COLLEGE BASKETBALL: COACHING CHANGES
The Atlantic Coast Conference has two new coaches with very different challenges. After seven seasons at Memphis, new Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner replaced Brian Gregory at a program that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2010. “When I took over, (athletic director) Mike Bobinski looked me in the eye and said, ‘We’re going to hit the restart button — we’re blowing this up. You’re going to start it from ground zero,”’ Pastner said. Compare that to Pittsburgh’s Kevin Stallings, who left Vanderbilt after 17 years to replace Jamie Dixon. The Panthers have been to the NCAAs for 13 of 15 years, though they could use a jolt after three straight 10-loss seasons. “We’ve hit the ground running as fast as we can,” Stallings said. “Some days that feels like a crawl, and some days it feels like a sprint.”
Rutgers is hoping Steve Pikiell can figure out a way to make the Scarlet Knights competitive. The former Stony Brook coach leads a program that hasn’t had a winning record since 2006 nor an NCAA trip in a quarter-century. After winning seven games and going 1-17 in the Big Ten under Eddie Jordan, the Scarlet Knights open against Division II Molloy.
The Big 12 brought in three new coaches: Oklahoma State’s Brad Underwood, TCU’s Dixon and Texas Tech’s Chris Beard. Underwood arrives from Stephen F. Austin to replace Travis Ford after a 12-win season. The Cowboys open against Campbell on Friday. TCU welcomes Dixon back to his alma mater after a 13-year run at Pittsburgh. The Horned Frogs, who haven’t been to the NCAAs since 1998, open Friday against St. Thomas. And at Texas Tech, Beard — the former Arkansas-Little Rock coach who spent less than two weeks in April as UNLV’s coach — takes over a Red Raiders program coming off its first NCAA trip since 2007. The Red Raiders face Houston Baptist on Friday.
With Stallings’ departure to Pitt, Bryce Drew is trying to give Vanderbilt a fresh look. The Commodores were picked to finish sixth in the Southeastern Conference. And while Stallings was the program’s winningest coach, Drew’s program has seen a drop in home attendance in recent seasons. The former Valparaiso coach said last month the goal is to “work extremely hard” and play an exciting style, starting against Marquette on Friday in Annapolis, Maryland.
New Stanford coach Jerod Haase is looking for another quick climb. The former North Carolina assistant turned UAB into a 20-win program with an NCAA Tournament upset of No. 3 seed Iowa State in 2015 during his four seasons. Now he takes over a Cardinal program that went to one NCAA Tournament in eight seasons under Johnny Dawkins. “As a coach, it’s hard because we’re trying to install everything and move quickly,” Haase said at the league’s media day. “But our attitude has been trying to build a foundation and move slowly with our base offense, and our base defense.” Stanford, picked 10th in the Pac-12, opens against Harvard on Friday in Shanghai, China.
Tubby Smith has a new project at Memphis. The well-traveled coach who has won 557 games and the 1998 national championship left Texas Tech after becoming the second coach to take five programs to the NCAA Tournament. Out west, UNLV is on its third coach of the calendar year with Marvin Menzies. The Runnin’ Rebels fired Dave Rice in January and hired Beard before he quickly bolted for Texas Tech. Menzies, a former UNLV assistant who led New Mexico State to five NCAA Tournament trips in nine seasons, opens his UNLV tenure Friday against South Alabama. At Santa Clara, Herb Sendek arrives after stops at Miami (Ohio), North Carolina State and Arizona State over the past two decades. And finally, longtime former NBA coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. begins his first season at the college level at Tulane.