One of the most talked about topics every off-season in the world of college basketball is the numerous coaching changes that take place. This upcoming season will feature 60 coaches taking over new programs.
UCLA is the only blue-blood program to make a coaching change this year, and many UCLA fans are not exactly thrilled with the hire of former Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin after striking out with John Calipari from Kentucky and Jaimie Dixon from TCU. The Cronin hire is a head-scratcher at best because he has just one Sweet 16 appearance and has never been to an Elite Eight and that doesn’t seem very promising from the perspective of UCLA given their rich, deep history on the hardwood. Nevertheless, Bruin fans will still have national championship expectations each year.
Perhaps the best hire came out from Nebraska hiring Fred Hoiberg. The last time Hoiberg was on coaching in the college ranks, he led Iowa State to a Big 12 Tournament Championship. In the five years Hoiberg was at Iowa State, the Cyclones made the NCAA Tournament four times and never finished with a record below .500. Hoiberg left to be the Chicago Bulls Head Coach, and after getting fired, Nebraska was able to snag a coach who frankly belongs in the college game. Nebraska got a phenomenal hire, and someone who is a solid recruiter and knows that region of the country very well on the recruiting circuit. Hoiberg could turn Nebraska into a top program in a few years and fans will love his style and pace that his teams have.
The SEC will have new coaches at four new schools. Former Buffalo Head Coach Nate Oats took the job at Alabama, Eric Musselman took the job at Arkansas, Texas A&M hired Buzz Williams, and finally Jerry Stackhouse was hired by Vanderbilt. Buzz Williams comes in with the best college basketball coaching resume which includes eight NCAA tournament appearances, a trip to the Elite Eight and was a few plays away from another one this past year after missing a potential go-ahead three with under five seconds left, and missing a potential game-tying layup at the buzzer to force Overtime against Duke in the Sweet 16. Jerry Stackhouse has experience in the NBA as both a player and Assistant Coach which will be instant credibility for the Vanderbilt fans base, players, and recruits but he will still need to prove he can be a good college basketball coach in one of the tougher conferences.
One of the more under the radar moves comes at the mid-major level with Rick Byrd retiring from Belmont. Byrd was at Belmont for 33 years and after announcing his retirement, Belmont brought in Casey Alexander. Alexander played for Belmont from 1992-1995 and coached at Lipscomb from 2013 until this past season. During his tenure at Lipscomb, the Bison were NIT Runner-ups and made an NCAA Tournament appearance. I expect Alexander to pick up right where Byrd left off at Belmont. Alexander knows the culture at Belmont, and was a winner at Lipscomb.