Grading Every Coaching Hire of 2018

By Kevin Sweeney

It’s coaching carousel time, where rumors are let fly like Trae Young jump shots and moves get made FAST. I figured I’d live-grade every official coaching hire as they come. This post will continue to be updated throughout the coaching change season.

Pepperdine: Lorenzo Romar

Grade: A-

It seems that most agree that Marty Wilson got a bit of a raw deal at Pepperdine, but the Waves landed a big name to take over their head coaching vacancy. There’s no doubt Romar can recruit, landing top prospects like Markelle Fultz and Michael Porter Jr at Washington, but his in-game coaching leaves a lot to be desired. Pepperdine feels like a perfect fit for him, as its beautiful campus will make recruiting easy (see Joe Pasternack at UCSB) and simply being competitive against Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s is likely enough to keep the fanbase happy. It will be interesting to see what type of instant-impact pieces Romar can recruit to this roster, as well as what the future of the WCC looks like with rumors of Gonzaga moving to the Mountain West flying around.

Maine: Richard Barron

Grade: D

Barron, the former women’s coach at Maine, is a peculiar choice for me. Sure, Maine is an extremely difficult job with the lack of in-state talent, but landing a coach without any experience recruiting the AAU circuits of the northeast seems like a flawed move. I would have liked to see a young assistant with northeast recruiting ties try to come in and form relationships with many prep school coaches in the talent-rich NEPSAC. This isn’t the move to bring this Maine program out of the cellar in the America East.

UTEP: Rodney Terry

Grade: B+

Terry’s name surfacing at UTEP was a bit of a surprise, but he emerged as the favorite this weekend and Jon Rothstein broke the news that the deal was complete today. Terry accumulated a 126-108 record in 7 seasons at the helm of the Fresno State program, reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2016, but some reports out of the program indicated that Terry felt he had done all he could do at Fresno. While he may not provide the flashy name, Terry did a good job bringing Fresno back to relevance and consistently found under-the-radar talent, a skill that will be valuable at a program like UTEP. Building a staff to recruit the state of Texas (current Fresno assistant Brian Burton has ties to the area with experience at Lamar) will be key to Terry’s hopes of bringing the Miners program back to the top of the C-USA.

Cal State Northridge: Mark Gottfried

Grade: B

This hire is weird. No real way of getting around that. Gottfried, who coached most recently at NC State and Alabama, certainly is a nationally-known name as a head coach in recruiting circles, and there are reports that former UCLA head coach Jim Harrick could join him on staff to create a dream-team in the Big West. That said, it’s unclear how that tandem will adjust to coaching at a mid-major with no real history of success, and Reggie Theus struggled to win despite recruiting plenty of talent. Plus, there’s the elephant in the room of Gottfried’s potential involvement in the NCAA FBI scandal. There’s a possibility this is an A+, but there’s a bit more downside than I think some realize.

Ole Miss: Kermit Davis

Grade: A

Kermit Davis is an absolute slam dunk of a hire for Ole Miss. A Mississippi native, Davis has turned MTSU into a mid-major power, winning 25 games or more games in 3 consecutive years and 2 NCAA Tournament games in that span. He has made a living finding undervalued talent in the competitive recruiting market of the south, and has also done an excellent job on the transfer market with guys like Jacorey Williams and Nick King. Davis inherits some nice pieces and will without a doubt make Ole Miss a consistently competitive SEC program.

UC Riverside: David Patrick

Grade: A

Patrick nearly got the San Jose State job this summer, but will now get his chance out west in the Big West with UC Riverside. A talented recruiter with strong ties in Australia, Patrick has recruited players such as Ben Simmons and Kouat Noi to their collegiate homes in his time at LSU and TCU, respectively. With other mid-majors such as Albany establishing pipelines in Australia, Patrick has a chance to consistently find mid-major talent with his connections there, as well as recruit at a high level in the USA with his experience at the high-major level. Yet another great hire out of the Big West, which has now landed Joe Pasternack, Mark Gottfried, and Patrick to compliment established names like Dan Monson, Jim Les, Russell Turner and Eran Ganot. Hires like those will do nothing but raise the profile of a league that has been down of late.

McNeese State: Heath Schroyer

Grade: B+

Schroyer has certainly been around the block in coaching despite being just 46 years of age, as McNeese will be his 4th D1 Head coaching gig. Most recently an assistant at BYU and NC State, Schroyer has also been a Head Coach at Portland State, Wyoming, and UT-Martin and has amassed a 125-143 record. However, his time at UT-Martin was quite successful, winning 20 games in each of his first 2 seasons before departing for NC State. He inherits a tough job at McNeese State (just 1 20-win season in the last 16 years) but this is a very solid hire for the Cowboys.

South Alabama: Richie Riley

Grade: A-

Riley is a really good hire for a South Alabama program that I believe has high upside. He did a magnificent job turning around this Nicholls program in just 2 seasons, winning 25 games and a share of the Southland title this season. He’s an excellent recruiter and solid game coach who should be able to consistently bring good talent to South Alabama, where the facilities are excellent and the ability to recruit the south are greater than at a Southland program. One of the bright young names in the business, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Riley turn this thing around quickly and head to a high-major job.

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