These are the top head coaches whose tenacity, hard work, and stick-to-it-iv-ness, may lead them to better jobs this off season or the next.
*Ranking excludes coaches who are already committed to new jobs as of 3/17/18.
Kelvin Sampson – Houston
This year’s NCAA tournament may well have been his welcome back party. Coaching with a large chip on his shoulder, eager for a return to where he knows he belongs, Sampson is relentless. And it’s important to note that the illegal phone calls Sampson made to a recruit, leading to his show cause, are now legal. A great coach, he developed Houston into a good team and should get another look at the top.
Nathan Davis – Bucknell
A proven winner by dominating DIII he went 141-39. Since jumping to DI, he captured the Patriot League regular-season titles in each of his first three seasons followed with Patriot League Tournament titles and trips to the NCAA Tournament in 2017 and 2018. The guy knows how to win big games, as an assistant, his 2005 14th-seeded Bucknell upset No. 3 Kansas.
Casey Alexander – Lipscomb
Long time Belmont assistant, Rick Byrd swears he learned allot from Alexander. His connection to that player-coach relationship drives his passion and in turn success. Cool. calm, and together. The offensive coach helped guide Belmont's transition from the NAIA to DI and accomplished many of firsts along the way. His product label reads “ready in one year, just add defense”.
Chris Mack - Xavier
Louisville is interested and Mack lives in Northern Ky. right across the river from Cincy. His wife is a Louisville native. Without question his moral compass is as strong as his bball IQ and teaching ability to fix the wings and move the Cardinals back to a comfortable air stream. But Mack is a Xavier guy through and through it would take allot to steal one of the games hottest commodities.
Mick Cronin – Cincinnati
Louisville may be interested in their one time assistant coach, numerous other programs certainly are. But like Mack, he is a Cincy guy. With the success of this season, and opening of the much anticipated newly renovated 5/3rd arena next season, it would take allot to steal him away today. Still he remains in high demand.
Scott Padgett - Samford
The former Utah Jazz knows how to prepare kids for the next level. Already effecting change at a high level, Padgett has quickly transformed the Bulldogs into a SoCon championship competitor and rapidly revamped recruiting, revolutionizing the entire Samford program.
Mark Schmidt – St. Bonaventure
Completing one of the most challenging turn arounds in all of college basketball, he elevated a program decimated and isolated by sanctions. In a snow covered, sleepy, town with only one road in, and out, that is usually closed from bad weather, Schmidt found a way to clear a path leading directly to championships, player development, recruiting and more.
Porter Moser – Loyola Chicago
Fearless and Loyal. Moser possesses two unique qualities that every school president, AD, and basketball community looks for in a coach. He has changed the program culture and reestablished recruiting everywhere he has been. At Loyola Chicago he also successfully navigated the transition to the MVC. Averaging twenty wins a year the last three seasons, he has proven sustainability.
Russell Turner - UC Irvine
He has all players returning as juniors who will play like graduate fifth year guys. With such a strong foundation and high expectations next season, his move may wait till next year. But it would be a stroke of genius for the savvy president and AD, able to get this guy now at a premium before his stock jumps through the roof.
David Padgett - Louisville
It has not been easy leading Louisville this season. He met the challenge head on and exceeded expectations. ACC coaches love him. It would not be out of the realm of possibility to get a vote of confidence. Otherwise, Padgett has proven worthy of the job somewhere. Nevada, New Mexico State, New Mexico, Oregon State, San Diego all fit his basketball bloodline.
Mark Byington - Georgia Southern
He put Statesboro Ga on the basketball map where the Eagles soar to the top of the Sun Belt standings. The former Bobby Cremins’ top assistant knows the Virginia, Georgia and both Carolina's landscape well. East Carolina, and Charlotte could benefit greatly by this defensive minded coach who stresses academics.
Bashir Mason - Wagner
The 2017-18 NEC Jim Phelan Coach of the Year is sure to rally the local community as witnessed by his perfect 14-0 regular season home record this year which ranked fifth-longest DI streak. The sixth youngest DI head coach still has lots of energy that shows well both in the community and media. In addition to culture, his defense and rebounding receives top national marks.
