Coaches are the face of college hoops. Whether it's Mike Krzyzewski appearing in seemingly every other commercial during March or John Calipari swooping in as the game's newest rock star, the coaches are the guys everyone knows.
Maybe it's because the players don't stick around for four years anymore (with some exceptions), or because they're the face of the programs, schools simply don't win without a good coach.
Thus, the ever-lasting search for the next great coach. This year, there were 27 of 'em, not counting the recent switch at Army. Here's a rundown of the 10 most notable coaches. For quick hitters on the other 17, click here.
Anthony Grant, Alabama (from VCU)
He replaces Mark Gottfried, who won more than 200 games at Tuscaloosa and even led the Tide to a No. 1 ranking back in 2002-03. Still, Gottfried couldn't do the impossible – give Alabama a hoops identity. Grant knows a little something about that. Once Billy Donovan's top assistant, he helped recruit several of the Gators' national champion players.
"People told him Florida was a football school and it couldn't be done there in basketball," Grant said during his introductory press conference. "There was a commitment all the way through the organization that it could be done. That is proof positive that it could be done."
He's no stranger to success as a head coach, either. VCU won 3 CAA titles in 3 seasons and reached the NCAA tournament twice. 'Bama hasn't been since 2006. Grant's getting big money to ensure that kind of streak stops soon.
Stephen Dunn/Getty images
|Sean Miller takes over at Arizona in 2009-10.
Sean Miller, Arizona (from Xavier)
Taking over a storied program isn't an enviable task. Lute Olson built the Wildcats into one of the nation's premier programs because he molded NBA-caliber players into a consistently excellent team.
Yet, Miller has already caught a few breaks. Olson hasn't coached Arizona since 2007 because of health issues. Two years of interim coaches – and sub-par records by the school's standards – have helped to separate Olson's shadow from the program.
And Miller's no slouch. A tenacious point guard at Pitt, he brought that same attitude to Xavier, cementing the Musketeers into one of the country's best programs, let alone a standout mid-major. He averaged nearly 26 wins a season the last four years and has been to the NCAA tourney's second weekend back-to-back seasons.
Isiah Thomas, FIU
Has there ever been more attention surrounding a coach without any kind of college coaching experience? His playing career in college(NCAA crown at Indiana) and NBA (2 titles with Pistons) was essentially the opposite from his NBA coaching stints (56-108 with Knicks). What does it mean for Florida International?
Maybe good things.
Thomas has already snagged some impressive recruits. For once, the fan base is interested. And the team can't be any worse. It's been to one NCAA tournament and usually hits double-digits losses. Perhaps Thomas is exactly the guy to change all that.
Mark Fox, Georgia (from Nevada)
A miracle run in the 2008 SEC tournament seemingly prolonged Dennis Felton's career, which resulted in Georgia treading water again last season. By January, Felton was out and the search for a capable coach was on.
Enter Fox. His terrific Nevada tenure – 123-43 in five seasons, three NCAA tournament berths – impressed the Georgia brass, who gave him $1.2 million a season, about $400,000 more than Dennis Felton made. It didn't impress Georgia onlookers, though, who wanted a bigger name like Oklahoma's Jeff Capel or Missouri's Mike Anderson. How does Fox recruit in an area he doesn't know, like the South?
He doesn't sound worried. He's just gonna focus on improving the Bulldogs' overall talent and go from there. "There's a terrific recruiting base in the state. You can get an outstanding education. We're very excited to be here. We're ready to go to work," he said.
The work might take a while.
John Calipari, Kentucky (from Memphis)
What hasn't been said thus far about Calipari?
In just a few short months, he put together one of the best recruiting classes in NCAA history, energized the Kentucky faithful more than any coach since Rick Pitino and re-established the 'Cats as a title contender. All without even coaching a game.
Best of all? Calipari knows he has the talent to win a title. He's not about to step on the brakes. Replacing Billy Gillispie isn't just about winning SEC titles or earning No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. It's about winning it all.
"I want to unleash these guys," Calipari said this spring. "I don't want them looking over at me. ... I want them to turn and go."
We'll be here to watch.
Josh Pastner, Memphis (Memphis assistant)
Stepping into the Memphis job should be stressful. In the last four years, the Tigers dominated their conference, reached the NCAA title game and won more games than any other school in history.
But the alleged major NCAA violations that surfaced this summer can only add to pressure around Pastner, who's never been a head coach before. Oh, and the Tigers are dealing with injury issues. But is he worried? Nah.
"You hate to see anything like this happen in the sport you love to student-athletes, coaches, university officials, that's no fun for anybody," Pastner told FanHouse. "But for us, the current and future of the program, there are so many positives to look forward to. Nothing inhibits us from competing at the highest level and having an opportunity to win at the highest level and compete for the best student-athletes in the country."
Sound like anyone who just coached at Memphis? Maybe the Tigers won't take a tumble.
Kevin O'Neill, USC (NBA assistant)
Call it Pac-10 déjà vu. O'Neill roamed the conference sidelines during the 2007-08 season as Arizona's interim coach. The difference is the USC gig is permanent.
Seriously. Just Trojans A.D. Mike Garrett: "Hopefully, he's here forever," Garrett said at O'Neill's introductory press conference.
And why not? The Tim Floyd fallout begs for some consistency and no off-court issues. Just hoops.
Tony Bennett, Virginia (from Washington State)
If Bennett can turn Washington State into a winner, surely he can do the same at Virginia, right? After all, the Cavs have talent and aren't even that far removed from their last ACC title. Bennett knows this kind of opportunity shouldn't be wasted.
"It was the opportunity to do something special. It's coaching in the ACC," he said last spring. "It would have taken a lot to get me out of Washington State because I really believed in what was going on there. I felt this was an opportunity to compete and to do something special."
Then again, this won't be like playing in the Pac-10. North Carolina and Duke are always title contenders and with schools like Maryland, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Boston College, there isn't any room for error.
"Coming to a league like the ACC, which many believe, me included, is the best in college basketball year in and year out, it will be a great challenge to compete against the great teams here and see where we stand."
Ken Bone, Washington State (from Portland)
Bone knows his Pacific Northwest hoops. He spent time at Seattle Pacific, was one of Lorenzo Romar's top assistants, then spent 3 years at Portland State, the last two of which resulted in NCAA tournament berths.
And it was done mostly with 3-pointers. Nearly 40 percent of Portland State's point distribution came from the 3 last season. Only five teams were higher. And with Washington State's largely untested roster (except for Klay Thompson, who's one of the Pac-10's best players) expect more of the same this season.
"We will try to push it in transition and take advantage of 3-point shots," Bone said last spring.
Small wonder that the players have already taken to Bone.
Chris Mack, Xavier (Xavier assistant)
Here's your "local boy makes good" story. Mack, a Cincinnati native, grew up attending Xavier basketball camps, transferred to Xavier to finish his playing career, then got hired in 1999. After a stint at Wake Forest, Mack served on Miller's staff before getting the job in April.
He knows plenty about Xavier's role as the thorn in the side of BCS schools. The only question now is: Can he continue it?
The Musketeers lose three of their best players in wings Derrick Brown, B.J. Raymond and C.J. Anderson, but the cupboard isn't bare. Dante Jackson, Terrell Holloway and newcomer Mark Lyons figure to make Mack's job a little easier than the typical head coach.
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