I’ve spent the better part of the last month and half outlining everything about the Missouri coaching job. With the season in it’s last week, the everyone in the Missouri athletics media certain Kim Anderson will be coaching his last games as a head coach, we’re getting to the end of the outline and getting close to talking about potential candidates. If you missed anything, here’s what you’ll want to read to catch up:
- Part 1: The Missouri head coaching job is a good one!
- Part 2: The challenges of the Missouri job
- Part 3: Mizzou and the coaching landscape: Part 1, Part 2
We’ve since spent the last two posts talking about coaches who are in the mid-major range who could get their chance at a Power Conference job this offseason. In the first part we looked at Kevin Keatts, Dan Hurley, Will Wade and Dan Muller. In the second we covered Kermit Davis, Eric Musselman, Matt McCall and Steve Forbes. Today, we’re going rapid fire with a long list but a shorter description.
These aren’t necessarily coaches Missouri will be looking at, but they are all guys to keep an eye on this offseason and in the near future, and certainly guys you could see on the move this offseason as the Missouri job is just one of many dominoes to fall which will affect the job statuses of many. Let’s jump to it.
Paul Weir - New Mexico State
- KenPom Before: 111
- KenPom Now: 104
Weir is just in his first season as a head coach but he’s already making some heads turn. On top of a gaudy record, he’s also gotten a top 80 4-star player to not only commit, but enroll early. The Aggies had a solid roster ready to go, but they’e been exceptionally tough this year. You would definitely want to see more from Weir since this is just his first season as a head coach, but the early returns are positive. Weir was also an assistant under Steve Alford at Iowa so he has Power Conference experience. It’s easy to see why Weir is a coach to keep an eye on in the future.
Earl Grant - College of Charleston
- KenPom Before: 200
- KenPom Now: 88
If Earl Grant were stock, I’d be buying early now. He’s a former Gregg Marshall assistant at Winthrop and Wichita State, then got some power conference experience under Oliver Purnell and Brad Brownell at Clemson before taking over at College of Charleston, a program that was sinking fast. They bottomed out his first year at 279 in KenPom before ratcheting up the defense and improving by over 150 spots in year two. Year three they’ve been even better. They’ve dipped slightly defensively but the offense has improved enough to make the Cougars a threat to Kevin Keatts UNC-Wilmington team for an NCAA berth.
Mitch Henderson - Princeton
- KenPom Before: 79
- KenPom Now: 59
A former long-time assistant at Northwestern, Henderson has done a really nice job at Princeton and many thought he would have a break out season this year. The Tigers have struggled with some injuries but haven’t lost since December 20th (to our next coach profiled btw) and are 21-6 and 12-0 in league play. Henderson is doing well enough now he should get some looks and could be somebody strongly considered by a Power Conference school if the carousel gets too out of control.
King Rice - Monmouth
- KenPom Before: 278
- KenPom Now: 81
King Rice is a Kevin Stallings disciple who played at North Carolina in the late 80’s-early 90’s. He’s also had stops at Oregon, Providence, and spent time in the Bahamas coaching. He’s completely turned Monmouth around and have the Hawks humming along in the MAAC. Monmouth is 25-5 after going 28-8 last season, and have won 15 in a row and look to be in complete control of their league. The Hawks play at a slower pace, preferring to control tempo but not at the expense of efficiency. Rice should be a popular candidate to move up the food chain if he chooses.
John Becker - Vermont
- KenPom Before: 128
- KenPom Now: 68
Becker has quietly done a really nice job at Vermont. They’ve only lost five games this year and only one of those was to a team outside the top 100, the others: Houston, South Carolina, Providence and Butler. Not bad. They wrapped up league play undefeated on Saturday, which is always tough to do at any level. Vermont is Becker’s biggest job, where he was promoted as an assistant, so there may be some hesitancy over his lack of Power Conference experience, but if you’re looking for a proven coach, look no further than Becker.
Scott Cross - UT Arlington
- KenPom Before: 191
- KenPom Now: 73
The Big Long Process of building up UT-Arlington is basically complete as Scott Cross has been there since 2007 and has a team that will scare any high major come tourney time. If you’re looking for a multi-level of experience, Cross probably isn’t your guy. He played at UT-Arlington, became an assistant at UT-Arlington, and took over as head coach at UT-Arlington. It’s possible he will want to stay and finish his career there, but it’s possible Cross will have some opportunities to move up the chain after what he’s done in the 9 years he’s been the head coach.
