Posted on: October 4, 2011 6:56 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 7:28 pm

The strongest 'staches in college basketball

By Matt Norlander

With Fran Dunphy's (above) mustache in its final hours, and Old Dominion coach Blaine Taylor's lip carpentry now deceased, SI.com's Andy Glockner posed a worthwhile, hard-hitting question on Twitter Tuesday afternoon. Who owns college basketball's best mustache?

So few head men these days, no matter the sport, invigorate and inspire their teams with their facial hair, specifically the mustache. Still, there are a few follicle-faced men roaming the sideline in college hoops. We've taken it upon ourselves to list the men with the strongest, boldest and most distinguised 'staches in the sport. If we've forgotten someone, our apologies. There are more than 340 head coaches out there -- it was quite a list to scan in the dramatic wake of the depressing news about Dunphy's soon-to-be naked lip.

The list. Here it is.

Danny Kaspar, Stephen F. Austin.

Kaspar's been with the Lumberjacks since 2000. You don't see him or his team all that often -- they did make the tournament in 2009, though, losing to Syracuse in the first -- so his face and proud 'stache don't have much mainstream appeal. You think that's going to stop us from discovering such a man? Of course not.

Seriously, just look at him. He's beautiful. The closest thing college basketball has to Ned Flanders. And certainly deserving of leading off this list.

Gary Waters, Cleveland State

Gary Waters not only has a nice caterpillar, that Michael Strahan gap-toothed look really draws attention to the whole area surrounding his mustache. And we commend Waters for having such a distinct look, for having his teeth share the spotlight with his lip-tickler.

Waters' team got off to a 15-1 start last year, but it fell to Butler in the Horizon League tournament finals, clipping it off an NCAA tournament berth. Cleveland State lost in the second round of the NIT to College of Charleston. Waters' 'stache lives on.

Bruiser Flint, Drexel

You thinking what I'm thinking? Stringer Bell. In fact, that's another post entirely -- college basketball doppelgangers. Perhaps Christmastime will provide a lull that lets me compile a master list. Back to Bruiser and his bristles. The Dragons were 21-10. Flint's mustache coached in seven of those games. The team went undefeated in all of them.

Flint is entering his 11th season with the team. 

Tony Shaver, William & Mary

The name is ironic and appropriate all at once. Shaver simply refuses to bring the blade below his nose. Thank you, Tony. Bill and Mary has a little more class, a little more manliness, a little more Old Spice and old school appeal because of your insistence to model your life after Ron Burgundy's.

What a soup-strainer -- a crumb collector! -- on the man. It's believed that both William and Mary sported mustaches for the majority of their lives, thus Shaver's continued homage to the school's namesakes.

Jim Baron, Rhode Island

Love Baron because his lady tickler is everything a mustache should be. It's graying at a slower rate than the rest of Baron's hair, remaining as stubborn as the man himself (and we mean that in a good way). It's robust and grows heartily all around. There is no weak point, no fraying, no Dave Wannstedt imperfections.

From the looks of it, you might think Jim Baron is our No. 1 mustache, but you'd be wrong. Baron's got a great case to claiming college basketball's best walrus lip. But his broom, as staunch as it is, can't stand up to ...

Chris Mack, Xavier.

No one has a flavor-saver like Mack. No one. If you missed this before, it's because Mack usually only grows out his Rollie Fingers-inspired facial art during the month of December, when X is seldom on the telly. The Musketeers' coach has said before how The Three Musketeers' legend has inspired his once-a-year look, but we don't really care about all that. Just the fact he's brave enough to go with this and still maintain the respect of his team is a greater feat than reaching the NCAA tournament in every year of his coaching career.

You're a brave man, Mack. One more thing: Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Photos: AP; a hearty thank you to Eye on NFL's Will Brinson for assistance with Mack's photo
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: May 15, 2011 8:59 pm

A&M hires Murray State's Billy Kennedy as coach

Posted by Matt Norlander

It is official. Per a press release from the school Sunday night, Texas A&M has hired Murray State coach Billy Kennedy to be Mark Turgeon's successor in College Station. CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish tweeted earlier in the day that the move was imminent.

The university considered a number of candidates in its week-long search, but it apparently came down to Kennedy and Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson, with the former getting the go-ahead from A&M brass, spearheaded by school athletic director Bill Byrne.

The 47-year-old Kennedy was an assistant at Texas A&M two decades ago, but he's made the most inroads while coaching at Murray State, where he took the Racers to the second round of the 2010 NCAA tournament. He was the Ohio Valley Conference coach of the year twice in his five seasons at MSU. He had a 107-53 record there.

