Tremendous potential in coaching through finding often-unrecognized talent, these disruptors, and innovators inspire their team, program, and community. Based on accomplishments to date, leadership and promise.
Matt Lottich - Valpo
Working hard to get the right people, Lottich is very smart and capable himself. Overall his road record is a telling sign that Lottich posses the wherewithal and leadership skills to achieve the most challenging goals. A solid player development coach, we are all about to witness his talent this year as the rebuild is complete.
Joe Gallo - Merrimack
Gallo became the first coach in almost 20 years to guide the program to a Conference Championship. He has already secured a 61-34 (.642) career record, the most wins ever for a head coach over their first three seasons. Adding to his tool-belt, the top recruiter was instrumental in building up Robert Morris as an assistant from ’12-’16. Rarely in the history of the game has so much been asked of one so young. Leading the transition into their DI era, Gallo keeps proving his worth in wins. Just ask Northwestern.
David Kiefer - SE Louisiana St.
Kiefer the great lion tamer is roaring towards a successful long term career in college basketball. His insistent pertinence and intelligence makes him a phenomenal skill developer especially for the back court. The courage to take on all projects and situations lends itself to being a top notch regional recruiter and strategist.
Brian Collins - Tennessee State
Collins was well-prepared for being the HC at TSU through his highly successful JUCO coaching career and the time spent on staff at ETSU. Those experiences taught him a deep understanding of how to game plan a program. Flashes of his former boss (Steve Forbes) are helping to move the needle as the program lands solid recruits. It's
only a matter of time before the brilliant offense he learned playing for the legendary Rick Byrd comes to fruition on John Merritt Blvd.
Dane Fischer - William and Mary
He excels at teaching the art of steals with assists as the natural progression. In terms of basketball tacticians and recruiters, he is right on par with the best in the business at any age. What sets him apart is his understanding of how to win at a high academic institution. He cut his teeth doing everything in route to the DIII Champ. game at Williams College.
Chris Ogden - UT Arlington
He stepped in to a program lost two of the top players in school history and a murky situation replacing the programs most cherished basketball alum and HC. Nonetheless, his work was quick earning SBC COY honors in 2019. While a proven recruiter at the highest level, it’s his background in the trenches supervising film work, running summer camps, and handling the operations that prepared him for long-term success in the big chair.
Preston Spradlin - Morehead State
Spradlin was born and raised just an hour south of campus. He brought the community into the fold through scheduling and his strong ability to recruit the state and the region. The strategic planner has his plan for recapturing the top spot as his teams are getting better year in year out.
Jared Grasso - Bryant
The Bulldogs may be the only team in history to more than triple their win total from the last season while achieving the highest GPA in program history. Grasso led the Bulldogs to an NEC quarterfinal while producing three all conference players. Bryant basketball has an unwavering identity under Grasso; that will always be their primary focus and the rest will grow from there.
A.W. Hamilton - Eastern Kentucky
He quickly established the culture. Hamilton is pulling the team up the ladder with an emphasis on recruiting, teaching, and game planning. He has put in the work from mopping floors to doing the team laundry. No matter the job, he did it with enthusiasm by taking command of the task and finding hidden lessons. It’s the same critical thinking he applies today as an all around fully developed coach.
Ryan Ridder – Bethune-Cookman
His 30-60-90 plan breaks down all aspects of each situation. With an eye for detail and solving the equations, each set of answers works to activate the next challenge. Specifically, those sets included: points, total free throws, free-throw attempts, total rebounding, and total assists. Wrangling alumni, focusing on the student athlete, the university, this is a young coach with an old basketball soul managing time, and winning, well.
Matt McCall - Umass
He is a self-proclaimed “better leader” after his trial by fire the first two years at Umass. A complete overhaul in both staff and roster is not easy. But its the response and not the circumstance that makes a great coach. Young, hungry, energetic and passionate, his press defense will travel well and will fulfill the contract he made to make the Minuteman relevant again.
Richard Pitino – Minnesota
Son of arguably the greatest coach to ever change the game, the apple doesn’t fall far from the family tree. But it does fall in a different way. More and more each year Richard is doing things different from his father. His perceptive efforts to understand and embrace what people do makes him effective.
