Super Sophomores: Coaches Looking to Build on First Year Success
Determining whether or not a coach will have longevity with a program is difficult to tell at the early stages of his career. The second year, in some ways, is more crucial than the first. The coach has his first class of recruits, expectations rise, and that leeway that is often given to a coach based on what he was left is beginning to subside. Having a successful first year can be telling, but another successful year will breed better recruiting opportunities and subsequently aid a school in ascertaining the prestige that they desire for their program. Several coaches look to solidify themselves at their current program. Some may use this success to stay while others may move on to better opportunities. Here is a look at some of the coaches who’s second year could build on the momentum of their first:
Matt McCall, Chattanooga
The Mocs gave McCall a huge extension running through the 2021-2022 season. The school hopes that their show of confidence in him will keep him around for a bit, as other coaches have jumped ship after just a single good year. McCall lead the team to their first regular season conference title since before the new millennium began, and their first bid to the dance since 2009. After the 29-win season, something of epic proportions for the mid-major school, McCall was a finalist for several Coach of the Year Awards catered to Mid-Major schools. Despite all of this success in the first season, there are still issues that he must deal with. Being in such a small venue, it can be difficult to attract big time recruits. The one success story so far is Makinde London, a former top 100 recruit and current Mocs transfer. Though he will miss this season, transfers can be a way for a smaller school to build a significantly better roster. At current point, McCall will return all three leading scorers in Tre’ McLean, Justin Tuoyo, and Greg Pryor. The team will also have Casey Jones back after he sat out a significant portion of last season and had elected to take a medical redshirt. It may be difficult to replicate the success that was had last year, but the team will be playing in March Madness.
Bobby Hurley, Arizona State
While Hurley did not have a stellar year, the PAC-12 was loaded with talent. The team did quite well out of conference (10-4). The reason that this team ends up on this list is that Hurley seems to have no problem attracting players to Tempe. His 2016 class is full of talent at multiple positions and is the 22nd ranked class by ESPN, 31st by Rivals, and 39th by 247 Sports. The class features two top 100 recruits in Sam Cunliffe and Jethro Tshisumpa. In his first year, Hurley lured three Junior College transfers as well as one of his former players, Shannon Evans, who sat out this season. The team returns leading scorer Tra Holder, but they lose Gerry Blakes, Willie Atwood and Eric Jacobsen to graduation, as well as Savon Goodman to transfer. This means that the team’s success will rely on Tra Holder, Obinna Oleka and the quick growth of the team’s incoming freshman. Hurley played in an era of upperclassman, but now must adapt his coaching style to develop players quickly if he wants to build the Sun Devils into a strong program.
Ben Howland, Mississippi State
The Bulldogs hiring of the former UCLA coach added more coaching depth to an already full conference. The hiring is one of the best pick-ups in years, but there is a lot of work to do. Ben Howland is almost a decade removed from three consecutive Final Four appearances and 2 National Title appearances, but he has the track record that indicates he can make something of the youngsters in Starkville. The team had a relatively lackluster year, but there are already two reasons for the fans of Maroon and White to get excited and both involve recruiting. First of all, Howland was able to land top 15 recruit Malik Newman and now it appears that he may even be withdrawing from the NBA draft to return for his sophomore year. On top of that, a top five recruiting class has been put together that includes five top 100 players. The team should be able to significantly improve on its 14-17 record from last year. All signs show that the hiring was beneficial for the school and the program is headed in a great direction not just in the long term, but also for the upcoming season.