It was yet another busy offseason on the coaching carousel in the world of college basketball as some long time floor coaches moved on to potentially greener pastures and while other schools opted for fresh faces. While the shear number of coaching changes is down slightly compared to last year, the changes this season didn't lack for drama.
New Mexico coach Steve Alford signed a large contract extension then abruptly jumped over to UCLA after Ben Howland was sacked. Brad Stevens, the coach that put the Butler Bulldogs on the map, made the jump into the NBA to try and make the most of what is left of the Boston Celtics. Florida Gulf Coast's magical run in the tournament cost the school Andy Enfield.
Of all the coaches that hopped around, let's take a look at where some big names ended up.
As SB Nation's Russell Steinberg wrote, after losing Stevens to the Celtics, the Bulldogs needed to make sure they had a coach who knew "the Butler Way". They did just that when they handed the job off to former Butler point guard and assistant coach Brandon Miller.
Miller got his start as an assistant in 2007, the same year Stevens was promoted to head coach. He spent one year at Butler before moving to Ohio State, where he would stay until 2011 when he left coaching to spend more time with his family. He rejoined the Bulldogs last year after two seasons off.
Any other year, taking the Butler job is bound to come with high expectations. The Bulldogs have been to the NCAA Tournament for the six of the past seven years. But this year, the move to the new Big East has put an even heavier focus on Hinkle Fieldhouse. This is the first head-coaching job for the 34-year-old Miller, one of the youngest coaches at a major basketball school.
Miller will have a bit of a trial by fire with the Bulldogs. Butler lost Rotnei Clarke and Andrew Smith, two of the team's top three scorers. They are adding four three-star recruits to the mix, but the elevated competition of the new look Big East over the Horizon League might make for some speed bumps along the way. But if Miller is able to continue "The Butler Way" he should be able to hold his own.
Richard Pitino's famed last name goes quite a ways. At just 30-years-old, the son of Rick Pitino landed the head coaching job with the Minnesota Golden Gophers after just one year of head coaching experience with the Florida International Panthers.
Pitino started with the College of Charleston in 2004 and has short stints at Northeastern, Duquesne, Louisville and Florida along the way. He led Florida International to an 18-14 record last year with a 11-9 conference record, the best conference record in school history.
The Gophers team Pitino inherits isn't the envy of the college basketball world. Minnesota lost Trevor Mbawke and Rodney Williams, among others. The Gophers also don't have any major recruits coming into town, landing only two three-star recruits in the class of 2013. Even though Tubby Smith made the NCAA Tournament last year, he was still canned and the level of discontent is running a bit high at Minnesota.
Although Pitino doesn't have the extensive record a lot of other coaches at major programs have, what he has done in a short time bodes well for the future of the program. He took a FIU team picked to finish 10th in the Sun Belt Conference last year, rattled off the school record for wins and gave the school its first non-losing season since 2000. So far, Pitino has already shown that he has the ability to shine when the team is in chaos.
For this reason alone, the folks at The Daily Gopher went from a bit confused to more than satisfied with Minnesota's surprise hire. He might not be making waves next year, but with both Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins still on the squad he has pieces to work with.
"We are clearly buying low on a guy who many think has a very bright coaching future. He has learned from a couple of the game's very best and now he'll get to test his mettle in the nation's best basketball conference. I wouldn't even say that this is a high-risk, high-reward type of a hire. I would argue that this has moderate risk with high reward potential."
Steve Alford's sudden departure from New Mexico to UCLA allowed Craig Neal to land one of the best spots to wet your feet as a head coach. Neal joined up with Alford as an assistant with the Iowa Hawkeyes and followed his friend to New Mexico in 2007. It appeared right off the bat that New Mexico made the right decision to make the hiring in house.
It isn't all roses for Neal and the Lobos. New Mexico took a hit when Tony Snell declared for the draft. Other than that they are returning virtually the entire team that went 29-6 last year, but disappointed again in the NCAA Tournament with a second-round loss to No. 14 seeded Harvard. With both Kendall Williams and Alex Kirk returning as two of the team's top three scorers the Lobos will be in capable hands.
With UNLV losing Anthony Bennett and Anthony Marshall, and Colorado State losing practically their entire team, Neal should have an easy road to the NCAA Tournament through the Mountain West. With Neal maintaining stability in the program around the coaching change, out of all the new hires in the country he stands the chance to have the most successful year.
The biggest question for Neal is if he can get the Lobos over the hump Alford never could. The Lobos returned to national prominence as of late, finishing last season ranked in the top-10 and garnering a third seed in the tournament -- but March success has been quite elusive. The Lobos never made it to the Sweet 16 during Alford's reign, and although the Mountain West Conference title is nice, most fans will trade that for a deep March run any day of the week.
Even amongst all the turmoil around Ben Howland's time with UCLA, he still took the Bruins to a national championship game during a streak of three straight Final Four appearances. The history with UCLA's basketball program runs about as deep as they come in the nation, so out of all the coaches with a lot on the table, Steve Alford will be the one taking the most alka-seltzer tablets throughout the year.
The Bruins lost Shabazz Muhammad and his 17.3 points a game. They have a couple of solid recruits coming in with Zach LaVine and Noah Allen, and the common consensus is that if anything else, Alford should be able to rebuild a lot of the bridges Howland burned during his tenure, Bruins Nation writes.
He is very popular among recruits and has a lot of good west coast relationships, especially in California. Ben Howland burned a lot of recruiting bridges in the state of California and the need for UCLA to repair those relationships had absolutely torched (seriously, it was that bad) cannot be underestimated. Alford does that, putting UCLA back in the room with a slew of top recruits who never even considered the Bruins before now.
The Pac-12 has been a bit down as of late, and although it is a bit better off this upcoming season with Arizona's projected squad and the sustained success of Colorado, it still isn't quite where it was at a few years ago. This should play right into Alford's pocket as UCLA has the talent to be able to stay in the top of the Pac-12 standings throughout the season. Alford successfully took New Mexico from nothing and brought them to the NCAA Tournament, as Bruins Nation writes, just how successful he can be remains to be seen.
Did it take time for Alford to mature, so the New Mexico Alford that had the Lobos' arrow pointing up is the one that UCLA is getting? Is he the average head coach with a god of an agent who will never make good on the promise he showed when he took Southwest Missouri St. to the Sweet 16 in 1999? We'll find out.