Jason Hooten - Sam Houston State
Hooten started out as a part-time assistant coach at Weatherford JC. He then served as assistant coach at Tarleton State. Later, as an assistant and eventually head coach, he would help SHSU to a 127-59 record and four 20-plus victory seasons. The 25-8 record for Sam Houston in 2009-10 is the highest victory total for a Bearkat squad in SHSU's 23 seasons at the NCAA DI level.
Kyle Smith - San Francisco
Prior to joining the Dons, Smith was the head coach at Columbia.
Arguably the smartest man in college ball, he got his start serving for thirty years as an assistant between Saint Mary's, and Air Force. Smith earned a master’s degree in ed. leadership from San Diego, where he began his coaching career as a GA and would later assist.
Tim Craft - Gardner Webb
Craft began his coaching career as assistant varsity and head JV coach at an elementary school before moving to Pensacola JC. From there he would follow one of his player to Gardner Webb as an assistant. He would soon move up to East Carolina. In turn, he would depart ECU for Auburn as DOBO and then two as an assistant coach. Only to return to Gardner Webb as head coach.
Tommy Dempsey - Binghamton
Dempsey doesn’t have much of an assistant coaching record to speak of. He started at age 24 as HC of Wyoming Seminary Prep. That led to the head coach spot at Keystone College. Next, he moved to Lackawanna College taking the NJCAA DII title game and 33 wins. He leveraged that to an assistant spot at Rider; before being raised to HC. In 2012 he took the top spot at the Binghamton program.
Jim Hayford – Seattle
Hayford began working as a high school head coach while still in college. The extra effort earned him an assistant spot at his Alma Matter (Azusa). Sioux Falls came calling with his first college HC job followed by DIII Whitworth; then DI E. Washington Today ,at Seattle, he continues a history of success in developing programs.
Bob Marlin - ULL
His career started at ULM with the JV team while coordinating scouting (as a GA). He then became an assistant at Houston Baptist; then Marshall, and landed a JUCO head coaching job. he
became a DI assist at Alabama before his first DI HC job at Sam Houston; ultimately jumping up a level up to ULL.
Edward Joyner - Hampton
Joyner spent eleven years assisting at Johnson C. Smith U. Where he pulled triple duty also serving as the lead assist on the womans side, and assistant to the Dean of Students over judiciary affairs.
Andrew Toole - Robert Morris
Toole spent two years with the Hoop Group and the AAU high school camp circuit prior to being named an assistant coach at Lafayette College. Then, he moved into a similar role at Robert Morris where, being at the right place at the right time, he would be promoted to become the sixth youngest head coach in DI basketball.
Tim Cluess - Iona
The former Suffolk County CC and Long Island Post head coach took over the position at Iona from Kevin Willard in 2010. Prior to his collegiate experience, Cluess was the head coach at the High School level where he developed the likes of current NBA star Danny Green (Spurs) among many high profile DI players.
James Jones - Yale
Before coaching, Jones served as an executive account manager responsible for $1.5 million sales territory. He came to the game first as an assistant for Albany (then a DIII school) before moving on to a similar role at Yale. There he gained a great understanding of Ivy League basketball before departing for Ohio U. He would return to Yale as head coach two years later.
Tony Shaver - William and Mary
The UNC walk on first accepted a job coaching high school ball where he stayed for ten years. Shaver then made the jump to DII at Hampden-Sydney. While there, the Tigers became a national powerhouse. Winning on almost 75% of his games over his entire seventeen year period. His success drew the attention of William & Mary, who hired him in 2003.
LeVelle Moton - NCCU
After four years playing oversees and one year off, Moton took a high school head coaching job. Then he became an assistant at his Alma Matter. On March 25, 2009, arguably one of the greatest players in school history was elevated from Assistant Coach to the position of Head Coach at NCCU.
Tim Miles - Nebraska
Miles spent the first five seasons of his career as an assistant at DII Northern State. His first hc job came at NAIA DII Mayville State. Returning to NCAA DII, he led Southwest Minnesota State to a tourney. Miles then took over at North Dakota State. Shortly thereafter, the school declared DI. His success there catapulted him to bigger programs in Colorado State and now Nebraska.
