College Basketball Coaches Who Upgraded in the 2014 Offseason
Take Tennessee, for example. In February, Volunteers fans were signing a petition to get Cuonzo Martin fired. By the end of March, the team got hot and they wanted him to stay. In early April, it sounded like he was planning on doing so, then he suddenly bolted for the head coaching job at Cal.
Over the weekend, it seemed Louisiana Tech's Mike White would be taking his place, but it was announced on Tuesday that Donnie Tyndall from Southern Miss will be the new head coach.
Quite a two-month roller-coaster ride, but that's pretty much business as usual at this time of year.
The carousel certainly hasn't finished yet—we still don't know who will be coaching Missouri, though there are rumors that Tim Floyd has emerged as a serious candidate—but from what we know thus far, there were 10 coaches who unquestionably made an upgrade this offseason by accepting a job as the head coach at a new school.
The following slides are listed in alphabetical order by the coach's last name.
Note: Though impressive hires at their respective schools, Mike Dunlap, Bruce Pearl and Kelvin Sampson are not included on this list because they were not collegiate coaches during the 2013-14 season.
Orlando Antigua, South Florida
The move: Kentucky assistant coach to South Florida head coach.
If you're unfamiliar with Orlando Antigua, I'd encourage you to read his bio on Kentucky's website while it's still there.
For most coaches, spending six years as an assistant to John Calipari would be interesting enough. But Antigua played college basketball with a bullet in his head, played seven years with the Harlem Globetrotters (hence the nickname "Hurricane") and is the head coach of the Dominican Republic national basketball team.
Serving as the head coach of a D-I program is just about the only thing he hasn't done in his 41 years on this planet, and now he can cross that item off his bucket list, too.
He almost didn't get the job, either. If you'll recall, it was Manhattan's Steve Masiello who was originally supposed to become South Florida's head coach until that whole fiasco about the background check that revealed he never completed his degree at Kentucky.
Antigua is an excellent recruiter—that's pretty much the first prerequisite to working with Calipari—and might have the stuff to put the Bulls on the college basketball map. They snuck into the 2012 NCAA tournament via the First Four in Dayton, but that was their only dance in the past 20 years.
Jim Christian, Boston College
The move: Ohio head coach to Boston College head coach.
Between Kent State and Ohio University, Jim Christian averaged 23.3 wins per season while coaching in the MAC. In between those two jobs, he spent four years at TCU, closing out his stay in Fort Worth with the only winning season that the Horned Frogs have had in the past nine years.
Christian has done quite well at each stop in his head coaching career and will be taking over a Boston College squad that almost couldn't possibly do worse than it did last year. Despite inexplicably winning a road game against Syracuse, the Eagles finished the season with an 8-24 record—the program's second-lowest winning percentage in the past 68 years.
Back in the early 2000s, Al Skinner had the Eagles playing high-quality basketball. From 2001-09, they went to seven of the nine NCAA tournaments and won at least a share of three Big East regular-season titles.
In the five years since then, Boston College has only had one winning season. Christian will be expected to get this program back to national relevancy.
With Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon back for another year, he just might be able to do that in a hurry. Outside of the transferring Ryan Anderson and a senior guard who almost never played, Boston College's entire team will be back for another try this year.
Chris Jans, Bowling Green
The move: Wichita State assistant coach to Bowling Green head coach.
Chris Jans has been Gregg Marshall's assistant coach at Wichita State for the past seven seasons, and now he's getting a chance to lead a program of his own.
Though it's his first D-I head coaching position, he did spend six seasons as a junior college head coach, compiling an overall record of 159-45 between several different schools.
Taking over at Bowling Green is his most difficult job to date. The Falcons haven't been to the NCAA tournament in nearly 50 years.
The cupboards are far from barren, though.
Jans will be inheriting a team returning its four leading scorers from last season. Granted, that was a 12-20 season, but 16 of those losses were by 12 or fewer points. Save for the occasional blowout at the hands of Saint Louis or Wisconsin, Bowling Green was within a stone's throw of winning just about every game it played.
