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2023 Cal Men's Basketball Head Coach: Big Board 1.0
A list of names that could make the next hire at Cal very interesting
The Write for California Basketball staff has worked on finding names and fits of coaches that we would like to see roaming the sidelines of Haas for Men’s Basketball starting next season. Some are realistic, some are pipe dreams and some are just for the hell of it. It’s the first iteration of the big board so let’s have some fun.
Current/Former Head Coaches Realistically Worth Considering
The following candidates are currently head coaches and it would be reasonable to expect that Cal can significantly increase their salary. They have an on-court track record worth breaking down.
Current Position: Colorado State Head Coach
History: CSU HC since 2019. 1 NCAA app in 3 years.
Coaching & Style: Ball movement, low turnover, frequent 3s on offense. Pace variable. No fouls, locks down the defensive glass, does not allow 3s on defense.
Pros: Solid coach with west coast ties. Financially would be easy to get and be a solid floor of production despite not having real excitement in any regard to his hiring. Last name translates to ‘Bear’ in various slavic languages. Has coached at three different schools and all three markedly improved in his first season. Transformed Furman from one of the worst programs in the country into the class of the Southern Conference.
Cons: Coming off his worst season at Colorado State after losing a few players off of his 2022 NCAA tournament team, with a concerning collapse on defense.
Current Position: Utah State Head Coach
History: UMBC HC for the upset over #1 Seed Virginia in the 2018 March Madness Tournament
Coaching & Style: Few consistent statistical hallmarks. Able to adapt to his personnel? Likes to attempt lots of threes and prevent opponents from taking 3s. Spaces the perimeter well and likes to use that spacing rather than reset the whole play. Wildly unlucky in 2021-22 season (8 losses by 5 points or less).
Pros: UMBC was a tire fire before he arrived and he had them pulled a 1/16 upset two years later. Very clear P5 jump candidate with his high octane offense and modern basketball philosophies. Could be a top tier candidate for a majority of the P5 openings. Financially would be pretty easy to bring over as he makes under 500,000 per season. 7 years of experience as an assistant at Virginia Tech.
Cons: Inherited a great Utah State team from Craig Smith, so it’s not clear how much his success there is due to him vs. Smith. On the other hand, this year’s Utah State might be better than any of Smith’s Utah St. teams! Virginia Tech was pretty mediocre when he was an assistant there.
Current Position: Loyola Chicago Head Coach
History: Brother of NBA player Denzel Valentine.
Coaching & Style: Appears to have continued the Porter Moser template of great defense based on elite offensive rebounding and turnover forcing, plus a plodding offense that always finds a good shot.
Pros: A youth splash that would immediately put eyes on the program with one of the youngest head coaches in P5 basketball. Eight years as an assistant saw high level of team success at every stop. 2022 team was a top 25 level MWC team.
Cons: Lost a lot of talent from his 2022 squad, but the level of Loyola’s 2023 decline is still alarming. Entire career has been VERY midwest centric. Loyola
Current Position: BYU Head Coach
History: West Coast Native. Played at UW before transferring to Kentucky. 1 NCAA appearance in 2 years at BYU
Coaching & Style: Aggressive - generally uptempo, unafraid to commit turnovers, willing to get on the offensive glass, takes lots of 3s when the personnel is there for it.
Pros: Head Coach with west coast ties and a modern offense. Took over an awful Utah Valley team and got them to the tournament in three years. First three years at BYU were all pretty excellent.
Cons: 2023 BYU has been decidedly mediocre with shooting and turnover issues. Has been coaching in Utah for more than a decade and is Mormon, may or may not even consider leaving.
Current Position: UC-Santa Barbara Head Coach
History: Former Cal assistant from 01-07. Known for the infamous Jorge kick/trip. Lead assistant under Sean Miller at UA. 1 NCAA app in 5 years at UC-SB
Coaching & Style: Slow pace, doesn't take many 3s, good on the glass on both ends, allows teams to take a ton of 3s
Pros: Heavy ties to the Pac-12, west coast recruiting and knowledge of how the university works. Would also be a financially simple get from down the state. Rumors that Cal donors like him, maybe there would be more investment in the program?
