Yesterday was expected but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still depressing. Since 2011, Archie Miller has grown the Dayton program from a decent mid-major program that jumped up to occasional success to a perennial NCAA Tournament team and one of a small handful of mid-majors with national relevance. He earned the opportunity to helm a top-5 program based on this success, but his are going to be massive shoes to fill. It might not even be fair to expect that. On the plus side, UD’s success will make recruiting easier so the next coach is going to have an softer landing than Archie had when he showed up in 2011. What follows is a short list of the various names I’ve seen bandied about on various websites along with a couple of my own thoughts thrown in. The smart money is on UD moving quickly to get its next coach in to give them a better chance of holding on to one of the better recruiting classes in recent memory. I’ll keep this post updated to reflect any changes in the landscape.
The Consensus List (no particular order)
Dane Fife – Assistant Coach, Michigan State
This name annoys me personally because I couldn’t stand this guy as a player, but he has built quite a reputation. This is especially impressive since it seems to have obscured the fact that he committed one of the dumbest fouls in NCAA Tournament history against Jay Williams and bit some dude from Iowa during a game. But I digress.
He’s only 37 and he’s already been a head coach – at IPFW, where he is getting some credit for transitioning the team from DII to DI, but they still stunk. He’s been an Izzo assistant since 2011 and gets credit for landing some of Sparty’s top recruits.
This sounds an awful lot like Brian Gregory’s resume when UD hired him. Dayton would be a massive jump for Fife and a massive gamble by the Flyers. I don’t think they need to be gambling this much with their next hire.
Pat Kelsey – UMass Head Co…wait, no…Winthrop Head Coach
People who are paid to know these things were falling all over themselves to praise UMass for hiring Pat Kelsey away from Winthrop. Then Kelsey bailed an hour before his press conference to return to Winthrop. Nobody expects him to actually coach Winthrop this year, however. There were rumors flying that Chris Mack had agreed to take the Indiana job and that Kelsey, a former Xavier player and assistant, was going to replace him. Guess not.
I don’t have any insight into Kelsey’s 5-year coaching career at Winthrop beyond pointing out that they’ve won back-to-back league titles and made the tournament this year. They’ve also steadily improved throughout his tenure. He has assisted at comparable programs in Wake Forest and Xavier, so he knows how a program should be run. He does seem like he’s ready for a bigger stage, but I hope it’s somewhere else. Backing out of the UMass job after already accepting it is a massive red flag for me and one that would knock him off my list. This guy should come with a caveat emptor tattoo. Good luck to whoever does hire Kelsey.
Kevin Kuwik – Assistant Coach, Dayton
Kuwik came in with Archie in 2011 and although he doesn’t have any head coaching experience with a program of consequence, his resume as an assistant is impressive. He was the Director of Basketball Operations under Brad Stevens at Butler (for a year) and he was an assistant for Matta at OSU. Stevens, Matta, and Archie – you could do a lot worse. There’s also the fact that he might be able to hold on to more recruits than any other candidate, but that shouldn’t be a key factor here. Dayton should be focused on a 5-10 year hire. Or, if Nate gets his way, Dayton will hire Kuwik to groom him to eventually replace Mike Brey at Notre Dame (Kuwik went to ND). That Nate – always looking out for #1.
I would be happy if UD hired Kuwik and certainly happier than I would be with the first two names on this list.
Greg Paulus – Assistant Coach, Ohio State
What, was Aaron Craft too busy? I’m having a hard time coming up with a comparably annoying player. This would be hard to stomach – harder than Fife. He’s an OSU assistant which apparently makes him a head coaching candidate at a better basketball program. I don’t understand this one. Please don’t hire this serial flopper.
Jeff Boals – Head Coach, Stony Brook
Are you noticing an OSU assistant theme here? I know basically nothing about Boals. He’s been an assistant at a bunch of places, including a 7-year run at OSU before getting hired last year to coach Stony Brook. Stony Brook was decent this year (18-14) and finished second in their league. There’s nothing about his resume that jumps off the page, but he must have a solid reputation because he keeps popping up in this discussion.
Bigger Names that Seem Unlikely
I don’t see these guys coming to UD, but they’re probably worth exploring.
Tom Crean – Wandering in the Woods Somewhere
This is at least worth a phone call. He would be a safe hire from a name recognition standpoint and a success standpoint, but you’d better believe that he would jump ship as soon as he could. I’m not sure that’s really what UD’s looking for. He may well be too expensive and/or not interested anyway. Still, his run at Marquette was outstanding and if he could do that there…..
Anthony Grant – Assistant Coach, Oklahoma City Thunder
Thankfully, Dayton isn’t as hung up on hiring alumni as most schools seem, but Grant warrants some exploration. He obviously knows the program’s history since he played for one of the best recent UD teams before the last 4 years. As a head coach, he had a very successful tenure with VCU and a so-so run with an Alabama program that only feigns interest in basketball because they’re bored between the National Championship game and spring practice. This would be an interesting hire, but I’m not sure it’s a smart one. His head coaching career has been a shade above mediocre and I’m not sure that coming back to his alma mater is going to jump start some kind of brilliant rebirth. There aren’t a ton of great coaches currently coaching their alma maters. I think there’s something to that.
Fred Hoiberg – Dwayne Wade and Jimmy Butler’s Hostage
This is a joke, but I wanted to take a shot at the Bulls. I like the Bulls and I like the NBA. This is the least likable Bulls team in my memory, and that includes the Dark Ages under Tim Floyd. Hoiberg has been utterly unable to coach an NBA team and his recruiting practices at Iowa State were questionable. He’s going to get a good college job again once the Bulls send him packing, but I don’t think he should.
Other Interesting Names
This is me speculating about other head coaches at quality mid- or low-major programs that have had success and a recently fired guy.
John Groce – Trying to Find Tom Crean in the Woods
Who says no to that face? Illinois, apparently. Groce is yet another Matta assistant (at both Xavier and OSU) but he’s mostly remembered for a successful tournament run at Ohio University. This is somewhat surprising since he never managed to get OU higher than 3rd in the MAC. He also Illinois for 5 uninspiring years before getting fired a few weeks ago. Illinois made the NCAA Tournament in his first season and then never did again. In fact, they turned into kind of a laughingstock during the past couple of years before “rallying” to 18-14 this year. This doesn’t seem like a good idea.
David Richman – Head Coach, North Dakota State
This is admittedly a stretch, but NDSU has been quite good for the past three years under Richman. He’s young (38), but he’s never coached outside of the state of North Dakota. UD might be too big of a pond for him, but it might be worth at least some exploration.
Matt McCall – Head Coach, Chattanooga
Another reach. Chattanooga has been a pretty good low-major team for the two years he’s been the coach but that isn’t a huge indicator since only one of those years (the worse of the two) was with any players he recruited. I’m not sure he’s ready for prime time, but 29-6 during his first season including a win at UD Arena got my attention.
Dan Muller – Head Coach, Illinois State
If I could pick from anyone on this list, Muller would be my pick. He’s been the head coach of Illinois State since 2012 and never finished below .500 despite having the notable handicap of coaching at Illinois State. This past season they were an excellent team that had the unfortunate burden of playing Wichita State in their most important game of the season. Sound familiar? They still should have made the Tournament, though. Muller was an assistant at Vandy under Stallings from 2001-2012, too, so he knows how a program bigger than Illinois State works, albeit a program that hasn’t exactly showered itself in basketball success. Plus he’s only 41 and already has a ton of experience so he’d presumably be willing to grow with a program for a while. Someone’s going to give this guy a better job. Here’s hoping it’s UD.