Under-the-Radar CBB Coaching Changes That Will Have a Big Impact in 2014-15
Buzz Williams’ departure from Marquette set off a flurry of high-profile college basketball coaching changes, but not all the important moves got national headlines. Some of the most dangerous sleeper teams of 2014-15 will be those that brought in new skippers without nearly as much fanfare as Williams got when he arrived at Virginia Tech.
One of Williams’ former Big East rivals, the South Florida Bulls, decided they’d had enough of slowdown specialist Stan Heath. In his place, they’ve brought in one of the most promising assistants in the country, Kentucky’s Orlando Antigua, to make his debut in the top job.
Read on for more on why Antigua can make a quick impact at USF, along with five more new coaches whose value during the 2014-15 season will dwarf their publicity before it.
Kim Anderson to Missouri
Longtime Division II coach Kim Anderson isn’t any too recognizable off his new team’s campus, but in his playing days, he was a high-scoring forward on a Big Eight champion Mizzou team.
An assistant under Tigers legend Norm Stewart for over a decade, he won’t need to do much to win over the home fans.
Just as importantly, he’s already won over stud recruit JaKeenan Gant—the top-rated prospect in Georgia, per ESPN—who had committed to predecessor Frank Haith.
With the 6'8" Gant having affirmed his commitment to Missouri and 6'9" rising sophomore Johnathan Williams III also coming back, Anderson will have a formidable frontcourt with which to take on the SEC.
Kelvin Sampson to Houston
Although Kelvin Sampson is a perfectly big name as coaches go, any hire by Houston—which has made one NCAA tournament appearance since 1992—is under the radar by default.
The former Indiana and Oklahoma boss has been in the NBA since getting driven out of Bloomington by NCAA sanctions, but now he’s headed back to the college ranks.
Although Sampson is an ace recruiter, he didn’t even have to hit the trail to start his Cougars career with some surprisingly talented players.
Ex-Baylor point guard L.J. Rose and lanky post presence Danrad “Chicken” Knowles both return after encouraging debuts with Houston. They’ll be enough of a foundation to help their new coach make some noise in the depleted AAC.
Jim Christian to Boston College
Last season’s Boston College squad was decidedly less than the sum of its individual parts. Steve Donahue couldn’t turn the Eagles into a functional team, but that doesn’t mean Jim Christian won’t be able to find an answer.
Christian is coming off two solid years at Ohio (where he replaced current Illinois coach John Groce), and BC marks his fourth head coaching job overall.
Losing Ryan Anderson to transfer hurts, but with sniper Olivier Hanlan to build around, the Eagles could improve enough to challenge for a spot in the Big Dance despite flirting with last place in 2013-14.
Orlando Antigua to South Florida
South Florida’s first attempt to replace the fired Stan Heath was Manhattan coach Steve Masiello, but the Bulls dropped him after learning he’d lied about graduating from Kentucky.
Orlando Antigua has been on Coach Cal’s staff at Kentucky since 2009, but USF will be his head coaching debut. His timing is fortunate, both because the AAC doesn’t have a lot of depth for next season and because he inherits some significant talent.
In addition to starters Corey Allen Jr. and Chris Perry, Antigua will benefit from a full season of Anthony Collins, the star point guard who missed most of his junior year with a knee injury.
Chris Jans to Bowling Green
Although the MAC has a solid NCAA tournament history as a conference—witness Ohio’s Sweet 16 trip in 2012—Bowling Green hasn’t contributed much to it.
The Falcons will get a chance to change that record in 2014-15 thanks to a coach who knows plenty about turning mid-majors into postseason winners.
Chris Jans is getting his first head coaching gig after serving as an assistant to Gregg Marshall at nouveau juggernaut Wichita State.
He inherits defensive playmakers Richaun Holmes (2.8 blocks per game) and Jehvon Clarke (2.1 steals a night) to help turn around a roster that has more talent than its 12-20 record from last season would suggest.
Travis DeCuire to Montana
Kareem Jamar’s departure is a big blow, but the versatile guard is the only starter leaving from a Montana team that was already very much in contention in the Big Sky.
While next year’s Grizzlies will need a new point guard on the floor, they’ll bring in an old one to man the head coaching post.
Former Montana standout Travis DeCuire (at right) was Mike Montgomery’s handpicked successor at Cal, but the Golden Bears brass opted for Cuonzo Martin instead.
Berkeley’s loss is Missoula’s gain, as DeCuire will give a guard-rich roster every opportunity of pulling off a March Madness upset in 2015.