***Current Naismith HOF coaches withstanding
Just like a Self-Made suit and the fashionable gentleman wearing it are in near perfect accord, head coaches and their programs must ultimately be a custom “fit” to experience ultimate success.
Reggie Witherspoon – Canisius
There’re friends, family, and friends that become family. Witherspoon worked well with current AD, Bill Maher at Buffalo from 1999-2005 and share a friendship going back sixteen years. It’s as if there was always an air of inevitability about returning to his birthplace, Buffalo, where he also coached at Erie CC and UB before becoming HC at Canisius. And isn’t it ironic that Witherspoon’s first coaching job was at Sweet Home HS in the suburbs of Buffalo. Witherspoon gives Canisius a whole new meaning to Home-Sweet-Home.
Richie Riley - South Alabama
This job takes an outside-the-box thinker and Richie epitomizes just that. It’s a blue-collar job for the blue-collar recruiter. He knows how to grind away and mold it all together between grad-transfers, JUCO and 4-year transfers, post-grad and high schoolers, and may sprinkle in a prop. He excels at motivation, thus bringing them together quickly to win. After all, he took a difficult Nichols St. job and won just that way.
Casey Alexander – Lipscomb
A Tennessee native, born in Chattanooga. Alexander played for, then coached under Rick Byrd just two miles up the road at Belmont, which mirrors Lipscomb in so many ways. His personality and experience fit the university’s mission. Thus far, this seems to be a match made in Heaven, as well as Tennessee.
Penny Hardaway – Memphis
The local legend wasted no time at all landing some of the nation’s top recruits from right in his own back yard. He demonstrates the Tiger athletic department’s mission to keep the plethora of talented kids home for college. The pillar of basketball and Memphis youth culture, the Hardaway hire was the near perfect fit for his alma-mater, the community, and area high school and club coaches.
Mike Young – Wofford
A phenomenal basketball mind, Young understands every dynamic of his job. He understands Wofford University, Tarrier Basketball; the infrastructure, budgetary restraints, competing in the SoCon, and the type of player that not only fits his system, but that he enjoys coaching. Young has great feel which makes him successful
Ray Harper - Jacksonville State
Ray Harper’s best trait as a coach is simple; WINNING! And he does it best at roll-your-sleeves-up jobs where he can mold players from all walks of life and basketball into a TEAM. Jax State is this type of job, needed his type of leadership and lucked into Ray Harper. It’s a program that is completely within the control of this entrepreneur.
Greg Kampe – Oakland
When your school is located in a state with Wolverines and Spartans, the other 5 D-1 programs are similar level “mid-majors” fighting for the many of the same recruits, and you boast being 20 min from one of the most crime-riddled cities (Detroit) in the country, you better have a different plan if you want to win. Greg Kampe turned Oakland into “transfer U” and that has transferred into quite a few wins. His laid-back, pull-over instead of suit, style works will with this basketball mantra.
Jarod Haas – Stanford
He’s intelligent, mild-mannered, and has a winning pedigree from NCAA “Blue-Bloods”, Kansas (player) and UNC (assistant). He showed off what he learned as head coach at UAB until the Stanford elite wanted this northern Californian back in his native land. His philosophy and tactical methods as a duel coach and teacher fits the overall mission of Stanford.
Mick Cronin – Cincinnati
Like when Cronin was Huggs assistant, UC thrives with a demanding coach who gets 100% from tough, hard-nosed, kids. The Bearcats have not only been good, but continued their “rep” as one of the most physically imposing, tough-as-nails, teams that will fight to win. A testament to their custom fit leader.
Randy Bennett – St. Mary’s
The small private school with a salt-box gym needs someone with planted roots. Figure out what works and keep building upon it until success is sustained. This is exactly what Bennett did. The intuitive coach had the foresight to look beyond the borders and down under early and often to get things going. This recipe, and his ability to find hidden gems and develop lesser “hyped” recruits, make him the magician of Moraga (CA).
Keith Dambrot - Duquesne
Like Akron, where he had so much success, Duquesne has a downtown campus with a program in need of an identity. They needed a coach who knew exactly what players worked for him. A self-aware X&O guy with a system that works. Two hours from Akron, DU tried to lure Dambrot over the years; they saw the fit. His father played for the Dukes in the 50s. The match was finally made in 2017. Look out A-10.