Rodney Terry - Fresno State
- KenPom Before: 177
- KenPom Now: 112
Rodney Terry’s record at Fresno is really only so-so. It’s year 6 for Terry and he’s basically steadied the program to be a solid one in the Mountain West. Year five was the highlight as the Bulldogs made the NCAA tournament with a MWC tournament automatic bid, while winning 25 games. Still, the reasons for Terry being an attractive candidate extend to his time at Texas under Rick Barnes where he was on staff for an unbelievable run of recruiting and tournament runs. It may be a bit of a stretch for him to be a candidate this year, but he’s rebuilt the foundation at Fresno, and could be somebody to keep an eye on with another successful season or two under his belt.
Joe Dooley - Florida Gulf Coast
- KenPom Before: 105
- KenPom Now: 120
Dooley is perhaps most well known for taking over the program Andy Enfield had built up, and seems to have maintained a nice run at FGCU. Previously he spent nearly a decade on the bench at Kansas under Bill Self and Roy Williams from 2003 to 2013. He’s also had stops at Wyoming, South Carolina and New Mexico. Dooley had prior head coaching experience for four years at Eastern Carolina but sputtered a bit during his time there going 57-52, but just 10-17 and 13-14 his last two seasons. Dooley has been linked to other mid-major positions and with pretty good reason, he’s in year four at FGCU and with his own players has the program still at the level Enfield had it when he left for USC. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dooley get a bump this year and possibly a few Power Conference looks.
Pat Kelsey - Winthrop
- KenPom Before: 261
- KenPom Now: 114
I’m a fan of Kelsey, I don’t think he has the resume to attract Missouri right now, but he’s a guy to keep your eye on. He’s got a reputation for being a dogged competition and a tireless worker. Kelsey was a collegiate point guard at both Wyoming and Xavier, and he’s been an assistant at both Xavier and Wake Forest before landing the job rebuilding Winthrop. You’ll recall Gregg Marshall came from Winthrop, and the job was taken over by Randy Peele who wasn’t quite up to the task. But since Kelsey has taken over he’s turned the Eagles into a fun and entertaining team led by 5-7 point guard Keon Johnson, who had 38 points in their upset of Illinois earlier this season. Kelsey will start getting some looks soon and he could have a fairly rapid rise.
We’ve actually wrapped up quite a few coaches. Nine today, eight in the previous two pieces for 17 total. I told y’all I had a big list. And these are just the guys I don’t think will get a look but may be on the move and soon. You could probably throw out a few more like Keith Dambrot at Akron, Brett Reed at Lehigh, Nathan Davis at Bucknell, or Mike Rhoades at Rice, but for now it’s time to start looking at guys Mizzou might actually be looking at hiring.
I’m not opposed to going the mid-major route to find your coach. Mike Anderson had a nice run of success after coming from a mid-major. If you go that route you want your coach to have a few things:
- High major experience: Being an assistant at the high major level means you’ve been exposed to the level of play and the challenges of the job as opposed to smaller schools who have their own challenges, but the heat is less hot.
- Success where you’ve been: You don’t necessarily need a coach to have been to the NCAA tournament on his own but it certainly helps. At least he needs to have won big where he’s currently coaching.
- Building efficiency: Taking over either a successful program or one in the crapper, you want to see a consistency in efficiency on both ends of the court. Whatever their identity is, you want to see consistent efficiency.
- Talent recognition/Development: Being able to find guys before everyone else, land them, and develop them when you have them is huge as a mid-major coach. And when you’re not at a blue blood school, its imperative at a Power Conference as well.
There are several other things you may want like somebody who will be appealing off the court. Marketing is important and having a product to sell in the early stages of rebuilding a program will be important. But first and foremost you want a guy who has proven he can coach.
It’s for these reasons I don’t think Missouri will end up with a mid-major guy. Where the program is, they want somebody who has a proven track record at this level and the history of mid-major hires is inconsistent. Maybe you hire the next Gregg Marshall or Bill Self or Jay Wright. Maybe you hire the next Tim Miles, John Groce, or Donnie Tyndall. There’s risk, and I think Sterk will try to limit the risk as Missouri needs to spark the interest in the program back by making a splash.
Next we’ll start to dive into the coaches at the top of my list. I’ve been asked about this for months, and now we’re ready to start revealing.