10 Little-Known Coaches Likely on the Radar of Major College Basketball Programs

Doug BrodessCorrespondent IJanuary 24, 2013

10 Little-Known Coaches Likely on the Radar of Major College Basketball Programs

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    College basketball coaches get fired. Call it an occupational hazard.

    When the coaching carousel begins to spin in the early spring, athletic directors look high and low for candidates who can elevate their hoops programs to new levels of success.

    Sometimes, the AD's short list has big-name coaches who are widely recognized. Other times, they pull up some of the lesser-known coaches who are battling to build their programs at the mid-major level.

    Every year, there are quality coaches who are available to come in and be the next Bo Ryan, who moved from UW-Milwaukee to Wisconsin.

    Here are 10 lesser-known coaches that very well could be on the radar of major college programs very soon:

Billy Donlon (Wright State)

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    Billy Donlon is a "30-something" coaching wonder.

    In his first two seasons at WSU, Donlon went 32-33. But this year, the Raiders are 14-6 overall, 5-2 in the Horizon League.

    Michigan head coach John Beilein said this about Donlon:

    Bill Donlon is what so many student-athletes should look for in their future coach. He not only knows the game, but is able to teach it.  The poise, basketball IQ, and work habit he had as a player is now an everyday part of his coaching philosophy. I love to talk basketball with Bill whenever I see him!

Michael White (Louisiana Tech)

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    At 35 years old, Michael White is one of the nation's up-and-coming D-I college basketball head coaches.

    Last year (2011-12), White, in his first season leading the Bulldogs, posted a respectable 18-16 record, getting Tech to the Western Athletic Conference tournament finals.

    So far this year, LT is 16-3 overall (7-0 WAC) and in sole possession of first place.

    At the time of this post, Louisiana Tech is riding an eight-game win streak.

    If the Dogs keep this up, and make a nice run in the NCAA Tournament, don't be surprised if some big-time schools come calling this former Ole Miss hoops star.

Jim Christian (Ohio)

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    Jim Christian is off to a great start in his first year at Ohio University in the Mid-American Conference.

    The Bobcats are currently tied for first place in the East Division of the MAC. They have won their first five conference games and have an overall record of 14-5.

    Christian previously coached at MAC-rival Kent State from 2002-08, posting a 137-59 record and taking the Bobcats to postseason play in five of his six years at KSU. UO won at least 20 games every season under Christian. 

    Over the last four years, he was the head coach at a very challenging hoops spot: TCU (56-73).

    If Ohio makes another run like they did last year, Christian will have lots of AD's blowing up his cell phone during March Madness.

Danny Kaspar (Stephen F Austin)

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    Danny Kaspar has been the head basketball coach at Stephen F. Austin U. (Nacogdoches, Texas) since 2000.

    The Lumberjacks have had six 20-plus win seasons under Kaspar, including four of the last five years.

    This year, SFA is a scintillating 16-1 (7-0 in the Southland Conference).

    Using unselfish passing (17.2 apg; No. 9 in the nation) and sharp shooting (48 percent FG; No. 21 in the nation), they have quality wins against Oklahoma and ORU, and took Texas A&M to the wire in early December.

John Becker (Vermont)

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    Sure, Vermont may not be up there in terms of where you think of first for great collegiate hoops, but John Becker is a darn good coach who has it going on in Burlington.

    Last season, Becker's first year to lead the Catamounts, Vermont went 24-12 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

    Though UV is only 12-7 overall this year, they are 5-2 in the America East Conference and ready to challenge for the league's automatic bid into March Madness.

    If they win the AEC tournament and make the school's fifth postseason appearance in a row, Becker may be packing his bags again soon.  

Tim Cluess (Iona)

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    Tim Cluess has the Gaels firing on all cylinders.

    Cluess is in his third season as Iona's head coach. In his first two season, he posted a 50-20 record, making it to the postseason both years.

    Iona's 2012-13 record at this point is not outstanding, but the Gaels did beat Wake Forest and Georgia in pre-conference play.

    They are 6-2 in the MAAC, putting them right in the thick of the conference race.

    If Cluess leads the Gaels to another NCAA appearance this season, watch for teams to check him out.

Dave Paulsen (Bucknell)

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    Dave Paulsen has steadily built Bucknell into a mid-major force.

    After going 7-23 in his first year (2007-08) as the Bisons' head coach, Paulsen elevated the program to the place where they won 25 games back-to-back just two seasons later.

    This year, Bucknell is 16-4 (3-1 Patriot). The Bisons have nice wins against LaSalle and New Mexico State, and were within two points of knocking off Missouri.

Keith Dambrot (Akron)

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    You may have never heard of Keith Dambrot before, but you know one of his former high school players...LeBron James.

    Dambrot is currently the head coach at Akron. After coaching up LBJ, he moved back into the college ranks as an Akron assistant coach. After three years working on Dan Hipsher's staff, Dambrot moved to the first chair on the Zips bench in 2004.

    Before the 2012-13 season, in his eight years as Akron's head coach, Dambrot had posted a 184-87 record. So far this year, the Zips are 14-4 overall and undefeated in five MAC games.

    Dambrot's first season as Akron's head coach (2004-05; 19-10) was the only year that the team didn't win at least 22 games.

    It wouldn't surprise me at all if Keith Dambrot ended up on someone's short list after this season closes out.

Leon Rice (Boise State)

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    Leon Rice knows what it’s like to play David to big schools’ Goliath. Before taking over the Broncos’ program three years ago, he served as an assistant for twelve seasons at Gonzaga, the ultimate D-I hoops giant-killer.

    Rice went 22-13 in his first year (2010-11) as BSU's head coach.

    This year, the Broncos are currently 14-4, and are in the mix in the incredible competitive Mountain West Conference.

Randy Rahe (Weber State)

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    In six seasons at Weber State, Randy Rahe has reeled in three Big Sky Championships and five post-season tournament appearances.

    Before taking over in Ogden, Rahe paid his dues with 18 years as an assistant coach.

    The Wildcats have won 20 or more games in four of his six seasons, and put up a 120-68 record (.638) under Rahe.  

    With only one senior on this year's team, Weber State has won their first eight conference games, with a 13-3 record overall.