Which first-year NCAA Basketball head coaches have led their teams to better than expected campaigns so far in 2019-20?
A coaching transition is never easy for any team at any level. Players transfer, and the first year roster is sometimes hastily thrown together just to field a team. But some NCAA Basketball coaches add in a secret ingredient that elevate their new programs in year one.
Proven coaches like Fred Hoiberg and Buzz Williams are really struggling to get off the ground, while other schools have found the right mix and are trending in the right direction. Some mid-majors and some Power 5 schools are in this list, but every program has seen their coaching experiment work so far into season one.
9. Nate Oats – Alabama
At first, this looked like a disaster, losing to Penn and Rhode Island within the first three games of the season. Since then, though, it’s been nothing but improvements. The Tide rolled through their arch-rival Auburn, giving the Tigers their only loss of the season. They built on that win by beating Missouri three days later.
This is a very young team with only one senior, and it’s a grad transfer from West Virginia in James Bolden. Jahvon Quinerly is sitting out as a transfer from Villanova, this team is only going to get better.
Oats was hired to replace Avery Johnson, who was fired after three seasons and one NCAA Tournament appearance. Oats saw success with Buffalo the past four years, grabbing a marquee win against Arizona in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Last year the Bulls went 32-4 and won the MAC regular season and tournament before being eliminated in the round of 32 to eventual runner-up Texas Tech.
The schedule for the Tide isn’t too daunting for the rest of the season, as they still play LSU twice and Auburn again, as well as Arkansas, but other than that no game really jumps off the page. The Tide will have to win some of those games if they want to move the needle any. The future is bright, regardless.