Philadelphia, PA – The college basketball coaching carousel has provided a handful of story lines for the 2012-13 season, as some familiar names hope to take the next step in cementing their legacies.
The biggest surprise among the offseason changes came when SMU announced that former NBA and NCAA champion Larry Brown would take over for his fellow North Carolina alum Matt Doherty. Brown took last season off after coaching seven different NBA teams over a 21-year span. He has not coached a college basketball game since he cut down the nets following the 1988 National Championship game, but he compiled a 177-61 record in NCAA action in seven total seasons with UCLA and Kansas. Brown's decision to return was not as unexpected as his choice to take over SMU's program, which resides in Conference USA and went 80-109 in Doherty's six seasons.
The NCAA Tournament MVP from Brown's 1987-88 Kansas team will become a friendly rival to his former coach next season, as Danny Manning was hired by SMU's conference rival Tulsa in early April. Although Manning has no prior head coaching experience, he has spent the past six seasons with some very successful Kansas Jayhawk teams as an assistant.
Perhaps the most attractive job opening this offseason was in Champaign. Illinois targeted a few successful mid-major head coaches before John Groce was hired. The Fighting Illini's new coach had an impressive four-year run at Ohio University, which ended when his Bobcats were knocked out of the Sweet 16 in overtime by North Carolina this past spring. The 40-year old has some experience in the Big Ten Conference, as he was an assistant at Ohio State from 2004-08, where he built a reputation as an elite recruiter by convincing Mike Conley Jr. and Greg Oden to become Buckeyes.
Ohio University, which is returning its star point guard D.J. Cooper, hired Jim Christian from TCU. Christian led Kent State to the NIT three times and the NCAA Tournament twice during his six seasons with the Golden Flashes before amassing a 56-73 record as the head coach of the Horned Frogs.
Hoping to find more success in its second season in the Big Ten, Nebraska also made a coaching change in the offseason. The school decided to part ways with Doc Sadler and hire Tim Miles, who is fresh off his first trip to the NCAA Tournament. Miles had a better record each season while serving as Colorado State's head coach the past five seasons, and he also led the Rams to the CBI and NIT postseason tournaments.
Miles's departure from Colorado State opened the door for Larry Eustachy to slide right in. Eustachy has quite an impressive resume' as he was named the AP National Coach of the Year and Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year in 2000 after leading Iowa State to the Elite Eight. The Rams' new leader compiled a 142-113 record from 2004-12 as the head coach at Southern Miss. Eustachy also managed to guide 2011-12 Golden Eagles to the NCAA Tournament.
Donnie Tyndall was expected to jump to a more prestigious conference and program after leading Morehead State to the round of 32 in 2010-11. He stayed with the Eagles for another season, but the chance to take over a successful Southern Miss program was too good to turn down. Tyndall only had one losing campaign in six seasons at MSU, and he has the weapons in Hattiesburg to make sure that run of success continues.
Although South Carolina plays in the Southeastern Conference with the likes of Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt, it isn't known as basketball school. Frank Martin is as good a candidate as any to come in and change the culture in Columbia. Martin never won fewer than 21 games in a season during his five years at Kansas State. The Gamecocks were 2-14 in SEC action last season, and they are lucky to have brought in coach who has been to the NCAA Tournament in four of the past five years. K-State replaced Martin with Bruce Weber, who had been recently fired by Illinois after a nine-year stretch in which he compiled a 210-101 overall record.
South Carolina wasn't the only SEC program to make a coaching change. LSU introduced alum Johnny Jones, and Mississippi State announced Rick Ray as their new head coaches. Jones tallied a 190-146 mark at North Texas in 11 seasons, while Ray is going to be a rookie head coach in 2012-13. He has however, built up quite a reputation while serving as an assistant at Indiana State, Northern Illinois, Purdue and most recently, Clemson.
Clemson also had to replace James Johnson from its assistant coaching staff as he was hired by ACC rival Virginia Tech. Johnson will be making his head coaching debut after serving as an assistant for seven different teams that include Old Dominion, Penn State and George Mason since 1997.
Jones did a fantastic job building the North Texas program during his time in Denton. Former Texas Tech standout Tony Benford will be the benefactor of the work done before him as he embarks on his first head coaching job with the Mean Green. Benford was the associate head coach for Marquette last season, and he has one of the more highly-regarded mid-major squads in the nation this year.
Benford is not the only associate head coach from the Big East that will be starting his head coaching career in the Sun Belt Conference next season. Richard Pitino, son of the legendary Rick Pitino, has replaced Isiah Thomas at FIU. The younger Pitino served as an assistant under Billy Donovan at Florida before returning to Louisville to learn from his father. He will have his work cut out for him as he tries to rebuild a Golden Panthers' program which has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 1995.
Dan Hurley, like Richard Pitino, knows what it is like the be the son of a basketball legend. The brother of former Duke point guard Bobby Hurley takes over at Rhode Island, which went a dreadful 7-24 last season. Hurley showed his abilities last season as he led Wagner to a 25-6 ledger in his second year as the Seahawks' head coach.
Additional head coaches with new teams in 2012-13 include: Dave Pilpovich (Air Force), Tommy Dempsey (Binghamton), Mark Martin (Brown), Jim Baron (Canisius), Keno Davis (Central Michigan), Doug Wojcik (College of Charleston), Jim Ferry (Duquesne), Jay Spoonhour (Eastern Illinois), Joseph Price (Grambling), Bill Evans (Idaho State), Dan Muller (Illinois State), Jack Perri (Long Island), John Cooper (Miami-Ohio), Chico Potts (Mississippi Valley State), Sean Woods (Morehead State), Jamion Christian (Mount St. Mary's), Cy Alexander (North Carolina A&T), Jack Murphy (Northern Arizona), Kevin Baggett (Rider), Bennie Seltzer (Samford), Barry Hinson (Southern Illinois), Nick Robinson (Southern Utah), Trent Johnson (TCU), Travis Williams (Tennessee State), Jerod Haase (UAB), Bashir Mason (Wagner), Pat Kelsey (Winthrop).