It’s never too early to look into the crystal ball and try and figure out where each college basketball coach will be employed next season.
After all, 62 of 362 D-1 programs welcome a new coach this season, so change is perpetual. (And certain, for some schools.) What’s wrong with jumping the gun?
UNC Wilmington Head Coach Takayo Siddle to Charlotte
Siddle is entering his 4th season in UNCW, and the North Carolina native has gone 58-29 in three years as a head coach, including a 51-19 record in the past two years. He guided the Seahawks to a CBI title in his second season, and he revitalized a program that had fallen into a bit of disarray after Kevin Keatts left for NC State.
To be fair, Siddle followed Kevin Keatts to Raleigh as an assistant coach before he got the UNCW job, so perhaps Siddle was really the glue that held the Seahawks together. Players like Jaylen Sims and Trazerian White have excelled in his system over the past couple of years, and the Seahawk defense last year was especially stout, ranking top 100 in KenPom defensive efficiency.
Charlotte, on the other hand, has had an up-and-down recent basketball history. Head coach Ron Sanchez resigned in June after leading the 49ers to a CBI title but had a 72-78 record in five years. Charlotte’s now being led by interim coach Aaron Fearne, but it’s not likely that the 49ers would stick with Fearne after the season unless the 49ers make the tournament (unlikely) or NIT (almost even more unlikely with the new NIT rules).
Especially with the move up to the American from C-USA, Charlotte needs a good hire to stabilize and build their basketball program and culture. They sit in one of the best basketball recruiting grounds in the country, and there’s no reason to suggest Charlotte can’t bring in talent similar to the likes of other mid-majors in the Southeast like Memphis and VCU.
Siddle, as North Carolina as it gets, hails from Eden, near the Virginia border. He’s a rising star at just 37 years old, and he’d assuredly excel as the head man in Charlotte. The Seahawks could end up winning the CAA tournament this year, something they haven’t done since Keatts’s last year in charge. It’ll be difficult with the College of Charleston still on top of the league, but Siddle’s team is up for the challenge. Another 20+ win season for the Seahawks will put Siddle near the top of the list for manning the Charlotte program if the 49ers don’t end up sticking with the interim Fearne. Siddle could transform the Charlotte 49ers into an upper-tier AAC program given the potential in the city.
Former Memphis/Georgia Tech Head Coach Josh Pastner to UTSA
Pastner is currently working for NBC Sports after he was let go from Georgia Tech last season following a 15-18 record in his 7th season in Atlanta. It’s a shame that it didn’t work out, because he’s really in the upper echelon of basketball minds, even if that hasn’t shown on the court as often as one would hope. Sometimes coaches aren’t benefitted by a change of scenery or just, for whatever reason, aren’t the right coach for the specific job. And that’s ok, because Pastner is perfect for many jobs, not excluding a sleeping giant, UTSA.
The Roadrunners have stumbled in recent years under Steve Henson, who enters his 8th year in San Antonio. In 7 years in Conference USA, his birds have gone 95-109 overall and 49-59 in conference games. Now, they’re on the road to the AAC. They’re 7-33 in their past 40 C-USA games, and that really doesn’t bode well for a step up to a conference with the likes of Memphis, FAU, UAB, Tulane, North Texas, and SMU. It was somewhat surprising that the Roadrunners opted to keep Henson through the transition to the American, and the preseason KenPom rankings place them 2nd-to-last in the conference, ahead of only Tulsa.
Pastner had success at Memphis after succeeding John Calipari, as well as winning the ACC tournament after putting together a really good Yellow Jackets team in the really odd 2020-21 pandemic season, and he’s still young at just 46 years with 14 years of head coaching experience. He played and coached at Arizona, so he’s got Southwest roots. (Does San Antonio qualify as Southwest, Southeast, or just South?)
San Antonio is a fertile recruiting ground for basketball, and UTSA hoops is more than capable of experiencing a breakout similar to what their football team is undergoing. Now in the American, with a greater revenue than C-USA, UTSA has the potential to find itself amongst the UABs and Memphises of the league, it just has to start caring about basketball. Hiring Pastner would be a great first step, and there aren’t many coaches of his talent and age just sitting in a television studio. Go for it, Roadrunners.
Drake Head Coach Darian DeVries to Nebraska
I get more excited watching Drake basketball than when Drake drops an album. That’s nothing against Drake as an artist, I honestly do enjoy listening to him, but Drake basketball has been a thing of beauty recently, and it’s because of Darian DeVries.
The longtime Creighton assistant got his first head job at Drake in 2018, and all he’s done since is go 122-48 in 5 years with 2 NCAA tournament bids. The Bulldogs have beaten Mississippi State, Kansas State, Boise State, and New Mexico State in non-conference games under DeVries. His son Tucker is a junior on the team who averaged 18.6 PPG as a sophomore, so if DeVries does end up taking another job, Tucker could end up being the toy in a DeVries Happy Meal for whichever school picks him up. That school could very well be Nebraska. Less than an hour away from Creighton and Omaha, Nebraska is familiar territory for DeVries and company.