Dana Ford - Missouri State
Family and values are the number one concern for this high character true coach. From the Porter Moser family of sustainability, he excels at getting the best out of his players, and defense that leads to points on the other end. He simply makes everyone around him better; elevating basketball, people and places.
Ashley Howard - LaSalle
Howard deeply influences the players he coaches. A major recruiter, he is able to get not only the players, but the toughness, togetherness, and all the constant intangibles too. Moreover, if he is not able to recruit something in particular, that’s not a problem either. The dynamic coach is also a great teacher. His skill development played a big part in the La Salle rebuild as well as the Philadelphia basketball culture as a whole.
Baker Dunleavy - Quinnipiac
The son of a coach, he started his career with dad in late night film sessions observing games from the sidelines. He has been adding styles pieces to his puzzle plaything every step of the way. Unique to his background, he learned the leadership and stewardship skills from Magic Johnson. Relying on his teaching skills, Dunleavy continues to grow his program steadily improving each year.
Bob Richey – Furman
Hungry and deliberate, Richey brought a lot of positive firsts to the campus at Furman. He did so by communicating messages and abstract ideas in such a way that players are able to convert them into an action items consistent with the original concept. His man to man zone offense extends well beyond the basketball court. His players are paired up with individual mentors and business leaders in the local community for a true internship program.
Brian Wardle – Bradley
If history is any indication of the future, we can look to Wardle’s run at Green Bay where he compiled a 95-65 (.594) overall record.. Over five years they claimed consecutive 24-win seasons, three-straight postseason appearances. The proven recruiter is also a winner off the court successfully emphasizing the importance of education by producing all conference scholar athletes everywhere he’s been.
Jamion Christian - George Washington
The leader owns relentless optimism, positivity and basketball brilliance as a smart player and team oriented coach cultivating trust, love, and accountability. On the court, that system translates to high-intensity defense where the help is active and a three-point shooting offense focused on perfect passing and setting up the shooter before he gets the ball.
Wes Miller - UNCG
The longest tenured HC in the Southern Conference didn't take long to become the winningest HC in program history. His potent offense and keen strategic development raised UNCG from scratch. The all-star recruiter has done more with less applying the many lessons learned about how to run a program from his coach Roy Williams.
Nick McDevitt – Middle Tennessee State
Taking a dramatic step up each year, the top man at Middle Tennessee, is a versatile coach. His positionless basketball philosophy allows him to strategically interchanging multiple pieces at a time to safeguard the win against any style of play. Controlling defense and toughness, McDevitt continues to rebuild the program one level at a time.
Dustin Kerns - Appalachian State
Outscoring B1G time offensive programs with a balanced attack and keen in game strategy is just one perspective of his court collage. The other forms used to complete the picture include a suffocating defense creating second scoring chances, build habits, and playing for one another.
Lavall Jordan - Butler
His up-tempo transition offense is brilliant. Implementing the mindset and the skills needed, the offense develops a high hoops IQ by learning how to play free. Its a strategy that informs decision making and how to pace fast. He is a proven leader capable of recruiting the best players in program history.
Will Wade - LSU
Wade stems from a family of educators who impressed on him early, the urgency of teaching while connecting with the individual and the group simultaneous. Coaching with context, he changes with the team. The new style of play is more his pace. With an athletic ball always in transition rebounding at tiger speeds (40 mph), and bench rotation, timing and vision are critical and difficult to teach. But he does it well.
Ron Eshan - UAB
An elite mid major recruiter the complete coach is often recognized for his advanced basketball IQ, Now entering year four as HC he has his Blazers poised for a final four finish in every category including the final conference standings. On the foundation of defense and all conference performers; in a top heavy and much improved c-usa, Eshan will have his guys in the thick of things all year long.
Travis Steele - Xavier
Watch any Xavier game from 2008 - 2018 and you’ll notice the most active guy on the bench was sitting behind the HC discussing play by play with his Mac in the seat next to his. Steele formed his philosophies early to be the CEO of a program in all aspects. Last season, off to a shaky start, he was able to rebound with a strong finish. This season so far, X hasn’t played particularly well. And still find themselves as a whole on numerous top 25 lists. All of these display the dynamics of the top young HC.