Cons: First head coaching tenure at New Orleans was rough, UCSB record is solid but not spectacular. Kinda looked like he kicked Jorge that one time.
Current Position: Kennesaw State Head Coach
History: Brother of Cal Legend and Current NBA G-League President Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Spent time at TAMU (14-18) as an assistant and then also at Georgia under Tom Crean as a lead recruiter. Was pivotal in recruiting #1 Pick Anthony Edwards to Georgia
Coaching & Style: Uptempo. Efficient shooting with 38% of shots coming from 3. Creates turnovers while limiting offensive rebounds.
Pros: Took a 1 win team in his first season into a 26-8 team by year 4. Clinched Regular Season and Conference Tournament for Kennesaw State’s first March Madness appearance since moving to D1 in 2005, and its first above .500 conference season in D1.
Cons: First head coaching gig is Kennesaw State with his first NCAA appearance happening this season. Not a lot of experience as a HC, and all coaching stops have been in the South. Would he even be interested in heading way out west?
Current Position: Unemployed
History: Former Head Coach at Louisville, Xavier- was fired for recording conversations with his assistant coach trying to extort him
Coaching & Style: Motion-based offense. Consistently ranked in the top 30 in offense and top 60 for defense. Top recruiter.
Pros: Nine year run at Xavier was utterly unimpeachable with constant high level league and tournament success. First two years at Louisville were excellent as well.
Cons: Recorded an assistant who threatened to go public with NCAA rules violations. Exhibited a pretty serious error in judgment to get fired by Louisville, and that will probably rule him out for we-want-to-be-squeaky-clean-Cal.
Current Position: University of Portland Head Coach
History: Former Cal player, but transferred. 1 NCAA appearance in 5 years as HC. EWU HC for 4 years before moving to Portland in 2022.
Coaching & Style: Fun! Up-tempo, lots of 3s, lots of assists. Defense has been iffy.
Pros: Former player that has some quality wins as a Head Coach and is considered an up-and-coming coach on the west coast. Inherited a Portland team coming off a 0-11 WCC season and immediately went 19-15 (7-7). High floor?
Cons: Progress at Portland has stalled out in year two despite a ton of returning talent. Has never coached an above average defense in six seasons. Low ceiling?
Current Position: UC-Irvine Head Coach
History: Coach Monty ties. Been at UCI since 2010. 7 Postseasons. 3 NCAA Berths.
Coaching & Style: Good defenses, always has good rim protection with strong offensive rebounding. Offensive coaching has been, frankly, bad. High turnover percentages, often bad shooting, doesn't attempt many 3s.
Pros: The picture of consistency. Has finished with a winning Big West record in 11 straight seasons. Defense is perpetually great at stopping opponents from making 2 point baskets and pulling down rebounds. The stability hire that Knowlton probably thought he was getting with Fox. High floor.
Cons: Said something dumb, but did appear to learn from his mistake. Offense is very hit and miss, and is the reason he has had only one particularly above average team in a decade+, and that team was pretty lucky in close games. Low ceiling. Coached Casey Jacobsen and the Collins twins while an assistant at Stanford under Monty which is a resume pro except that we don’t like any of those things personally.
Current Position: Montana Head Coach
History: Was Monty's handpicked successor in 2010, went onto some success at Montana with two NCAA Tourney apperances, but has since regressed. Seattle background with lots of west coast experience.
Coaching & Style: Slow pace, Defense first, some rocky offenses
Pros: Knows very well the unique challenges that come with coaching at Cal. Would probably get many of the former Monty guys back and connected with the program. Seeing him on the sideline would remind me of happier times.
