Coaches in first year with team who can make the NCAA Tournament

Coaching changes happen every year and usually expectations for new coaches are pretty low. That’s the way it is supposed to be though, when a team searches for a new coach. Getting to the NCAA Tournament in a coach’s first year at a school is very rare, but if it does happen, puts the coach ahead of schedule. While it doesn’t happen often there are some coaches that can do it this season. Here are five such coaches:

Cuonzo Martin, Missouri

Martin left California after last season and took the job at Missouri. He recruited well at Cal, but couldn’t put it all together. The Golden Bears were disappointed to only make the NCAA Tournament once under Martin and they didn’t win a game in the one tournament. Martin was able to experience NCAA Tournament success at Tennessee, his job before he left for Cal, making it to a Sweet 16.

Although he had limited success at Cal, Martin is now at Missouri and has a chance to make the NCAA Tournament. The roster wasn’t loaded with talent, but freshmen Michael Porter Jr., Jontay Porter, Jeremiah Tilmon and Blake Harris decided to go play for Martin. These players will join Terrence Phillips, Kevin Puryear and Jordan Barnett to create a solid roster.

It won’t be easy for Martin, but if top recruit Michael Porter Jr. can get some help, they can make the tournament. After failing to do damage in the NCAA Tournament at Cal with top level recruits, this season will be an indicator of Martin’s coaching proficiency.

David Padgett, Louisville

The Cardinals are going through a lot of change with the FBI scandal. Rick Pitino is out and David Padgett is in. If Louisville ends up being eligible for the NCAA Tournament, which is very much in doubt, Padgett just has to do a decent coaching job to get the Cardinals to the Tournament. Can they avoid the distraction of the FBI investigation and get to the big dance?

Brian Bowen will not play for Louisville as a result of the investigation. He was a great recruit, but Louisville has a talented roster even without him. Deng Adel is a star in the making that will improve on his 12.1 points per game. With V.J. King, Quentin Snyder, Raymond Spalding and Anas Mahmoud returning, the incoming freshmen will just have to be role players.

Padgett will likely not be the head coach after the season due to his connections with Pitino, but he has a talented enough roster to get the Cardinals to the NCAA Tournament. The only question is: Will they be eligible?

LaVall Jordan, Butler

Teams with first year coaches who can make the NCAA Tournament

LaVall Jordan (Photo by

Chris Holtman left Butler to take the job at Ohio State, but Butler is in a better position to make the NCAA Tournament. LaVall Jordan steps into the head coaching role after playing and being an assistant coach at Butler. While his first head coaching job lasted an uneventful year at Milwaukee, there is enough talent on the roster to make the NCAA Tournament.

Forward Kelan Martin is one of the best forwards in the Big East. He is coming back after averaging 16 points per game as a junior. Kamar Baldwin and Tyler Wideman return to give Butler a few more solid starters. Everyone else on the team just needs to step in and fill their role. A lot of freshmen will be getting key minutes, so Martin will need to lead the team well in order for them to make the NCAA Tournament.

Jordan has some work cut out for him with a lot of freshmen, but he has enough returning talent to make a run to make the NCAA Tournament.

Anthony Grant, Dayton

Archie Miller and a lot of talent left Dayton, but they might still have enough talent to make it to the NCAA Tournament. Anthony Grant takes over at his alma mater and has his work cut out for him, but can coach this team well enough to get the job done.

Darrell Davis and Xeryius Williams return after averaging 20 minutes per game. They will need to look for their shots more this season to make this team successful. Three other players return after playing more than 10 minutes per game, so they will also have to do well in their expanded roles. Kostas Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ younger brother is now eligible to play after redshirting last season. If he brings a little bit of talent that runs through his bloodlines, Dayton will have a star for the college game.

Grant probably has the most work to do of anyone on this list, so it won’t be easy. Making the NIT should be the expectation for Grant, with the hope that more is possible.

Brian Dutcher, San Diego State

Teams with first year head coaches who can make the NCAA Tournament

Brian Dutcher (Photo by

Steve Fisher decided to step down after last season and his long time assistant Brian Dutcher now takes over. Dutcher has been with Fisher back to his Michigan days when Fisher coached the “Fab Five”. He has a roster that is capable of making the NCAA Tournament and can definitely make the tournament and compete for the Mountain West title.

Trey Kell is a talented player and scorer, although inconsistent. He and Jerem Hemsley create a backcourt that can score. Devin Watson and Malik Pope both should have impacts for the Aztecs this season. They have depth with a lot of transfers on the roster, including Watson. Kameron Rooks and Max Hoetzel also join the program as transfers. Rooks played for Cal and Hoetzel played for Indiana. They have a hodgepodge of a team, but if they can mesh, the team can go dancing.

