NCAA Basketball: Grading recent coaching hires of 2020 offseason

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NCAA Basketball

LAS VEGAS, NV – NOVEMBER 20: Head coach Andy Kennedy of the Mississippi Rebels (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

Five NCAA Basketball coaching jobs got filled this week, how did the schools do?

A week after Iona made headlines with the hiring of Rick Pitino, six NCAA Basketball schools have filled their coaching openings and two more vacancies became open. Then on Monday (March 23), Southeast Missouri State announced the hiring of Brad Korn to take over the program and Stadium’s Jeff Goodman reported that Texas assistant Luke Yaklich was expected to take over at UIC.

Wyoming, Northern Colorado, Grand Canyon, JMU, UAB, Southeast Missouri State and Loyola Marymount are the programs that filled their coaching vacancies. If Yaklich does get the Flames’ job, that would leave just eight vacancies remaining. Samford, Georgia State, Alcorn State, Northern Arizona, IUPUI, Western Michigan, Air Force, and Western Illinois are the schools currently without a head coach. There likely will be several other openings. But until that occurs, here are the grades for the eight recent hires.

Grade – A

Bryce Drew, Grand Canyon

While I really didn’t like the firing of Dan Majerle, I do love Grand Canyon’s hire of Bryce Drew to replace him. Drew, who served as an analyst at ESPN last year, has head coaching experience at both the high-major and mid-major levels. He had success, even if it was only for one season at Vanderbilt, at both of his stops. However, most of his 164 wins came at Valparaiso, where he led the Crusaders to four Horizon League regular-season titles and two conference crowns. Overall, the 45-year-old has directed his teams to six postseason appearances (3 NCAA, 2 NIT, 1 CIT)  in eight years.

Drew also has the pedigree as a player, which included being a first-round draft pick and playing several years in the Association, and as a recruiter. Drew’s 2018-19 Vanderbilt recruiting class that included five-star recruits  Darius Garland and Simisola Shittu ranked 12th in the nation and third in the SEC in 247Sports Composite rankings.

“This might turn into the best hire of the off-season. Bryce Drew is an excellent coach, evaluator & recruiter.” – Paul Biancardi of ESPN.

Grand Canyon fired Majerle in part for his failure to win a WAC title or getting into the NCAA Tournament. However, he did have plenty of success compiling a 136-89 record overall as well as five postseason appearances. The Antelopes are expected to be contenders and Drew should have plenty of talent returning with Alessandro Lever, Jovan Blacksher Jr., and Mikey Dixon.

Andy Kennedy, UAB

Andy Kennedy is back at his alma mater. UAB hired the ESPN analyst on Thursday after four turbulent years on Robert Ehsan. Kennedy had spent 12 seasons at Ole Miss, where he became the program’s all-time wins leader (245) before stepping down after 27 games in 2018. The 52-year-old, who also spent one season at Cincinnatti, has a 266-169 record overall. The 2007 SEC COY has led his teams to one SEC Tournament title and nine postseason appearances though just two NCAA bids.

UAB won at least 17 games in each of the last four years, but the Blazers didn’t finish above fifth in C-USA. The Blazers haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2015. The Blazers struggled offensively last year, particularly from beyond the arc and turnovers where they ranked 325th in 3-pointers made and 316th in turnovers.

At least, Kennedy should have the team’s top three scorers return in Tavin Lovan, Jalen Benjamin, and Tyreek Scott-Grayson.

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