This offseason’s blockbuster coaching moves came within eight miles of each other.
Roy Williams retired effective immediately.
Mike Krzyzewski will retire at the end of the 2021-22 season.
Hubert Davis will take over for Williams at North Carolina.
Jon Scheyer will be the coach in waiting, remaining as an assistant until coach K officially retires.
And yet the most significant move, as it relates to this upcoming season, happened in the state of Texas. How Chris Beard reacted to the Texas job, what his roster did look like and how he was able to mine the transfer portal will be the difference maker on this season in men’s college basketball.
The ability to make a move in year one is always welcomed but not a must. There is always a honeymoon/grace period for a new coach. But with transfers in abundance, patience on making and progressing in the NCAA tournament may not be as long.
Here is my breakdown of the top 12 impactful coaching moves for this season:
- Chris Beard, Texas: This was the best hire and the most logical one in this coaching carousel cycle. Beard put together a high-level, experienced staff and dominated the transfer portal. Two key moves stand out the most — nabbing UMass’ Tre Mitchell and Minnesota point guard Marcus Carr. Expect the Longhorns to be a Big 12 favorite on day one. And the Longhorns will benefit from Beard’s NCAA tournament success come March.
- Hubert Davis, North Carolina: Davis was primed to take over for Roy Williams whenever he retired. He pulled a bit of a surprise in deciding to do it after the season. But Davis is ready. He is beloved in Chapel Hill and bleeds Carolina blue. He won’t have any issues recruiting and keeping high-level talent.
- Porter Moser, Oklahoma: Moser took Loyola-Chicago to a Final Four and a Sweet 16. He did a wonderful job of getting defensive buy-in from his players, always taking away the opposing team’s best player. Former head coach Lon Kruger was able to maximize the talent at Oklahoma. Moser is cut from the same cloth. The Sooners shouldn’t miss a beat with Moser as head coach.
- Mike Woodson, Indiana: The hiring of Woodson was a bit of a surprise because he didn’t come from the usual cast of active college candidates. But Woodson, a former Hoosier, has made all the right moves so far with his experienced staff with IU ties, retaining Trayce Jackson-Davis and making the Hoosiers an attractive transfer destination. Taking the Hoosiers on a trip to the Bahamas was a major plus, also, to give him a heads up on the season.
- Shaka Smart, Marquette: I’ve always felt Shaka would be a great fit at Marquette. He’s from Wisconsin. He has thrived at basketball-centric schools. Just give him time to put his imprint on this program. He will make this work. He will have to make his mark in the transfer market, but once he gets his style and system in place, the Golden Eagles will be a factor in the Big East.
- Tommy Lloyd, Arizona: The Wildcats finally are starting to climb out of the cloud from the NCAA investigation. The Wildcats had a one-year self-imposed postseason ban. More could be forthcoming but Lloyd has the patience to direct the Wildcats through turbulent waters. This was the only job he said he would leave Gonzaga for in college. He has the right personality to get the fan base on his side and has proven to be an elite recruiter. The Wildcats won’t contend for the Pac-12 title in year one, but this program will ascend sooner than later.
- Richard Pitino, New Mexico: Pitino landed as well as anyone after being pushed out at Minnesota. The Lobos are desperate for a winner, but also a coach who is personable and engaging with the community. Pitino gets it. He will be open with the media and interact with the fan base. And he will get talent in Albuquerque. He already did with Jamal Mashburn Jr., following him from Minnesota.
- Craig Smith, Utah: Smith had Utah State as a consistent winner in the Mountain West. Once Utah made the decision to part ways with Larry Krystkowiak there was one call to make — to Smith. He will/should keep the Utes in the upper half of the Pac-12 and a postseason contender. This was one of the most sensible hires during the cycle. He knows the landscape and should flourish.
- Kim English, George Mason: I love this hire. English is ready for the challenge of getting Mason back in contention in the A-10. He gets today’s player; he is an advocate. After a playing career with Missouri and the Detroit Pistons and then coaching at Tennessee, he has learned how to run a program. The next generation of coaching is in good hands with someone like English leading Mason.
- Speedy Claxton, Hofstra: Claxton is one of the best, if not the best player, to play at Hofstra. The program needed someone who wanted to be there, who understood what it means to play at Hofstra and can connect with recruits. Claxton will be in position to succeed.
- Tim Miles, San Jose State: Miles is back in the Mountain West at arguably the toughest spot. But football has proven that through patience and persistence you can win with the Spartans. Miles will have to mine the transfer market and maybe go international to find the right mix. But he has the energy to turn the Spartans around. He also gives this program some much-needed identity. He will thrive in media settings and give San Jose State a voice.
- Kevin Kruger, UNLV: Kruger learned well from playing for his dad Lon. He is calm, cool and collected. The Runnin’ Rebels need consistency like they had when his father was the head coach. If he can do that, and just keep UNLV relevant, then that’s a big win. He’s not going to be the biggest extrovert in Vegas but that’s OK. UNLV and the city of Las Vegas want winners. And Kevin has been one at every stop.