"I can't wait to get back to Aggieland," Kennedy said in the school's press release. "Even though I was there for only a short time, I could tell Aggieland is a special place. Aggies have great pride and passion for their school and their athletic programs. I have watched with interest the recent success and the NCAA Tournament appearances the past six years. I look forward to meeting the team and working toward a seventh NCAA bid as well as even deeper tournament runs."

Kennedy's press conference is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Monday afternoon.

And so the dominoes continue to clack. Now Murray State is on the run for a coach, though it's likely the chain reaction will end there, as the Racers could very well promote an assisant in-house or look to hire an assistant from another school.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: May 9, 2011 4:00 pm
Edited on: May 9, 2011 9:19 pm

Is Mark Turgeon a good fit for Maryland?

Posted by Matt Norlander

UPDATE, 9:02 p.m. ET: Gary Parrish reporting that Mark Turgeon to Maryland is done and the school is expected to make an announcement before the night is over. Multiple reports confirm the information. With the hire, Texas A&M now has to scramble for a coach as soon as possible. Turgeon is likely to be a good fit with Maryland, and here's why ...

Whenever a Big Six head-coaching job opens up, there's a whirring and stirring in the hours and days that follow. Reporters chase leads, searching for a scoop with the names that get tossed in and out of the hopper. Seemingly innocent bystanders (those would be the coaches) become (wanted) trophies, leaders of to-be-built armies. Even if coaches don't want a job they're rumored to be targeted for, they love and invite the attention, for it builds their profile and, most of the time, ensures they get an extended contract and raise at their current school.

This motion of intensity and anxiety lasts for usually a week, then everyone except the school in question -- and its fans -- move on, subconsciously waiting for the news to break. When it does, reaction is met with a 24-hour shelf life of either approval, underwhelm, abstention or disinterest. Local talk radio tries to build an entire week's programming around it, and more power to them, but largely coaching hires don't have the gasoline to last for extended periods of time. (North Carolina State fans, boast the fact that you are the exception. )

Sometimes coaches get swept away and wooed to a new place within a week (see: Mark Anderson at Arkansas); other times searches take much longer thane expected. (See: Oregon, 2010.)

Five days ago Mark Turgeon was living his life -- I presume peacefully and calmly, as he was apparently on vacation -- prepping for his recruiting period in the coming months and generally enjoying his time in College Station, Texas, where he built up a sturdy program in the past four years at Texas A&M.

Now he's arguably become Target No. 1 for Maryland. At 46 year old and with no ACC ties, this is still a job Turgeon would most likely take if Maryland AD Kevin Anderson offered him a hefty contract. I'm told Turgeon very much likes his team that's assembled for next season, but premier ACC jobs only open up once per decade, really. Also, don't forget the money -- because it's either 1 or 1a when a coach debates leaving -- but toss that cash aspect aside for a minute and consider the dichotomy in recruiting bases. Washington, D.C./Baltimore vs. College Station and all that surrounds it. If Turgeon's been able to keep A&M in the leg race of the Big 12 for the past four years with the talent he inherited/was limited to recruit there, then what could he do at Maryland? That'll be his thinking if he does indeed get into deep talks with the brass at Maryland. The "what kind of player can I get?" mindset is always at the top of a crowded list for a coach when considering relocation.

Plus, Turgeon wants to win a title, and it's conceivable to assume he, like most coaches, think it's so, so, so tough to achieve at A&M. At Maryland, the hoops are lower and fewer.

Would he be the right choice, though? Turgeon could be seen as an underwhelming pick for obvious reasons: he coaches at a nondescript, non-traditional college basketball school in the deep of Texas. He's not a sexy name/candidate, even if he does bear a striking resemblance to Ethan from "Lost." (Fun aside: You could argue that when Maryland began its search for Gary Williams successor, Turgeon "wasn't on" their list.) But fans ultimately, even if they begrudge a perceived alienation in coaching choice in the offseason, don't care at all about a coach's background or personality or style if the team ends up winning. Duh.

Thanks to the fantastic and new coaching resume observing tool from KenPom.com, we can see that Turgeon has never had a losing record as a head coach. That's pretty rare; often times new coaches at BCS schools take on a lot of water in their first year, but Turgeon managed a 25-11 record in 2007-08. He's averaged 22.3 wins in nine seasons and never had less than 24 in Big 12 play. Impressive, obviously. Turgeon has proven himself to be a candidate worthy of inclusion on many an athletic director's list (you can read more about how such lists exists and why here, by the way), and it's probable, even if he doesn't get the Maryland job, he'll be hired somewhere else in the next two years if his teams win 20-plus again.

