 20-win seasons.
4. Jerome Allen, Penn
(Photo from penngazettesports.com)
Jerome Allen took over for a once-proud Penn basketball program in the middle of the 2009-10 season as interim head coach. After going 6-15 to end the season and beating nationally ranked Cornell, Allen was named the official head coach.
In just his second full year, Allen brought Penn within a game of an Ivy League championship. Had the Quakers defeated Princeton in the final game of the regular season, they would have played Harvard for the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Still, a second-place finish is much better than expected.
In the Ivy League preseason poll, Penn was tabbed the fourth-best team in the conference behind Princeton, Yale and, of course, Harvard.
It is hard to get recognition when you play in the Ivy League and don't win the conference, but Allen deserves some attention for how quickly he is rebuilding the Penn basketball program.
3. Eddie Payne, USC Upstate
(Photo from uscupstate.edu)
Eddie Payne took over at USC Upstate in 2002 and led the Spartans into Division I competition starting in 2007. Over the Spartans' first four years in Division I, they totaled a 29-92 record.
But this year, Payne brought the program to new heights.
USC Upstate posted a 21-13 record, finishing 13-5 and tying for second place in the Atlantic Sun. In late January, the Spartans defeated conference champion Belmont on a buzzer-beater for what was the probably the program's best win since transitioning to Division I.
The Spartans lost in the Atlantic Sun tournament, but they received their first-ever postseason bid to the CIT. In the CIT, they defeated Kent State before falling to Old Dominion in the second round.
USC Upstate could be a dangerous team in the Atlantic Sun next year as it returns all of the main players from the 2011-12 team, including rising junior and Atlantic Sun leading scorer Torrey Craig.
2. Steve Masiello, Manhattan
A once-proud Manhattan program became completely irrelevant from 2007 to 2011. After a miserable 6-25 campaign in 2010-11, the Jaspers fired Barry Rohrssen and replaced him with Louisville assistant Steve Masiello.
Masiello set the bar high for his team, and the Jaspers quickly rebounded for their first 20-win season in years, including a highlight win at rival Iona in January. This season marked the biggest turnaround in Division I with an increase of 15 wins.
And remember—this team was made up of mainly the same players that won just six games a season before.
Masiello led Manhattan to the CIT after the Jaspers were upset in the MAAC quarterfinals, and the Jaspers defeated Albany in the postseason tournament before falling to Fairfield in the second round.
Similarly to USC Upstate, the Jaspers could be a dangerous mid-major next year as they return their three leading scorers, including MAAC scoring champion George Beamon, plus MAAC Defensive Player of the Year Rhamel Brown.
1. Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
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Wichita State had just won the NIT a year before, but all of the hype in the Missouri Valley Conference surrounded Creighton. The Bluejays received 29 votes for preseason No. 1 in the MVC to the Shockers seven.
Regardless, Gregg Marshall led the Shockers to a superb season that was possibly better than Creighton's. The Shockers went 27-6 and won the conference with a 16-2 record. Against non-conference competition, they only lost twice—both times to top of the line teams in Temple and Alabama.
Despite losing in the MVC semifinals to Illinois State, Wichita State received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament as a No. 5 seed playing Virginia Commonwealth.
The Shockers lost to the Rams in the second round of the tournament, 62-59, but the fact that they went to the Big Dance as such a high seed despite low preseason expectations is quite impressive.