Craig Smith - Utah State
Smith has spent his career in rural college towns in the Dakotas, Colorado, Nebraska, and now Utah. Utah St. has had success in years’ past. But it takes that “fit”, which Stew Morrill was for years. Being a great talent evaluator, selling the middle of nowhere, and getting kids to play their roles as hard as they can is what the Aggies need and what Smith does best.
Wes Miller – UNCG
Another one of those guys who does a lot with a little, the scrappy son of Greensboro, NC will pick a fight with the job and not walk away until it’s won. Most non-conference opponents didn't know who they were messing with when scheduling his squad, and many SoCon foes took him lightly early-on. Now, the entire UNC system knows UNCG and the feisty former Tar-heel walk-on. Miller.
Levelle Moton - NCCU
One of NCCU’s basketball greats rejoins the program 11 years later as an assistant coach on a lame-duck staff that is limping through the transition from D II to I. Shortly after, new blood was needed. It may have been NCCU blood, veteran blood, but it was pumping furiously. Fast forward 10 years and the numbers don’t lie. Moton IS NC Central Basketball!
Steve Forbes - ETSU
His time in Knoxville acclimated him to the region. ETSU needed a man of the game and of the blue color person ready to roll his sleeves up and go to work. With all the parody at the LM to MM level, ETSU needs a leader with a recruiting network and reputation to attract athletes better than their level… insert Steve Forbes.
Bob McKillop – Davidson
McKillop is a Southern staple who has the unwavering trust, commitment, and care of Davidson. He ranks sixth among active coaches on the NCAA's list of most seasons with their current school, and is one of six on that list who has spent their entire careers at that school. Somethings may never change.
Chris Jans – New Mexico State
At NMSU the expectations are exceedingly higher than the resources. Located next to nothing, without easy access, they need a guy who would bring people in. Their head man must be connected, relentless, and resourceful with the ability to withstand roster turnover and get kids to learn quick… you have to coach there. And Janes fits the bill with the ability to win at any level at any school in any capacity.
Rick Stansbury – WKU
Unless someone can pull Calipari from UK, Stansbury may never leave Bowling Green, KY. Born and raised just a few miles from campus, all of Western gives him his space to do as he likes. Lots of support.
Kermit Davis – Ole Miss
The favorite son returns home. Kermit bounces into a situation where the foundation and experience was set. Ole miss needed just one missing piece to complete the puzzle. Defense. And Kermit delivers a gracious plenty of that.
Rick Byrd – Belmont
From nearby Knoxville the true Tennessean can write his own ticket for life at Belmont. Irremovable from the school, it’s hard to imagine a time before Byrd arrived on campus, and it’s impossible to see a future without him.
Mark Few - Gonzaga
The proof is in the pudding with his success. Gonzaga had never seen the national prominence like they have with Few. The prime reason is his loyalty to continue grinding; realizing the job wasn’t done he saw how far they could go. He continually learned, and thought outside the box and proved, on the job, what works well there, and what didn’t to grow the program.
Jay Wright – Villanova
An all-state, all big 5 (Philadelphia) guy, he raised this program to national prominence. Their former assistant (‘87-’92) has spent 80% of his career at private / catholic institutions. His class and integrity are in line with Nova tradition and expectations.
Chris Beard – Texas Tech
TTU needed a coach to walk the line between players coach and old school tough. Beard knows all about the power 5 school that needs someone who will leave no stone unturned. From Texas, the one-time juco coach also knows the Texas high school system. And just like TTU, he came up from nothing through all levels and challenges.
Bob Huggins - WVU
830 of his 853 wins came from within 300 mile radius of WVU campus – he really knows the lay of the land. A living legend in Ohio and West Virginia, he is able to get any recruit from the region to WVU. Add to that his mastery of inspiring second chance kids and rugged small-town athletes and you have a formula for success in Morgantown.
Tony Bennett – Virginia
In basketball culture, he holds the same esteem as the schools founding fathers; He does not compromise value or vision. The program needed that ultra clean coach who did things the right way to work at UVA. And they got him in Bennett. They also got a guy familiar with resurrecting a program; who is not worried about media, and recruits passionate, intelligent young men of integrity.