Considering the candidate list out there -- from what I understand, Chris Mooney and Shaka Smart, two hires that would be considered home runs, are not likely to be swayed from their posts in Richmond -- Turgeon has a track record that stacks up extremely favorably to other realistic options. At this point, unless a mammoth dark horse is lurking in the shadows that none one knows -- or can talk -- about, Maryland can't do too much better than Mark Turgeon, even if he doesn't seem like the Big Hire everyone expects Maryland to make.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: May 6, 2011 6:01 pm

George Washington hires UVM's Lonergan as coach

Posted by Matt Norlander

Another coaching domino has teetered and tottered and fallen to its fate. Late Friday afternoon, George Washington made official what many had anticipated to be just that -- official -- within the past 48 hours: Vermont's Mike Lonergan is the new head coach of the Colonials.

One of the primary reasons this happened: newly minted G.W. athletic director Patrick Nero is the former commissioner of the America East, where Vermont plays and Lonergan coached for the past six years. Lonergan has a fantastic rapport with Nero and was a lead candidate for the job from the outset, once G.W. fired Karl Hobbs.

The move makes sense for Lonergan, who is from the greater Washington, D.C., area (Bowie, Md., to be specific). The bump in pay and conference affiliation (from the America East to the Atlantic 10) makes it a no-brainer for the 45-year-old coach who will have a different set of obstacles here than when he took over Vermont in 2005.

When he ran the Catamounts Lonergan was replacing a local legend in Tom Brennan, the affable coach who is the only man to coach UVM to an NCAA tournament win. At G.W. he comes in replacing Hobbs, who didn't do much with the program, meaning Lonergan will have to crawl up from the cellar in order to compete with Xavier, Temple, Richmond and Dayton.

"The opportunity to return to my roots in the Washington, D.C., area and build a program at an exceptional school like George Washington was too good to pass up," Lonegan said in a statment. "The combination of GW's strong academics, commitment to excellence and athletics tradition make it an ideal position, and I am eager to get started. I am committed to supporting and developing our student-athletes and building a program that will make GW proud."

Lonergan coached the Catamounts to an America East regular-season title in 2010 and had a 23-9 record. In his six seasons in Burlington the 45-year-old Lonergan had a 126-68 mark.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Coaches
Posted on: April 18, 2011 12:00 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 12:06 pm

A new way to track and evaluate coaches

Posted by Matt Norlander

If KenPom.com was considered an invaluable resource for college basketball data before this, then how do we classify it now?

The best site for hoopheads got even better Monday morning, as Pomeroy, with the help of Josh Riddell, who runs The Mikan Drill, introduced a new facet to KenPom.com: Coaching Resumes. There is now data and statistics and rankings for every Division I coach from the past eight years. (Pomeroy launched his site in '03.)

Why is this helpful? You can see the things a coach values, and what he doesn't. You can see how a coach stays strict to his beliefs, even when he changes jobs, or how moving to a higher pay grade can alter his philosophy in certain ways.

The former applies to John Calipari; the latter: Seton Hall's Kevin Willard. Former Providence coach Keno Davis also got away from what led him to a 2008 28-5 season at Drake before taking the Friars job.

The statistics involved are tempo-free, of course. So, while overall records are listed, things like adjusted defensive and offensive efficiency; effective field goal percentage; turnover percentage; 3-point shooting; free-throw shooting; assist rates and more are included.

When I say the name Bob Huggins, what do you think? Do you think practitioner of high-volume offensive rebounding and assist rates? Because you should. Frank Martin, a man in Huggins' coaching tree, also has a terrific, albeit short, track record of coaching his teams into rebound-snaring machines.

This sort of blossoming statistical analysis won't register much on most people's radars, I know, but it does make those of us who enjoy the numbers-driven side of the sport that much more digestable, interpretive and helpful. And knowledgeable. It never hurts to have more data; how you use and weight the data is another issue.

As Pomeroy notes in his initiative blog entry about the new feature, this new corridor to his site can also help those within university borders. The athletic directors and school presidents can get a better view of what they might be looking for in a coach, statistically. That's not all of the hiring process, but track record is normally vital. Now the white-collared shot-callers can see who's truly been consistent and elite in certain areas. After all, why pay for expensive search firms, effectively wasting money, when you could get an intern or already-paid employee to do the data-driven leg work first?

Pomeroy writes: "I hope you enjoy coaching resumes as much as I do."