Dutcher finally gets to take over for Fisher after waiting for a long time. He may find success early in his career, much like his predecessor did.


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Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens is the biggest key to Boston’s success

When you look at the Boston Celtics’ roster, a couple names will stand out.

First there is Isaiah Thomas, the NBA’s third highest scorer. The two-time All-Star point guard is the clear leader in Boston. Everything starts and ends with him.

Then there is Al Horford, a 10-year veteran and four-time All Star. He’s also the team’s leading rebounder. There was a lot of excitement among Boston fans when they signed him this past summer. He averaged 14 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in his first season with the team.

The last name that might stand out to you is Avery Bradley. He is more known for his defense, but has improved his scoring over the years.

There aren’t really any weapons on this Boston team besides those guys. A 12-point gap exists between their leading scorer and second-highest scorer in terms of points per game. No one averages even seven rebounds a game on their team.

However, the Celtics ranked seventh in points per game. They also move the ball very well, evidence by their 25.2 assists per game, which ranked fourth in the league. They take care of the ball as well with the ninth fewest turnovers in the league at only 13.3 per game.

All of these things have contributed to Boston getting to the top of the Eastern Conference this season. The Celtics do not look intimidating on paper, so how did they do it?

Brad Stevens took Butler to back-to-back title games. (Photo by Zimbio)

The answer is Brad Stevens. Stevens has done so much for the organization in the four seasons he has been with the team. He took them from nothing and turned them into contenders.

Before Stevens came to Boston, he was working his magic with the Butler Bulldogs. In his six seasons with the team he went 166-49 and brought Butler to the National Championship game in back-to-back seasons. They may not have won either of them, but Stevens put Butler on the map.

Stevens has been known for his young age. When initially hired at Butler, he was the second-youngest coach in NCAA Division I basketball. Later on he became the third-youngest coach in NCAA Division I history to have a 30-win season. He was also the second-youngest coach to make an NCAA Championship game and youngest coach to make two Final Fours.

When Stevens signed with Boston, he was the league’s youngest active coach at 36 years old. The young genius did not have much to work with when he first came to Boston in 2013. Yes, the team went 41-40 the season before, which was good enough for the seventh seed in the playoffs.

However, the team made a blockbuster trade with the Nets and lost key contributors like Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry. They received Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans, three first-round picks and the right to swap first-round picks this season.

Looking back, Boston obviously won this trade because of the draft picks, but the players they received were not much to be happy about. Joseph was waived not too long after the trade and the four remaining players averaged a combined 18.6 points per game in their first season in Boston. Neither of those guys are on the team today.

The starting lineup featured guys like Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass and Jeff Green. Green lead the team in scoring at just 16.9 points per game. Star point guard Rajon Rondo only played in 30 games due to an injury he suffered in the season before. It was a tough first year for Stevens in Boston as the team finished 25-57.

In Stevens’ second season, he improved the Celtics to a 40-42 record. It was not a winning record, but it was 15 more wins than the previous season and was good enough to get Boston back to the playoffs. They suffered a first-round sweep to the Cleveland Cavaliers, so there was still a lot of room for improvement.

The Celtics finished 48-34 in the next season, but still couldn’t get past the first round of the playoffs. They lost to the Hawks in six games. At least it was not a sweep like the previous season. This year, they finally got past the first-round.

Brad Stevens

Imagine how much better Stevens will get as he continues to gain experience. (Photo by The Boston Globe)

Now in his fourth season, Stevens has the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. They finished first in the East with a 53-29 record. Only the Cavs stand in their way of returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. It is going to be a tough task considering LeBron James has been in the Finals the last six seasons.

Regardless of the end result, look at what Stevens has done with the team. He took them from one of the worst teams in the East to the top seed. Stevens should be right up their in the league’s top coaches along with Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr. It might finally be time for Stevens to win NBA Coach of the Year.

Stevens has the Celtics at the top of the East despite only having one All Star this season. The second-seeded Cavs have three and the third-seeded Raptors have two.

Stevens has had a short career in coaching so far with only 10 years between college and the NBA. He is also only 40 years old. He is so young and has had so much success already in the time he has had. Imagine what he can become in the future with the amount of experience Popovich has had. Also imagine what he could do with a few more star players.

They will be adding to their bright future in the offseason as they just won the NBA draft lottery. They will also have the Nets’ draft pick next season. Stevens is going to continue to get young talent to work with veterans like Thomas, Horford and Bradley for the upcoming years. It is going to be interesting to see if Boston will ever take down the Cavs.

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