Every year, there are great coaching hires. Last year Indiana snagged Tom Crean from Marquette as one of the bigger deals. Darrin Horn and Keno Davis both got their first major head coaching jobs, heading to South Carolina and Providence. So, with the coaching carousel of 09 coming to an end, what were the best coaching hires?
10. Mark Fox, Nevada to Georgia
Georgia needed to bring in a young coach with experience who could recruit and demand his players respect. They got that in Mark Fox. Fox is just forty years of age, which makes him the second youngest coach in the SEC(ahead of South Carolina coach Darrin Horn), but Fox doesn’t lack the experience it takes to compete in the SEC. In five years at Nevada, Fox was 123-43, coaching his team to the NCAA tournament three times, reaching the second round in his first season, and not missing the postseason one in his five years as coach. Fox’s teams finished first in conference four times and second once. In 2005 and 2006, Fox was named WAC coach of the year, both years in which he coached future pro Nick Fazekas. Georgia’s AD is a patient man. Fox shouldn’t need more than three years to get this program back to the Big Dance.
9. Shaka Smart, UF assistant to VCU
Although Smart hasn’t had a head coaching gig before, statistics say he will succeed. Anthony Grant left Donovan’s staff at Florida and he was well prepared to be a head coach. It seems as though assistant coaches want to be on Donovan’s staff (I.e. Richard Pitino) because they believe they have a better shot at getting a head coaching shot.
8. Isiah Thomas, N/A to FIU
Why was this a good coaching move? Because this is the level where Thomas can succeed. In his first month as head coach, Thomas has already recruited four talented JUCO players, each of whom did something special in their last year at a junior college. This isn’t the NBA. This is just like the place Thomas grew up; where they aren’t high expectations and you can get away with making mistakes. If you overachieve, you are treated like a God. That’s the stage Isiah Thomas is used to.
7. Buzz Peterson. NBA assistant to Appalachian State
Peterson is returning to where he is loved: Appalachian State. He coached there from 1996 to 2000 and led the Mountaineers from 14-14 in his first season to 21-8 in his second. Peterson’s teams never finished lower than third in conference, finishing first three times and winning the conference tournament in 2000 to guarantee them a birth in the NCAA. After leaving ASU in 2000, Peterson went to Tulsa, where he spent one season, leading the Hurricanes to be NIT champions. In the SEC, Peterson did not live up to expectations and was fired after2005. He did, however, recruit players such as C.J. Watson, Chris Lofton, and Jajuan Smith before his tenure ended at UT.
6. Ken Bone, Portland State to Washington State
Bone was one of the many coaches to drop the mid off the conference category they play in(Yea, I know, lame). After coaching at Seattle Pacific for thirteen years in Division II, Bone headed to D1 to coach Portland State from 2005-2009. In his tenure at Portland State, Bone compiled a 77-49 record, taking the Vikings to the NCAA tournament in his last two years (his first being the first in the school’s program. Washington State got a great hire in Bone
5. Josh Pastner, Memphis promotion
Pastner was previously the assistant under Lute Olsen for six years(2002-2008) before coming to Memphis for the 2008-2009 season to be an assistant under coach John Calipari. As he was packing his things to follow Calipari to UK, the A.D. asked him if the wanted the coaching stint. He said yes. This is great news for the Tigers because Pastner was Calipari’s top recruiter last season. Without him, the class of Xavier Henry, Demarcus Cousins, and others would have been much harder to attain.
4. Tony Bennett, Washington State to Virginia
A year ago, Bennett was getting offers from many of the top schools. He passed on the chance once. He didn’t make that mistake this offseason. After going 69-33 in his career at WSU(17-16 final season), Bennett took the chance to become a big name college coach and was hired by the Virginia Cavaliers of the ACC. In three seasons with the Cougars, Bennet twice coached them to the big dance, going 3-2 and reaching the sweet sixteen in 2008. If Virginia is willing to wait, they could reach the top of the ACC in just a few short years.
3. Anthony Grant, VCU to Alabama
Grant made a fabulous move for himself this offseason, walking away from VCU the same time his senior point guard Eric Maynor did. In his three seasons at VCU, Grant went 76-25, going to the NCAA tournament twice. Grant is known for having his team pull the upset of sixth seeded Duke in 2007 before losing in the second round. VCU again made the tourney in 2009, losing in the first round to UCLA in a heartbreaker. Grant should have this team back in the tourney in 2010.
2. Sean Miller, Xavier to Arizona
Miller made one of the biggest coaching changes this offseason, leaving the University of Xavier for the University of Arizona. He was one of the two coaches to jump from a big mid major to a power conference(the #1 guy on this list being the other). In his five years at Xavier, Miller led the Musketeers to a 120-47 record, winning his conference 2007, 2008, and 2009. Miller led the Musketeers to an elite eight appearance in 2008 and a 2009 Sweet Sixteen appearance. Arizona was looking for a big name coach. They got that in Miller.
1. John Calipari, Memphis to Kentucky
Calipari is by far the most experienced coach who was in this year’s coaching moves. He has coached in the NCAA ranks for nineteen years, both at Massachusetts and at Memphis. So far in his coaching career, Calipari has compiled a fabulous 445-140 and has not missed the postseason since 1989, his first season as a head coach. He has made the NCAA tournament eleven times in his career, going to seven sweet sixteens, three elite eights, two final fours, and he made a national title game appearance in 2008. He is well known for his recruiting, getting players such as Darius Washington, Derrick Rose, and Shawne Williams to play basketball at Memphis. He has already gotten Eric Bledsoe and Demarcus Cousins to come to Kentucky in the past month.
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