Will Brown - Albany
Brown began his coaching career as an assistant with DII The College of Saint Rose. He would then spend three years as head coach at Sullivan County CC, compiling a 90-10 record Brown then joined the Albany staff and within months he was named interim head coach; a tag that was removed in the same year.
Chris Mooney - Richmond
Mooney comes from the wrong side of the tracks and a single parent home; his father working as a bus driver. None of that mattered to Mooney who stole himself all the way to Princeton for college. He started a coaching career in h.s, then on to a head coaching spot in DIII, then an assistant role at DI Air Force where he would become HC. Mooney left Air Force in favor of Richmond.
Bob McKillop - Davidson
Shortly after college he found a job teaching history and coaching in H.S. that success led him to an assistant post at Davidson. After one year, he returned to the H.S. level to win five NY State Champs. that would again propel him to the next level. Returning to Davidson, now as HC , some thirty years later, his work starts to receive national recognition.
Wayne Tinkle - Oregon State
After a semi pro career he returned to his Alma Matter (Montana). In his five years there, he served three different head coaches in Don Hoist, Pat Kennedy, and Larry Krystkowiak. Finally, he was promoted landing his first HC job. He departed as the schools most winning coach in 2014 to take over the program at Oregon State.
Bob Hoffman - Mercer
Hoffman started as an assistant high school coach before moving to the woman’s game where he won the NAIA national championship as a head coach (1989). He then became the top boss at his alma mater (Oklahoma Baptist). After a short stint directing UTPA, he was hired as an assistant at Oklahoma. Hoffman then went on to coach in the ABL and the NBA D League before landing at Mercer.
Billy Kennedy - Texas A&M
After serving twelve years as an assistant coach, his first head coaching job came at Centenary. Southeastern Louisiana then hired Kennedy in 1999 where he steadily improved his alma mater. After a one year assistant stop in Miami, Murray State named him as their fourteenth men's basketball coach. He finally landed at Texas A&M in what could be his destination job.
Mike Davis - Texas Southern
Davis started as an assistant at Miles College. He relocated to Venezuela, directing both pro teams and the country's national team. Davis returned to the US with the CBA as player / coach. He returned to his Alma Matter (Alabama) as an assistant. That action led to an assistant spot at Indiana. And in turn, the head coaching job there. UAB and Texas Southern would follow suite.
Dana Altman - Oregon
Altman started as a lowly assistant at DII Western State. He landed his first head coaching job at Southeast CC; staying one year before moving to Moberly. Three years later, he moved again to DI Kansas State as an assistant. His first DI HC job came at Marshall before being called back to Kansas State as HC. From there, came success at both Creighton and now Oregon.
Greg McDermott - Creighton
McDermott began his coaching career as an assistant coach at North Dakota between ‘89 and ‘94, leading them to five straight
DII tourneys. In ‘ 94, he accepted his first head coaching post at DII Wayne State. He remained there for six seasons before moving to DI head coaching stops and North Dakota State, UNI, Iowa State and Creighton all on the road to 450 plus wins and counting.
Derrin Hansen - Omaha
Following a traditional career path in education, Hansen first served as a student manager, then in high school and CC as coach/teacher of basketball, track, physical ed., intramural director, physiology. He received his masters while serving as GA. Afterwards, he landed an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator job. Eventually leading to an assistant at Omaha, where he would take the reins.
Rick Byrd - Belmont
Byrd began his coaching career as a child growing up in Knoxville writing articles about every Tennessee game he watched. He became a student manager; then a GA for the Vols. Afterwards, he went to DII Maryville and then DI Tenn. Tech both as assistant. His first HC job was DII Lincoln Memorial. He stayed for three seasons before moving on to Belmont and 800 wins later the rest is history.
Cliff Ellis - Coastal Carolina
His DI victories rank him 20th on the list of NCAA all-time career coaching victories. But it was a long road that began as an assistant high school coach then to NAIA before finally landing DI where his zone press earned him over 800 wins, 8 championships, and ceaseless coaching accolades, and HOF awards.
These coaches spent less than three years working under the same HC, they did not come from a basketball family, nor were they well- known former college or pro players.
While each on this list has a wall full of trophies and great accomplishments, this text focuses on the roads they traveled emphasizing, in some cases, the longer, path to becoming a DI Head Coach.
These coaches stand tall as an example never give up on your goals.