Improved coaching really could make a world of difference for this team. If Jans can turn enough of those near losses into wins, he may just spend one year at Bowling Green before moving on to even greener pastures.
Kevin Keatts, UNC-Wilmington
The move: Louisville assistant coach to UNC-Wilmington head coach.
According to ESPN's Jeff Goodman, Kevin Keatts had a 263-17 record during two stints as a head coach at Hargrave Military Academy.
Regardless of what level you're coaching at, winning 93.9 percent of your games is pretty ridiculous. And after three seasons as an assistant to Rick Pitino, he will be attempting to rediscover some of that magic at UNC-Wilmington—a program that has won just 31.0 percent of its games over the last six seasons.
Keatts is regarded as an excellent recruiter. He'll need to be if he expects to convince any of North Carolina's homegrown talent to play for UNC-Wilmington as opposed to Charlotte, Davidson or any of the four ACC schools within the state's boundaries.
Danny Manning, Wake Forest
The move: Tulsa head coach to Wake Forest head coach.
Danny Manning spent nearly 10 years on Bill Self's staff at Kansas before a two-year stint at Tulsa where he guided the Golden Hurricane to their first tournament appearance in more than a decade. The team had been very competitive in the C-USA in the previous seasons under Doug Wojcik, but it could never quite get past Memphis to get into the tournament.
Having accomplished that task, Manning parlayed his brief success into a much more high-profile job as the head coach at Wake Forest.
It's been a hot minute since the Demon Deacons had any sort of prolonged success. They have made the NCAA tournament just twice in the past nine years after going to 12 of the previous 15. They never quite made it to a Final Four (unless we go all the way back to 1962), but they were an annual threat to do so in the 1990s under Dave Odom.
Lately, though, they've been the laughingstock of the ACC. Over the last four seasons, the Demon Deacons have won just 25 percent of their conference games—and the ACC isn't exactly getting any weaker by adding Louisville this year.
Getting Wake Forest back to a respectable place won't be an easy job, but Manning might be the right one for it. And he does have a strong stable of young guys. Travis McKie and Coron Williams are both graduating this May, but the team is loaded with players who were sophomores this past season—including leading scorers Codi Miller-McIntyre and Devin Thomas.
Cuonzo Martin, California
The move: Tennessee head coach to California head coach.
As we noted in the intro slide, Martin was under a lot of fire at Tennessee. Everyone loved him as the Volunteers were making their run to the Sweet 16. Outside of that brief stretch in March, though, it had long been speculated that Tennessee would let Martin go after this past season.
Despite the increase in his approval rating in Knoxville, it wouldn't have taken much for him to get back on the hot seat if he had stayed.
(As a case study for what life could have been like for Martin at Tennessee, watch how quickly into the 2014-15 season Stanford fans once again turn on Johnny Dawkins if the Cardinal struggle early, even though he just led them to the Sweet 16.)
It's always hard to follow in a beloved coach's footsteps. Bruce Pearl took Tennessee to the Sweet 16 in three out of four years at the end of the last decade, and Tennessee fans were expecting more of the same.
Martin won't have nearly that much pressure at Cal, but may have an even better chance to succeed.
The Golden Bears haven't been to the Sweet 16 since 1997. Even though they're losing Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon, there's no reason Martin couldn't get them back to the promised land in the next year or two. Between Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews, he'll have a great, young backcourt to build around.
Saul Phillips, Ohio
The move: North Dakota State head coach to Ohio head coach.
After seven years as the head coach of the Bison, Saul Phillips is finally moving on up to a program in a more reputable conference.
At only 41 years of age, this may just be the first of several stepping stones on the way to an elite coaching position for Phillips.
He couldn't have possibly picked a better time to make the move, either. Five of North Dakota State's seven leading scorers from last year's team were seniors. The Bison are well on their way to a few rebuilding years as a program, where rebuilding isn't exactly easy.
