Great Coach...Tough Gig

The Top 25 Head Coaches at the Division I level handcuffed by a variety of circumstances.  These guys can really coach and if given the opportunity to do so with resources, facilities, realistic admission standards, etc., they will soar. Forget "press-conference" hires and "hot-names", ADs with openings this spring should take a long hard look at this list.

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Bill Evans - Idaho State

The guy really knows the game. He gets kids to play hard and has a system that is difficult to play against.  But let's face it, it is Pocatello money, middle of nowhere, no tradition, airport is several hours away....and it's Idaho. Put him in a better position and he will not disappoint.

Dan Earl - VMI

How come Army doesn't have a website? They can't string three "W's" together. Almost as if some cosmic punishment for jumping ship from Navy to Army, Earl is bringing the old military jokes to life at VMI. The first-time head coach is learning a lot about leadership. While revamping their entire system, the skilled scout and offensive coordinator will always find recruiting problematic at this military school.

Duggar Baucom – Citadel 

Jury’s out whether this style would work at a higher level, but given an even playing field in recruiting...we would say it would scare the pants off opponents. Being one of 2 military schools in 10 team SoCon, doesn’t make for an easy task.  

Jean Prioleua - San Jose State 

Prioleua has the personality, presence, and network to get great players and can get his kids to play hard.  Problem....ABSOLUTELY no tradition or money at SJSU.

Dustin Kearns - Presbyterian 

Twelve years in DI play and the program is still swimming up-stream with a small budget and fickle admissions. It’s an uphill struggle with more battle grounds and enemy camps in the immediate area than most. 

Jay Lander - SE Louisiana 

With only a single DI NCAA tourney appearance in the history of the program, theirs is more a sleepy quiet Lion. That was until Lander roared. His enthusiasm and knowledge of the game may just take them to the next level. Still, for now, that next level is just to be competitive. It’s going to be a long hunt in Hammond, LA. 

Jim Engles - Columbia 

Engles did a great job building NJIT to the top through their DI transfers. He is a fantastic coach emphasizing leadership, toughness and diverse offense. The problem here is we have an Ivy league school with an average basketball tradition and a coach that thrives with tough, gritty, “Rucker-Park” type players.

Linc Darner - UW Green Bay

The job isn’t horrible, but fans hold on to the “glory days” when Dick Bennett was coaching and Tony was hurling 3s by the bunches.  High expectations for being located in bitter-cold Green Bay, WI.  Linc Darner was uber-successful in D2 and has a great feel for teaching and motivating, but this isn’t a top 5 job in the Horizon, a 1-bid league, making it very challenging. 

Joe Callero - Cal Poly  

Great basketball mind…but Cal Poly has tougher academic standards than many are aware, but without the “UC” panache. Gorgeous campus, however, their home venue is a paper-airplane-hanger.  Recruiting is a challenge with a small budget and so many in-state programs to compete with.  The Big West is a movement running through one school at a time (currently routed through Irvine); San Luis Obispo may never be a part of that movement.

Steve Hawkins - Western Michigan

WMU is in the tough underrated MAC which remains a one bid league. While Hawkins is a fantastic teacher and game manager, much of the MAC jobs have improved, and WMU has remained unchanged. When most people hear Kalamazoo, they think of a child’s musical play toy. Halfway between Detroit and Chicago there is little hope it will ever be more than a rest stop.

Tim Craft - Gardner Webb 

His ceiling just as high as his energy level, coaching ability and recruiting. He carries an honest affinity towards religion, making him a great fit for such a private Christian institution. If GWU only had a budget. His predecessor was relatively unknown, left to be an assistant at Butler, and look at HIM now.

Mike Davis- Detroit

A fantastic hire by Detroit! If anyone can get Dicky V's former employer competing in the Horizon, it's Davis.  The city of Detroit may produce talented ball-players, but they don't want to go to the war-torn campus down the road.  Davis has his hands full at a university that sits in a tough area of a crime riddled city.  His budget is minimal, and can imagine.  The job won't get much better, so he'll need to be creative.

