The Pi-Rate Ratings

February 7, 2012

10 College Basketball Coaches To Keep An Eye On

Here is a list of 10 coaches at low-major and mid-major schools that could move to a top tier conference and do wonders for a school.


We have limited this list to coaches 50 years old and younger, have limited or no previous experience at a “Big Six” conference, and have a philosophy of aggressive and exciting basketball.


10. Steve Prohm—Murray State (37 years old)

Prohm is only in his first season as head coach at Murray State, but his Racers are ranked number nine in the current poll with a 23-0 record.  No Ohio Valley Conference team has been ranked in the Top 10 since Western Kentucky in 1971.


Prohm worked his way up from a low assistant to a top assistant.  He is noted for being able to recruit in the cracks—to find hidden gems.  Murray State has been the basketball equivalent of Miami of Ohio.  This school is the Cradle of Coaches on the hardwood.  Ron Greene, Steve Newton, Mark Gottfried, Mick Cronin, and Billy Kennedy all advanced to major conference schools after serving a stint in Murray.  Prohm may need a few more years to prove himself, but he will coach in the big time one day.


9. Bruiser Flint—Drexel (46 years old)

Flint is the James Brown of basketball coaches.  He is the hardest working coach in America.  He demands the same from his players, and he has turned Drexel’s fortunes around.  The Dragons have a great shot at making the Big Dance this season, and their fans have become rabid supporters of the team.  


Flint was a John Calipari assistant at U Mass, and he followed Calipari there as head coach.  He guided the Minutemen to multiple NCAA Tournament berths even though he was saddled with sanctions left there by Calipari.


He seems to be a perfect fit for a Big East or Big Ten school.


8. Dan Hurley—Wagner (38 years old)

The Hurley family is an Eastern version of the Sutton family.  Dan is the younger brother of former Duke star Bobby.  He played at Seton Hall in the 1990’s.  In just his second season at Wagner, he has the program at the top of the Northeastern Conference in a neck and neck race with Long Island.  Hurley knows the game inside and out, and he has a lot of recruiting contacts in the Metro New York-New Jersey area.


7. Greg McDermott—Creighton (47 years old)

Remember Press Maravich?  His son was a fairly good ballplayer, but it did not lead to LSU becoming a national power.  How about Al McGuire?  His son Allie was a star at Marquette, but poppa McGuire was an even better head coach.


Greg McDermott has the next Larry Bird playing on his team, and said player comes from his own seed.  Doug McDermott is a combination of Jimmer Fredette and Adam Morrison. 


Coach McDermott led Northern Iowa to three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths.  He advanced to Iowa State and led them to respectability, but the Cyclones were never able to get to the next level in the touch Big 12.  Given a chance to coach a major conference team with some basketball tradition, he would shine.  He seems like a great fit for the SEC or ACC.


6. Steve Alford—New Mexico (47 years old)

Alford has made New Mexico a mid-major power.  He won big at Southwest Missouri, and despite some ups and downs, he won at Iowa.  Since his departure, the Hawkeyes have fallen to the basement of the Big Ten.  Alford has a temper like his mentor, and he tends to use a lot of vulgarity, but he would be a great fit back in the Big Ten or Big East, where fans seem to go for that kind of thing.


5. Dave Rice—UNLV (43 years old)

Rice is only in his first year in Las Vegas, but he has been noted as perhaps the top assistant coach in the West for years.  Everywhere he has been as an assistant, his teams have won a high percentage of games and scored a lot of points.


Rice played for Jerry Tarkanian at UNLV, and his first coaching stop was Tark’s last season as a coach in Vegas.  He was an assistant at Utah State and BYU, and he served as the “offensive coordinator of those teams.”


He has brought back the “running” in Runnin’ Rebels at the Thomas and Mack Center, and a UNLV basketball game is the most exciting entertainment in Vegas once again.  He would be the perfect fit in the Pac-12, but his style of coaching would be a good fit at any school.  His teams play like the teams of the mid-1960’s to mid-1970’s when if you did not average 80 points per game, you were not any good.


4. Randy Bennett—Saint Mary’s (49 years old)

Bennett is a world class recruiter—he recruits from all over the world.  His teams have a great inside-outside, high-low presence, and they know how to play consistent basketball.


His only drawback is the long-term contract he has signed.  Any team that wants him will have to pay a hefty buy out.  Bennett turned down the chance to coach in the Pac-12, so he may not have many options left.  However, he could be the perfect coach for a Big Ten, Big 12, or SEC school.


3. Scott Sutton—Oral Roberts (41 years old)

Sutton is the son of former Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton.  His ORU teams play the same type of aggressive, Hank Iba-style of ball that poppa Sutton’s teams played.  He teaches fundamentals, and his teams may not be flashy, but they are solid.  Expect ORU to play in the Big Dance this year, and they will be no pushover for a higher seeded team.


2. Gregg Marshall—Wichita State (48 years old)

Marshall established the program at Winthrop and made them the perennial champion of the Big South Conference.  He even won an NCAA Tournament game with a Number 15 seed.


He has already returned the Shockers to dominance in the Missouri Valley Conference, and he has hung a championship banner, albeit an NIT title.


Marshall’s teams play stifling defense and play intelligently on offense.  His teams seldom beat themselves; they play hard, and they exploit any weaknesses.  If a school wants a long string of success, they need to grab him this year.


1. Jim Ferry—Long Island University (44 years old)

Most basketball fans outside of Brooklyn do not know this name, but in our opinion, Jim Ferry is the best college basketball coach in the nation.  Some astute athletic director at a Major college needs to move him to the top of his short list.  He can take a program to the Final Four.


Ferry has won big everywhere he has been in the small college world.  His teams didn’t just win; they won in John Woodenesque manner.  They play aggressive defense, control the boards, and know how to run an organized fast break.  In the halfcourt, his teams move the ball around and know how to score inside.


He took over at LIU when the program was in such pitiful shape, they were playing games in an old theater.  Within a few short years, he had the once storied program back on its feet.  


Last year, LIU was the top low major team in the East.  Following some key graduation losses, the Blackbirds were expected to fall back in the pack in the NEC.  Yet, LIU is back on top again this year in a heated race with Wagner.  


Ferry can win anywhere he goes.  He could take over at a Big East school and make them a powerhouse.  He could do the same for a school in the Big Ten, ACC, and SEC.  In fact, it is our opinion that he could be a major coup for a team in the South.  With his great recruiting ties in the Metro New York-New Jersey area, and with his history of winning big everywhere he has been, he could be the next Frank McGuire.


Sidenote: There is one other coach that we consider to be a wildcard.  He is Duggar Baucom at VMI.  Baucom, 51, falls outside our parameters, but his is a special case.


VMI has about as much chance of competing in basketball as the Kansas City Royals have of winning the next three World Series.  Height restrictions make it impossible for the Keydets to consistently defeat the Virginia’s of the world and close to impossible to beat the Coastal Carolina’s of the world.


Yet, Baucom has achieved a modicum of success, even winning 24 games one year and coming within a game of an automatic trip to the Big Dance.


VMI has led the nation in scoring the last five seasons.  They have been outmanned several times each year, but Baucom’s system has produced as many as 5 to 10 additional wins per year.  


Given a real chance to win and recruit at a major conference school, this system will embarrass a lot of other teams that play a slower, less exciting brand of basketball.  Top recruits do not desire to play in a passive, slow system.  It does not allow them to showcase their talent.  Put them in a fast-paced, 94-foot aggressive system, and all of their skills are on display.  


Baucom would be the perfect fit in the SEC, where dozens of quality talented athletes are available.

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