Cons: Four years ago he was coming off two straight NCAA tournaments, but Montana has backslid under his leadership and he is no longer the high-update candidate he appeared to be four years ago. Frankly, there are candidates with better resumes coaching all over the West Coast, and he probably wouldn’t be mentioned except for prior Cal connections.
Current Position: Boise State Head Coach
History: 13 years at Boise, time at Oregon and Gonzaga as an assistant.
Coaching & Style: Up-tempo offense that tends to take lots of 3s and avoid turnovers. Hates giving up offensive boards.
Pros: Stability - he’s the Russell Turner of the Mountain West, with eight winning seasons over the last nine years. Current team is borderline top 25 on Kenpom and poised to make his 4th NCAA tournament.
Cons: On the older side (59) and has been at Boise State for 13 years - is he going to want to take on the Cal rebuild at this point in his career?
Other non-west coast names a comprehensive search might look into
Dusty May has Florida Atlantic on the verge of a CUSA title . . . Grant McCasland took over a moribund N. Texas program, then made the tournament in year 3 and 4 and won a CUSA title in year 5 . . . Pat Kelsey is 28-3 at Charleston and had a long run of success at Winthrop . . . Bob Richey has built SIX top 25 national offenses in a row at FURMAN after taking over for Niko Medved . . . Mike Rhoades has been consistently solid at VCU and is still running the high pressure defense Shaka Smart put in place to great effect . . . Anthony Grant is still doing well at Dayton, even if that 29-2 season isn’t an every year thing, though I suspect Cal can’t afford him . . . Darian DeVries consistently has Drake towards the top of the (admittedly depleted) Missouri Valley.
Pipe Dream Candidates we wanted to write about
What can we say, it’s been a rough six years and this is our chance to dream about the possibility of a better tomorrow.
Current Position: Missouri Head Coach
History: Former Cal Player. Lead Asst at FSU. HC at Cleveland State
Coaching & Style: Adapts to his personnel. Currently, perimeter based in year 1 with a lot of the offense carried by Kobe Brown. Uses small ball lineup often with an emphasis on drive and kick.
Pros: A fan-favorite former player that is an elite recruiter with his time at FSU under Leonard Hamilton and now at Missouri showing he is capable of the x’s and o’s at the P5 level. Turned a team around through the portal in a single season and shows he knows how to build a team with a top 10 offense.
Cons: Knowlton already blew this opportunity. Is getting paid 2.5 million/year in year one by Missouri and they will almost certainly pay to keep him if they have to. Cal probably can’t afford him even if he were willing to consider leaving a really exciting team in favor of the most intimidating rebuilding process in major college basketball. Will forever be our white whale, our rosebud, The One That Got Away. Reportedly “doesn’t interview well.”
Current Position: Las Vegas Aces Head Coach
History: Experience at a high level as a player, NBA assistant coach, and WNBA head coach
Pros: Cal desperately needs an outside the box hire and Harmon’s resume is utterly unimpeachable. Cal could increase her salary.
Cons: I’d wager she’s not leaving the WNBA/bail on her team mid-season unless the NBA comes calling, which it should.
Current Position: SDSU Head Coach
History: Been at SDSU since 1999. Took over as HC in 2017. 3 NCAA appearances in 4 seasons. (No Wins)
Coaching & Style: Elite defensive coach, can both suppress opponent shooting AND force turnovers. Offense slow and less consistently good, currently relying on Matt Bradley hero ball
Pro: Probably the highest-rated basketball coach in California that has been in the state of California over the last 20 years, outside of Randy Bennett. Coaches a very good defense, recruits at a high level and would put Cal in a great position in the state with his ties.
Con: Probably wouldn’t have considered leaving SDSU for Cal even before the SDSU to the Pac-12 rumors.
Current Position: Stanford Women’s Basketball Head Coach
History: Is a basketball assassin
Coaching & Style: Is a basketball assassin
Pros: Is a basketball assassin, hiring her away would finally end Stanford WBB’s reign atop the conference. Just offering her the job would maybe force Stanford to fork over more money?
