Half of the candidates in our field are gone, including one — Colorado State’s Niko Medved — who pulled himself out of the coaching market entirely by signing a contract extension.
Did we go overboard with 15 candidates? Maybe. But readers were pretty clear in their preferences. The only mild drama involved a split opinion over Kim English, who unfortunately lost in our tiebreaker format. At the start, we wondered how much consensus would exist. Turned out, it’s more than we thought.
Maybe that changes in this round.
The format remains unchanged. We’re just deciding regional winners now. But instead of full-profiles, we’re going to compare each coach head-to-head. At the bottom of each piece is a poll, where you have 24 hours to make your preference known. The fan vote will make up 50 percent of the vote.
Who makes up the other half? The Rock M staff.
If the staff is unanimous and the fans make the same selection, easy enough. If, however, there is a consensus amongst the staff, but the fans disagree, we have a tie. To break the tie, we’ve enlisted the services of Jim Root (@2ndChancePoints), who will render the final verdict.
Today, we circle back to the Young Bloods Region, where Wyoming’s Jeff Linder meets up with San Francisco’s Todd Golden. Our other matchup is in the Steady Risers Region and pits Drake’s Darian DeVries, swapped in for Medved, against Murray State’s Matt McMahon.
The Rock M staff reached a consensus on Golden not because of what Kim English may or may not lack, but rather what Golden brings. Despite being only 36 years old, he ticks off a lot of boxes. Let’s run through them, shall we?
- Experience at a high major program: Golden spent two years at an SEC program in Auburn.
- Multiple years as an assistant under multiple coaches: At Auburn he spent two years with Bruce Pearl and he’s spent time with Kyle Smith at two stops, Columbia University and University of San Francisco.
- Multiple years running his own program: He’s spent three years at San Francisco.
- Winning as a head coach in a fairly difficult conference: Despite a COVID-inflicted regression in 2021, his other two seasons have featured a record of 46-21 and 19-13 in West Coast play.
- An ability to recruit traditionally and non-traditionally: Out of 10 players that he routinely plays this season, eight have arrived at USF during his tenure as head coach and six came via transfer.
That’s an impressive body of work. The biggest question in my mind are his ability to handle a program that wasn’t already headed in the right direction when he takes the helm, e.g. the “re-build” factor. Additionally, does he have the recruiting connections to be immediately successful in a vastly different geographic area? If you’re comfortable gambling on the positives and his ability to overcome those negatives, Golden presents a very intriguing option.
And what about Linder?
He brings an impressive, yet decidedly different resume to the table. Instead of the many boxes that Golden checks, Linder hits the “re-build” box. Hard. One could reasonably argue that some of Golden’s work at San Francisco trades on Kyle Smith’s successes. After all, Golden coached under Smith at both San Francisco and Columbia. With Linder? There is no such reservation. Consider:
He took over an embroiled program in Greeley, Colorado, the University of Northern Colorado Bears. The year before he took over the program, it limped to a finish ranked 314th nationally per Ken Pomeroy. In year 4 of Linder’s program? 75th. That’s the third highest finish of ANY Big Sky program since 2002.
Things were not much brighter in Laramie when he arrived. Allen Edwards’ last team finished 246thnationally. In year 2 of Linder’s program? 58th. That’s the highest ranking any Cowboys team has achieved since Pomeroy starting ranking teas in 1997.
He’s done it with offensive optimization principles. After losing arguably his most important player to Texas A&M in the spring transfer portal, what did he do? He redesigned the offense completely. Featuring two lengthy players in Hunter Maldonado and Graham Ike, he now runs a very unique, post up heavy offense and spreads the floor with shooters. This has resulted in an offense ranking 54th in adjusted efficiency and led the Cowboys to a 13-5 finish in a very difficult Mountain West which features four tournament teams.
Questions remain about Linder, however. Namely, his geographical ties to the mountain west. Further, the Mountain West is the highest level he has coached at. How will those facts impact his ability to recruit necessary talent in an ever-increasing SEC? While he did spend some time with Grant McCasland at Midland, Randy Rahe at Weber State, Rex Walters at San Francisco and Leon Rice at Boise State, does that give you the confidence he has the experience as an apprentice to succeed at the highest level?
Which coach would you prefer to see leading Missouri next season?
This poll is closed