The 2013-14 college basketball season will feature many new head coaches at different schools.
Some coaches are stepping into situations where all the pieces are in place for them to have immediate success, while others are in positions where they have to lead a program through a period of transition.
Depending on the fanbase of particular schools, certain coaches will also get the benefit of leading a team where fans are optimistic and looking forward to the season. Other coaches face the challenge of energizing a fanbase that has become disinterested.
Here are the NCAA Basketball coaches with the biggest shoes to fill in the upcoming season.
Robert Jones faces the difficult task of leading the Norfolk State basketball program while also having the “interim” tag beside his name as head coach.
He’s replacing Anthony Evans, who moved on to become the head coach at Florida International University after leading Norfolk State to postseason appearances in each of the past two seasons.
Evans led the Spartans to a stunning NCAA Tournament victory over No. 2 seeded Missouri in 2012, and Norfolk State became the first team to go undefeated in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference regular season last year.
Over the past two years, Evans guided the Spartans to a 29-3 conference record. Jones has spent the past six years on the Norfolk State coaching staff and served as the team’s recruiting coordinator, but it will be an interesting transition as he becomes the head coach.
Aside from Louisville winning the national championship, Florida Gulf Coast was arguably the most popular story of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
The Eagles took the nation by storm with their high-flying, aggressive style of play, and it helped head coach Andy Enfield receive major interest from many other high-profile programs. Enfield took advantage of the opportunity and moved across the country to become the head coach at USC.
When Enfield left, Florida Gulf Coast hired one of the top assistant coaches in the country—Joe Dooley from Kansas. Dooley spent the past ten years with the Jayhawks and wants to keep the same style of play FGCU became known for during its exciting run through the NCAA tournament.
Dooley is in a good position as the Eagles return four starters from last season’s squad and fans are optimistic the team can make some noise in March once again.
After having tremendous success at Norfolk State, Anthony Evans will now take on the challenge of replacing Richard Pitino at Florida International University.
Pitino left after only one season at FIU to become the head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Though he was only at FIU for one season, Pitino led the Panthers to their first winning season in 13 years with a 18-14 record. The team also reached the Sun Belt championship game.
Evans should have an easier time recruiting players to Miami instead of Norfolk, Virginia, but it’s still a program that’s had a great deal of turnover in recent years. Prior to Pitino, FIU went through the tumultuous period of Isaiah Thomas being the head coach.
Evans will need to lead the Panthers to continued improvement and also provide some needed stability.
G.G. Smith is likely more known for being the son of Tubby Smith, but now he’ll have an opportunity to make a name for himself in the coaching profession as the head coach at Loyola.
He’s taking over for former head coach Jimmy Patsos, who left following the 2012-13 season to take the same position at Siena.
Smith spent the past six seasons as an assistant under Patsos and is familiar with the program, but Patsos was the chief architect over one of the most impressive rebuilding jobs in college basketball in the past decade.
When Patsos took over the Loyola program in 2004, the Greyhounds were coming off a 1-27 season. He slowly turned things around and guided the team to back-to-back postseason appearances over the past two years.
Patsos successfully made Loyola basketball relevant again. Now, it’s Smith’s job to keep the program there.
Based on the talent on New Mexico’s roster, Craig Neal needs to have a seamless transition as the head coach of the Lobos.
He was Steve Alford’s top assistant and received the support of many of the New Mexico players prior to the school officially naming him the head coach.
The Lobos feature one of the most underrated duos in the country in Kendall Williams and Alex Kirk, and there’s plenty of talent around them to make this one of the best teams in the Mountain West once again.
New Mexico fans may be livid with Steve Alford for the way he left, but they can’t argue with how successful he made the program, guiding the Lobos to a 155-52 record over six seasons. The challenge is for his best friend, Craig Neal, to keep producing at a high standard.
Not only is Steve Alford replacing a coach who was fired after leading the program to three final four appearances, but he also faces the challenge of coaching in the shadow of John Wooden.
When a new coach is hired at UCLA, the biggest shoes and legacy to compete with will always be from Wooden, who won ten national championships in a 12-year period.
Alford must also shed the label of being a coach who struggles in the postseason. Though his teams at New Mexico had terrific regular season success, he never led the Lobos past the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
The resources and opportunities for Alford at UCLA will be much greater than anything he’s had at any of his previous positions. It will be interesting to see if he can make the most of them.
When Brad Stevens turned down an offer to become the head coach at UCLA, Butler fans thought they’d survived another offseason of bigger schools trying to take their head coach.
Then, Stevens shocked everyone when he accepted an offer to become the head coach of the Boston Celtics.
However, if there’s anyone who knows “The Butler Way” and how to carry on what Stevens did with the Bulldogs, it’s Brandon Miller. Miller is one of the great players in Butler history and is highly respected by many in the coaching profession who have worked with him.
Stevens will always have an amazing legacy for what he accomplished at Butler, but Miller appears to be ready to move the program forward.