Cons: Would never consider saying yes in a million years.
Current Position: St. Mary’s basketball Head Coach
History: Has been at St. Mary’s for 22 years
Coaching & Style: The best basketball coach on the west coast outside of Mark Few.
Pros: The best basketball coach on the west coast outside of Mark Few.
Cons: Already on record as unwilling to touch Cal with a 39 and a half foot pole.
Associate/Assistant Coaches worth exploring
This non-exhaustive list of assistant coaching candidates are harder to judge with the information that is publicly available but a competent athletic director (AHEM) running a competent search (AHEM) would put in the leg work to determine if any of these candidates are the next Tommy Lloyd.
Current Position: Xavier Associate Head Coach
History: Familiar with the West Coast, as he coached under Haase at Stanford, Lead Recruiter who landed Zaire Williams, KZ Okpala, Tyrell Terry for Stanford
The hope: He’ll recruit just as well at Cal as he did at Stanford, but without Jerod Haase weighing him down?
Alvin Brooks III
Current Position: Baylor Associate Head Coach
History: Father was Head Coach for 30 years - so long experience in coaching, won 2 NJCAA Championships at 2 different schools before moving to K-State and Baylor. Was lead recruiter at Baylor for several years before leaving and then returning for the last 6 seasons
The hope: His arrival at Baylor helped Scott Drew’s Bears take the next step, can he bring his Texas recruiting chops to California?
Current Position: San Diego State Assistant Coach
History: Lead Recruiter and Player Development Coach for SDSU, Also lead offensive assistant; Before SDSU was defensive lead, recruiter and skill development coach at Boise State
The Hope: His arrival in San Diego led to an immediate offensive uptick after years of elite defense and med offense. That plus west coast recruiting knowledge might mean he has the ability to turn Cal around.
Current Position: Gonzaga Assistant Coach
History: 10 Years at Gonzaga. Good recruiter and developer of wing talent
The hope: You’ve probably noticed that Gonzaga is pretty good. Maybe he’s Tommy Lloyd 2.0?
Current Position: Oregon Assistant Coach
History: Assistant under John Calipari at Memphis, Tom Crean at Indiana and Frank Martin at SCAR. Joined Oregon in 2022.
The hope: He brings nation-wide big time recruiting chops to Cal’s massive rebuild.
Current Position: Arizona Associate Head Coach
History: UA grad, was AHC under Sean Miller and carried over into Tommy Lloyd's time. Stops in NBA and at Memphis under Josh Pastner
The hope: Y’all got any more of that elite Arizona recruiting?
These names have/will get floated, but they are iffy ideas for various reasons
Steve Alford: The current Nevada head coach and former SW Missouri St, Iowa, New Mexico, and UCLA head coach has had occasional on-court success and this year’s Wolfpack are good, but his last eight years of coaching have been wildly up-and-down, which is pretty iffy from a guy that carries his kind of baggage.
Richard Pitino: The younger Pitino’s Minnesota tenure was OK at times, but occasionally disastrous, and while his turnaround at New Mexico has been impressive we’re not convinced he’s anything other than the below average power conference coach he was in the B1G. While we’re at it, may as well acknowledge that the elder Pitino is doing OK at Iona and would never ever get consideration at Cal.
Tim Miles: Look, he’s not the WORST candidate: Nebraska is one of the few power conference jobs roughly as tough as the Cal job is, and Miles actually made an NCAA tournament and was on the bubble for another. And his turnaround this year at San Jose State has been truly impressive. Still, Cal fans aren’t exactly clamoring for somebody who already has failed at the major level. We could do worse, but we should be able to do better or at least higher ceiling.
Herb Sendek: Currently experiencing a minor renaissance at Santa Clara but is still 13 years removed from his last interesting season at a high level, when he went 11-7 at Arizona State despite having James Harden. If we could guarantee that Brandin Podziemski would come with him and stay for a couple years we might briefly consider it.