College Basketball Coaches Whose Stock Is Soaring in 2014 Offseason
The offseason in college basketball is all about movement. Transfers, early departures for pro ball, coaching changes, it all boils down to a person or persons going from one place to another.
For coaches, fluctuation can also occur in terms of one's reputation, or what we like to refer to as "stock." The stock for some has gone way up since coaching their last game, and for a variety of reasons.
These are the nine Division I basketball coaches whose stock has risen the most in the offseason.
Michael Curry, Florida Atlantic
Michael Curry has never been a coach at the college level, in any form, and he hasn't been a head coach of any kind since 2009. But that didn't stop Florida Atlantic from tagging the longtime NBA player as their next coach.
Curry played in the NBA from 1993 to 2005, then he got into coaching first as an assistant with the Detroit Pistons before taking over as Pistons head coach in 2008-2009. That was his only year in charge before he spent three seasons as an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Curry replaces Mike Jarvis, the school's winningest coach with 77 victories, but that came over six seasons and only included one season above .500. His work with the NBA players union was cited by FAU athletic director Pat Chun as a reason for Curry's hire, according to Anthony Chiang of the Palm Beach Post.
Jason Gardner, IUPUI
Jason Gardner had his number retired at Arizona, where he was a four-year starter from 1999 to 2003 and was the point guard on the Wildcats' 2001 national runner-up team. He came to Arizona from Indianapolis, where he was Mr. Basketball for the state of Indiana in 1999.
Gardner is now returning home, named as IUPUI's new coach after spending last season as an assistant coach at Memphis under former Arizona teammate Josh Pastner.
At 33, Gardner will be one of the youngest coaches in Division I.
Ron Hunter, Georgia State
Ron Hunter led Georgia State to its second postseason appearance in his three years at the school, reaching the NIT after the Panthers fell in the Sun Belt tournament final to Louisiana-Lafayette.
Hunter's work to revive the Atlanta school's basketball program has come not just in the form of wins, but also in getting some high-profile transfers to come to the school. This past year's team featured former Kentucky recruit Ryan Harrow, and next season he'll likely have the services of former Louisville guard Kevin Ware, who announced his transfer in early April.
Ware, best known for breaking his leg on the court during Louisville's Elite Eight game in 2013 (en route to an NCAA title), plans to apply for a hardship waiver to become immediately eligible, according to Doug Roberson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
If that happens, the Panthers would feature a backcourt of players formerly at blue-chip programs, and Georgia State could find itself mentioned in the same breath as other successful transfer havens like Iowa State, Oregon and San Diego State.
Danny Manning, Wake Forest
Danny Manning's coaching career has been on a rapid rise, and continued on April 4 when he was hired to coach Wake Forest next season.
Manning had spent the past two years at Tulsa, where he led the Golden Hurricane to 38 wins and a berth in the NCAA tournament in 2013-14. Tulsa lost to UCLA in the second round after winning the Conference USA tourney title, and Manning's ability to turn a team that was 0-4 and 1-6 earlier in the year into a playoff team earned him major points when the coaching carousel got moving.
Manning is probably best known for being a part of Kansas' 1988 NCAA title game, a group known as "Danny and the Miracles." After that he spent 15 seasons in the NBA before joining Kansas' staff first as a manager and then an assistant coach under Bill Self.
Cuonzo Martin, California
Cuonzo Martin spent a good portion of the 2013-14 season on the hot seat at Tennessee, dealing with a fan-circulated petition to have him fired even as he was leading the Volunteers on a late run to reach the NCAA Sweet 16.
It was Martin's first NCAA bid in his three years at the school, but it was enough to help him score a bigger—and presumably safer—job when he left Tennessee on April 15 to coach California. Martin will succeed Mike Montgomery, who retired after six seasons.
Shortly after Martin was hired at Cal, 3-star center Kingsley Okoroh flipped his commitment from Tennessee to the Golden Bears.
Marvin Menzies, New Mexico State
Marvin Menzies has been a very successful head coach, albeit under the radar, in his seven years at New Mexico State. He's led the Aggies to the NCAA tournament in four of the last five seasons, including the last three, despite NMSU facing constant flux in the teams it faces as part of the Western Athletic Conference.
That ability to win in spite of the turmoil has made Menzies a hot candidate for various coaching vacancies during this offseason. Though he hasn't left Las Cruces, the 52-year-old Menzies has had his name mentioned in association with now-filled jobs such as the ones at Tulsa and Washington State.
While losing Menzies would be a hit to the NMSU program, for the coach it means his stock is on an upward trajectory if he were to want to leave for a bigger gig.
Saul Phillips, Ohio
Each NCAA tournament introduces us to a few previously unknown coaches at smaller schools who have done a lot of good without much attention. They also tend to be some of the more colorful characters in the game.
This year that group included Saul Phillips, who referred to himself and his North Dakota State team as the great unwashed during its run to the third round that included an upset of Oklahoma. The victory put a cap on Phillips' seven seasons at NDSU, which included two NCAA bids and 134 wins.
It also earned him a promotion, as he was hired to coach Ohio for the 2014-15 season. While going from the Summit League to the Mid-American Conference might not look like a big jump on the surface, take note: Ohio's last two coaches (John Groce and Jim Christian) are now in charge of power-conference teams Illinois and Boston College, respectively.
Richard Pitino, Minnesota
Richard Pitino will forever be known as the son of one of the greatest coaches in basketball history, Rick Pitino. But he's quickly making a name for himself that's separate from the family lineage.
Pitino has only been a head coach for two seasons, but both have been wildly successful. Following an 18-14 mark at Florida International in 2012-13 that included a trip to the Sun Belt tournament finals, Pitino was hired at Minnesota.
With the Golden Gophers he had them in the conversation for an NCAA tourney bid for much of the season, only to see Minnesota fail to earn an at-large slot and instead end up in the NIT. But that's where Pitino and his team really caught fire, running through five games and taking the championship against SMU and Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown.
Only 31, Pitino appears destined for greatness, and according to both USA Today's Nicole Auerbach and ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman (h/t Minneapolis Star-Tribune) he's on the short list to replace Cuonzo Martin at Tennessee.
Michael White, Louisiana Tech
Michael White hasn't yet gotten Louisiana Tech to the NCAA tournament, but he's done enough in his three years at the school to be among the hottest young coaching candidates in the country.
The 37-year-old White has had his name attached to several openings this offseason, most recently Tennessee, according to CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish. Parrish noted White's experience as a player and coach in the SEC (at Ole Miss, where he was an assistant from 2004 to 2011) has made him a desirable pick for bigger jobs.
White is 74-31 in three years with Louisiana Tech, winning 29 games this past season as the Bulldogs reached the NIT quarterfinals. He agreed to a six-year contract extension earlier in April, but that might not be enough to keep him in Ruston if power programs keep calling.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.
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