By Jon Rothstein
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It’s never too early to start looking ahead.
There may be several months before speculation can begin on potential coaching changes in college basketball but we’ve identified five names on the mid-major level to keep an eye on when the carousel starts spinning in March.
FIVE COACHING NAMES TO KEEP AN EYE ON
TIM CLUESS, IONA
THE SKINNY: A proven winner at multiple levels, Cluess has made the Gaels must see television with their high octane attack. Often regarded as an innovative offensive mind, the former CW Post coach could be the perfect choice for a program with ready made talent to win because of his ability to put players in positions best suited to maximize their strengths. Cluess has also been instrumental in the development of Iona senior point guard Scott Machado, who is currently leading the nation in assists at 10.3 per game.
ANDY TOOLE, ROBERT MORRIS
THE SKINNY: The 31-year-old Toole has taken the baton from Rutgers coach Mike Rice in Western Pennsylvania and kept the Colonials among the elite of the Northeast Conference. In addition to serving as an assistant under Rice for three years at Robert Morris, Toole also played at Penn under current Temple coach Fran Dunphy, giving up the type of pedigree and seasoning he would need to embrace the challenge of building a program at a higher level. If Toole leads the Colonials back to the NCAA Tournament, look for his name to be mentioned quite a bit in late March.
GREGG MARSHALL, WICHITA STATE
THE SKINNY: The Shockers have quickly become one of the elite mid-major programs in all of college basketball and that’s directly related to Marshall. After taking Winthrop to seven NCAA Tournaments in nine seasons, Marshall has LED Wichita State to the brink of the field of 68, winning the Postseason NIT Championship last year in New York. Despite offers from BCS schools last spring, Marshall opted to stay put in the Missouri Valley Conference, prompting many to believe it would take a special opportunity to get him to leave his current position.
DANNY HURLEY, WAGNER
THE SKINNY: Staten Island has officially started to sizzle thanks to this New Jersey native. The former coach of St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark has gotten off to a tremendous start in his second year at Wagner, with wins over Santa Clara and Pittsburgh standing out as the highlights. Hurley’s Big East experience as an assistant at Rutgers plus his ties to the fertile state of New Jersey make him an attractive coaching commodity in any potential situation.
MIKE RHOADES, ASSOCIATE HEAD COACH, VCU
THE SKINNY: Shaka Smart’s top lieutenant has had has imprints all over the Rams success during the last few seasons. When VCU went to the Final Four last year, Rhoades was the one directing the team’s offense and now a year later, he’s in charge of directing the Rams’ defensive attack — which is noticeably better than it was a year ago. A 10-year head coach at Division III Randolph-Macon, Rhoades tallied a 197-76 record and made four NCAA Tournament appearances while leading the Yellow Jackets. After receiving interest from a few schools last Spring, Rhoades’ name is one we figure will resonate with multiple job openings after the season.
THIS AND THAT:
- Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton must have slept well after the Seminoles 85-56 win over Auburn last night. The Tigers aren’t expected to be one of the better teams this season in the SEC but with the way Florida State has been struggling this season on offense, a breakout game was a great sign. Hamilton’s team scored 50 points in the first half and got 15 from combo guard Ian Miller, who played in just his third game of the season after missing the first semester for academic reasons.
- Former St. Benedict’s Prep standout Aaron Brown is emerging as a legitimate rotation player for Fran Dunphy and Temple. In the Owls 78-73 upset win over third ranked Duke last night, Brown scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds in 18 minutes. His emergence has helped Temple fill the void left behind after Scootie Randall’s injury subtracted one perimeter player from the Owls rotation.
- Larry Eustachy once came within a game of the Final Four at Iowa State in 2000. He’s now on the verge of a bounce back season at Southern Mississippi. Eustachy, in his eighth season with the Golden Eagles has his team off to a 14-2 start and has a high-major wing in former Kentucky guard Darnell Dodson. Watch out for this team as a challenger to both Memphis and Marshall in Conference-USA.
- For Kansas to win the Big 12, they’re going to have to get a third double-figure scorer each night behind Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson and last night they got that from Travis Releford. Releford scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Jayhawks beat Kansas State 67-49. Bill Self’s team also got quality play from big man Jeff Withey, who scored eight points, grabbed nine rebounds, and blocked six shots in the win.
- Anyone else think Michigan State’s Keith Appling is playing like former Spartan floor general Charlie Bell?
- It’s too early to say that La Salle is ready to be considered as a contender in the Atlantic-10 but the Explorers are showing signs of being extremely tough to beat. Dr. John Giannini has assembled a unique blend of talent of the perimeter that seems to be getting better and better each game. In Wednesday’s upset win over Xavier, La Salle’s guards — Ramon Galloway, Tyreek Duren, Sam Mills, and Earl Pettis combined for 59 of the team’s 80 points.
- Speaking of Xavier, they’ve now lost five of six since their fight with Cincinnati. Chris Mack’s team will next face Fordham at Rose Hill Gym on Saturday at noon. A word to the wise — get there early. Tom Pecora’s team is at UMass tonight after Tuesday night’s 60-54 upset win over 24th ranked Harvard. Fordham power forward Chris Gaston has had double-doubles in 10 of the Rams 13 games this season.
- Iowa State’s Royce White is an absolute beast. The versatile forward got to the free throw line 17 times in the Cyclones 77-71 win over Texas last night in Ames and completely opened up the floor for his teammates. Fred Hoiberg’s team made 10-of-21 3-pointers to earn a win in their conference opener. Iowa State next travels to Texas A & M on Saturday.
- Seton Hall seniors Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope are getting the majority of the credit for the Pirates’ 13-2 start but more praise needs to be thrown towards sophomore wing Fuquan Edwin. The second year slasher is up in all major offensive categories from last season and is shooting just under 40% percent from 3-point range. His progression is a major reason why Kevin Willard’s team is along with Georgetown, the surprise team in the Big East. Edwin is also second in the nation in steals at 3.1 per game.
- Tune into to the CBS Sports Network on Wednesday and Saturday nights as I join Adam Zucker, Wally Szczerbiak, Mateen Cleaves, and Alaa Abdelnaby on INSIDE COLLEGE BASKETBALL. For more information go to www.cbssportsnetwork.com.
Who do you think should be on Rothstein’s list? Sound off below…