Tony Shaver - William & Mary

He has had a few years of success, and given his unbelievable DIII run at Hampden Sydney, no one is arguing that he isn’t a good fit. He may be a Shaver, but truly Cuts defenses up. W&M is an “Ivy League” type school competing in the CAA. It’s a tough job.  

Billy Kennedy - Texas A&M 

Football school that moved to the SEC makes this a tough task. Billy Kennedy, while having financial resources, plays second-fiddle with very little basketball tradition. He is a player’s coach and those players will run through a brick wall for him.  

Tim Miles - Nebraska  

Probably the right guy for the job because he is a natural fit. But simply put, Nebraska is a football school and always will be. Having to compete with the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, and the other five-plus conference schools consistently in the top 25, John Wooden might’ve struggled in Lincoln.

Brian Katz - Sacramento State 

This "Kat" knows the game and gets his athletes to play hard! A legend in CA JUCO circles. However, Sac State has zero tradition and play in a venue that is a stage, folded tables, and stacked chairs away from being mistaken for a middle school gym/cafeteria. Their budget rivals St. Francis HS just blocks away. In fact, Katz has to spend as much time raising money for the department as he does coaching his team.

Andy Toole – Robert Morris

Toole has done well at RMU!  However, when forced to bring in several hundred thousand dollars in guarantee money every year, the success isn't evident until February.  While his budget is similar to the rest of the league, RMU is the 3rd best job in Pittsburgh. Bad facilities and lack of environment on game day is a tough sell. 

Dave Paulsen - George Mason

Paulsen continually excels at development on the court and his display of moral integrity off the court. Every year is better than the last. Nationally top ranked best turnarounds are common along with double digit-win improvements year after year. However, GMU is not the “Final-4” job people think and now competing in the A-10; making it a very tough situation; yet he still wins!

Mark Schmidt - St. Bonaventure

Different from most of this list, Schmidt has excelled at a job where many would not.  The most difficult task in the A-10, he somehow lures recruits who fit his style and get them better.  Check out the nice high school gym the Bonnies call home; then take a look at where Olean, NY lies on a map.  Not just cold and snowy, but a small town right down the road from nothing.  Schmidt is either a genius or magician.

Greg Lansing - Indiana State

His budget rests at the bottom of the MVC and for years the gap from bottom to top has been enormous!  While the league has changed recently, Lansing spent much of his time battling Wichita State  

Creighton, Northern Iowa and Illinois State. Now toss in Final 4, Loyola, and Valpo.  Lansing has a strong basketball mind combined with charisma; just needs similar weapons as his opponents.

Ernie Kent – Washington State

Besides the Bennett’s unconventional system for a period of time, this is the most difficult job in the Pac 12.  Ernie Kent might be a veteran…but he knows the league and hasn’t forgotten how to coach and manage a program.

Doc Sadler – Southern Mississippi 

He came in to guide the Golden Eagles flight through the shadows of NCAA sanctions that included loss of scholarships, and has a bottom third budget for the league. While the program has seen some improvement and glimpse of hope under Saddler’s strong ability to develop his players, he continues to clean up a huge mess.

Jay Spoonhour – Eastern Illinois 

Most difficult job in D1? Bottom 5% budget nationally, awful facilities, 100 mi past the middle of nowhere, no tradition…  Plus, Spoon took job with APR issues, has endured a state budget crisis, and has to play a handful of money games. He can flat coach and has the charisma and pedigree to win BIG with even a little ammunition. AD’s needing a clean, inexpensive,  slam-dunk, would look like brilliant fortune-tellers luring Spoon from EIU.  

Steve Pikiell - Rutgers 

Playing the psychology game Pikiell has chosen to exact his skills at cultivating loyalty. He has the ability to be both friend and coach. He does it well. Bottom line…this job is virtually impossible to win and do it consistently.  Coach after coach but no-one can seem to get it going.

Jim Christian – Boston College

BC in the ACC = competing in the Indy 500 on a BMX. As if the ACC isn't stacked enough, throw in difficult admission standards and lack of resources; a recipe for impossibility!  Christian can really coach and has experienced great career success.  His first jump to the elite level (TCU) was a similar difficult task, but when on a level playing field, this guy wins big! Just ask folks around the MAC!