Nebrasketball has not done well under coach Fred Hoiberg, who took over the program in 2019 after flaming out as the coach of the Chicago Bulls. Despite last year’s team having the best record for Nebraska (16-16) since Tim Miles’s last year as coach in 2018, Hoiberg’s record through four years is a paltry 40-83, not the best sign for Hoiberg’s future prospects as a coach. If the Huskers don’t make the tournament this year, (they haven’t since 2014) he’s likely out the door. Nebraska basketball doesn’t have the prestige that the football team has experienced, but it’s by no means a horrible job, and it’s certainly an upgrade over Drake.
DeVries has shown himself to be capable of handling a Midwest basketball program in the 2020s, something Hoiberg hasn’t done. If Nebraska wants to keep pace with the rest of the Big Ten, they’ll throw some money at DeVries this offseason, and probably get Tucker, too. If Hoiberg does end up exceeding expectations in year 5, DeVries will still likely find himself in a high-major role soon, possibly at Ohio State.
College of Charleston Head Coach Pat Kelsey to Louisville
This really hurts to type. I don’t want it to happen. I’m a Charlestonian. I love Pat Kelsey. I want him to turn the College of Charleston into the Gonzaga of the East Coast. And I still think there’s a chance he does just that because he really does love this city. The only issue is that several high-major programs love Kelsey just as much as he loves Charleston, if that’s even possible. He stayed in Charleston this offseason and got a big payday, especially for a mid-major institution. But what happens when some of the deepest pockets in college basketball call his number from just an hour and a half away from his hometown?
The Cincinnati native has made strides in the Palmetto State, and there really is a small chance that he just stays in Charleston forever, in the loving arms of a total basketball school in the best small city in America, amongst the beaches of the Carolina barrier islands and the allure of King St. (in moderation). We can all dream.
Louisville, in particular, dreams of a successful basketball program, one that they don’t have at the moment with Kenny Payne at the helm. Some were surprised when the Cardinals retained Payne after his first season, which sounds reactionary but really isn’t once one remembers one of the most storied programs of the 21st century went 4-28 last year. Louisville was unimaginably bad, and it’s not like they started poorly and got less bad along the way. While there were some low points, (losses to Bellarmine, App State, and Wright State in 6 days) they stunk equally throughout the year. Kenny Payne isn’t the right guy for the job, that much is obvious, and the Cardinals desperately need an injection of adrenaline and youth to bring them back to relevance.
Enter Pat Kelsey.
He’s won at Winthrop and College of Charleston, to an extremely impressive extent. (He’s 234-114 in 11 years as a head coach.) His roots are in the Midwest, and his offensive scheme (fun, threes, and speed) is aesthetically pleasing and entertaining, perfect for re-energizing a massive fan base.
The city of Louisville doesn’t have a pro sports team. Cardinal basketball is their pro sports team. They won’t just settle on anybody for their head coaching position. (Although they did just hire Kenny Payne.) Louisville needs a dude to do chin-ups on the rim and throw alley-oops to his players in practice. A dude that will embody everything needed to sustain a healthy basketball program, and then some.
If that dude isn’t Pat Kelsey, I don’t know who is. He’s proven everything he needs to prove to get this job, and I’ll never blame him for leaving Charleston if he does decide to, as much as I will be saddened. Louisville can’t afford another Payne, but they can’t do much better than Pat. Make the call, I tell the Cardinals, though tears fall down my face. (Side note, just throwing this out there, but imagine a Pat Kelsey-Dusty May matchup as the coaches of Louisville and Kentucky, respectively.)
UConn Assistant Coach Kimani Young to Stony Brook
Young won’t be on the UConn staff much longer, because he’s due for his own job quite soon. Whether that’s an NEC job (he might be too good for the NEC already), the MAAC, or the CAA, maybe even Atlantic-10, remains to be seen. It could very well be at Stony Brook.
The Seawolves (great nickname by the way) have struggled recently, especially after they moved to the CAA last year. Coach Geno Ford is entering his 5th year and has had a mixed bag of results, going 58-61 through his first four years. The move to the CAA, a step up from the America East, really only adds fuel on the hot seat of Ford, and another struggle-fest in the conference portion of the schedule could mean a change in basketball leadership, in the most PR of verbiage. Their best player (Frankie Policelli) just transferred to the best team in their own conference.
Young would be a splash hire for the Seawolves and the jolt they need to become competitive in the CAA. The former UTEP guard has spent time at Minnesota and FIU before his current role in Storrs, and he’s developed a reputation for being both a solid recruiter and a developer of guards. His Northeast roots (he’s from Queens) would also help him if he were to pursue the hypothetical Stony Brook opening. There will be other open jobs in the Northeast this cycle, maybe some better than Stony Brook, there’s a possibility Kimani Young will be coaching on Long Island next year.