Had Phillips stayed any longer, he might have been stuck there for several more years before North Dakota State made another run to the NCAA tournament. And have you ever been to Fargo in the winter? That's a pretty big commitment.
So he got out while the getting was good, and he will take over the reins for an Ohio team that is also in some serious need of rebuilding. Instead of the Bison's five out of seven, the Bobcats are losing five of their eight leading scorers to graduation, while the other three will be seniors this coming season.
By the start of the 2015-16 season, Ohio will in no way resemble the team it was last year. It'll be up to Phillips to make sure that's a good thing.
Mike Rhoades, Rice
The move: VCU assistant coach to Rice head coach.
Don't be fooled by the focus of the camera lens, because it's the guy in the background that we're interested in today.
Mike Rhoades was the (rather successful) head coach of D-III Randolph-Macon from 1999-2009 before spending five seasons as an assistant to Shaka Smart at VCU. He'll now get the chance to be the head honcho at a D-I program—albeit, not much of one.
Over the last two seasons, Rice has a combined record of 12-49 overall and 3-19 in C-USA play. The Owls haven't been to the NCAA tournament since 1970.
At least there won't be any pressure on Rhoades to succeed.
The worst-case scenario is that Rice remains in the basement of C-USA and Rhoades decides to leave after a few unsuccessful seasons. The best-case scenario, though, is that he pulls a "Tommy Amaker" and takes a program known more for its academia and turns it into a mini-powerhouse in a mid-major conference.
As an assistant at VCU, he was destined to forever remain in Smart's shadow. But now he's out on his own in a very rare low-risk, high-reward coaching situation.
If Rice becomes even remotely relevant over the next few seasons, don't be surprised to hear Rhoades' name as a primary target for a high-profile coaching vacancy shortly thereafter.
Donnie Tyndall, Tennessee
The move: Southern Miss head coach to Tennessee head coach.
In a span of few years, Donnie Tyndall took Morehead State from "That's seriously the name of a college?" to a team that upset Louisville in the 2011 NCAA tournament. Five years prior to that program-defining win over the Cardinals, the Eagles had a 4-23 season under Kyle Macy.
Tyndall turned a nobody into a bracket-buster almost overnight, and he didn't do too shabby in his two seasons at Southern Miss, either. The Golden Eagles narrowly missed the NCAA tournament both years, but were NIT quarterfinalists each time.
Now we'll see what he can do with a high-major program that is losing just about everyone of note from last season.
Josh Richardson will be back for his senior year with the Volunteers, but he is the only returning player who scored more than 102 points last season.
It isn't all bad news, though. Tennessee will have the highly rated Robert Hubbs III back after missing most of last season due to shoulder surgery and has a handful of considerably better-than-average incoming recruits.
But if we learned anything about Tennessee fans these past few months, it's that they aren't shy about letting relatively new coaches know that they're disappointed by their inability to immediately win titles. We'll see how many years Tyndall gets before there are petitions to have him fired, but he should be able to get the Volunteers back to being an annual contender in the SEC in a hurry.
Steve Wojciechowski, Marquette
The move: Duke associate head coach to Marquette head coach.
After 15 years on the bench next to Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, Steve Wojciechowski took his half of the alphabet and accepted the Marquette head coaching position suddenly vacated by Buzz Williams.
It certainly seemed like Wojo was being groomed to become the successor for when Coach K called it a career, but when it was announced that Coach K has no intentions of retiring in the next five years, Wojo finally started taking phone calls.
In his first season as a head coach, he'll be taking over a minor rebuilding effort, but one with all the pieces necessary for success. Between Davante Gardner, Chris Otule, Jake Thomas and Jamil Wilson, Marquette is losing a ton to graduation this year, but the Golden Eagles have a great stable of young players, including Indiana transfer Luke Fischer.
It might be a year or two before Marquette returns to the top tier in the Big East, but Wojciechowski should have them back in business in short order.