Nick McDevitt - UNC Asheville
McDevitt has proven his leadership skills to navigate a ship through challenging waters. He keeps winning after winning while top poachers steal his best players year after year. LSU, Marquette, Arizona, and Louisville have all capitalized off of McDevitt’s ability to scout and develop players.
Ryan Odom - UMBC
If we were to poll the bball community today, Odom may jump up on this list after making history at the NCAA tournament. But making history is nothing new for this hoops prodigy. What he has accomplished at one of the most challenging jobs in the nation is remarkable. His b-ball IQ coupled with DIII sweat equity, and the guidance of his father, makes Odom an all-star in the profession.
Craig Smith – South Dakota
Smith squats into a defensive stance and hounds the Colorado State opening. He stands and pumps his fists. Seconds later the Rams fans belt out cheering his name. Smith then drops into his stance again smacking the floor in preparation for the new season as CSU head coach. Or at least that is the future this former CSU assistant and highly energetic guy hopes for.
Chris Jans - NMSU
All of college basketball is well aware of what he and his entire staff are capable of. DI leading defense, rebounding, offense, he is the full package capable of taking over a program with momentum or building a culture from scratch. The quick work he made of Bowling Green and New Mexico State prove that he can be successful at the highest level anywhere in the country.
LeVelle Moton – NCCU
The well-known leader passionate about both his players and community knows it’s never easy to leave your Alma Matter. Moton is primed for the next level. His accomplishments on the court from championships to development and his off court features from
foundations to speaking engagements all detail how he can instill a culture of success for countless organizations.
Matt McMahon – Murray State
The former Louisiana Tech assistant has been brilliant leading Murray St. without skipping a beat. His strong ties to key markets in the Southeast that makes him an attractive candidate for numerous openings. Between his path as a GA, staffer, and assistant coach, he worked North Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Kentucky.
T.J. Otzelberger - South Dakota State
With HM experience through Iowa State and Washington State, coupled with his success at SDSU, there is no question he can
coach at a higher level and be just as successful.
Wes Miller – UNC Greensboro
The UNC walk-on should get some looks after the job he has done in Greensboro. Their nationally ranked sixth best scoring defense came from his ability to change. Blending the styles of Dana Altman with Roy Williams, Miller evolved. That flexibility and open minded philosophy is at the core of all great coaches.
Steve Forbes – ETSU
Possibly a good fit for MTSU. But Forbes is due for a big time program. He has found new respect for the job and the game through trials and tribulations that gave him a unique perspective. It also created a stronger coach better suited to excel at the job, and the ability to provide his players with personal experiences about overcoming adversity.
Dan Hurley - Rhode Island
His name is Hurley. Need we say more? Every school in the Northeast particularly Pitt and Uconn were probably calling on him the second they finished tournament play. The opening line of his school bio sums up the coach well: Unbridled passion. Proven experience. Unwavering commitment. Lofty expectations.
Eric Musselman – Nevada
Sitting in a great situation on top of the Mountain West, he isn’t going to walk away from Nevada quickly. His top emphasis is placed on a winning situation and culture at the highest level. Things may change depending on what else opens up this off season, but for now he isn’t going anywhere but the Sweet 16. Still that doesn’t mean every president and ad in America won’t be calling with extravagant packages in hopes of stealing him away.
Earl Grant – Charleston
He Grants more than just wins to a program, he Grants character in his kids. And for a program looking for a leader whose kids play to the character of their coach (which should be all of them), Grant is always going to top their list of candidates. The Gregg Marshall, Brad Brownwell, hybrid can recruit anywhere and will be highly successful anywhere he goes.
Joe Dooley – FGCU
Long thought to be the next in line for a big step up, his availability and success maintaining FGCU should warrant a look again this off season. Diversity is a key attraction to Dooley. He has recruited and developed multiple NBA players working Kansas, Wyoming, New Mexico, North Carolina, from NJ, he played at George Washington. In diversity lies his strength as a national coach.