So earnest, I love it. And, oh, I do, Ken. I do.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got an entire day to spend rummaging through the statistics. The best college basketball site on the Internet has given us another data set to build columns, comparisons and conclusions around.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Coaches
Posted on: March 29, 2011 4:16 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2011 5:24 pm

A rival coach examines VCU's Final Four chances

Posted by Matt Norlander

What are VCU's strengths and weaknesses? Which player is truly the best on the team, and which one has habits that could cause this dream run to come to an end Saturday against Butler? Under the cloak and promise of anonymity, I got a colleague of Shaka Smart's, a fellow head coach in the Colonial Athletic Association, to agree to speak well and ill of the Rams. An edited-for-content transcription of our conversation is below.

Did you expect VCU to go the furthest in this year’s tournament?
“No. It was definitely Old Dominion. I thought they had the most experience, they won in the tournament last year, had a lot of seniors. I thought they were clearly playing the best entering [the tournament].”

Did you honestly consider VCU as an NCAA tournament team by the end of the CAA tournament? The entire team wasn’t even together to watch the Selection Show.
“Really, I kind of had a feeling they were gonna a get in because there were some other teams that the NIT was talking to, and I know the NCAA tournament committee was very interested, with some of the non-conference wins VCU had. I think that’s what helped most, plus the way they played in the conference tournament.”

What tendencies does VCU have that make it likely the run won’t continue any further?
“In the regular season, I think they didn’t shoot the ball the way they are now. I think, now, they’re a very good defensive team, a great athletic group and can change the tempo of the game defensively. Now, to me, the difference is, if they can continue to make 3-point shots. They have to make those to win. Right now, it just seems like every 3-point shot they take is going to go in.”

Which starter is the biggest liability for the Rams?
"(Joey) Rodriguez. He plays well, they win. But when he doesn't, like against Old Dominion in the CAA final, he was bad. And they lost. He's aggressive. Sometimes over-aggressive. And a streaky shooter. When his feet are set and he is making shots, they become a very good team. When he is able to penetrate and kick out, they move without the ball well. Teams will try to contain him and keep him off balance with bigger guards."

Who is this team's most important player and why?
“I think it’s (Jamie) Skeen (pictured). He’s so big and athletic. He’s older, a redshirt guy who came from the ACC [ed. Skeen previously played for Wake Forest] and has big-game experience. If he’s scoring in the 20s and has 7 or 8 rebounds, they have a great chance to win. He can really score it out.”

Is Skeen the best big man left in this tournament? UConn has Alex Oriakh; Butler has Matt Howard; Kentucky has Terrence Jones, who has dipped in play and can’t play to his right.
“I don’t know if he’s the best big man left, but he may be the most diverse. He’s got the ability to play inside and outside as well as anyone left, for sure.”

What weaknesses does Skeen have?
“At times he disappears. Just at times, a little bit. He’s aggressive offensively, and when he’s doing that, VCU’s really tough to beat. He absolutely needs to stay aggressive.”

Which VCU win in the tournament was most impressive win in their tournament run to you: the close one against Florida State? Holding off Kansas? Humbling Purdue?
“I’ve seen all their games. … I think it was Kansas because Kansas came out to start the game and you said, ‘Oh, man, it’s going to be a rout.’ But they hung in there. Not only that, but they got control of the game and did what they wanted to with the ball. They did it against Kansas.”

It didn’t always look this promising for VCU. It was 12-6 in league play, after all.
“They did hit a wall, definitely. I remember talking to Shaka and how he was frustrated with defensive intensity and how they weren’t playing up to potential. They had problems, but they’ve corrected them. They aren’t playing like a mid-major team at this point.”

What can you tell us about Shaka?
“I think he’s always thinking. Always. They seem to have a little different of a gameplan, a different approach, a different edge with whoever they’re playing. They apply that same defensive pressure, constant aggressiveness. That comes from him.”

Of the other three Final Four teams, which weaknesses do they possess that give VCU it's best chance to actually win this tournament? How unfathomable is it to you that VCU could win this?
“It’s not out of the question now. Kentucky’s got the youth. Even though they’ve played well, now it’s different. They’re still young and getting ready to play on a national stage. I think that could factor in a bit. UConn relies so heavily on a great player. If Kemba Walker doesn’t shoot well, that team could be very, very vulnerable. Butler’s overall ability to handle VCU’s pressure could be the biggest thing that prevents them from winning. I think it will be tough for them.  

Which team is the best matchup for VCU?
“I think it’s Butler. I think they match up well with Butler, and then you get the national championship game, and all bets are off."

Photo: AP

More NCAA tournament coverage
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Coaches, VCU
Posted on: March 23, 2011 2:00 pm
Edited on: March 23, 2011 2:10 pm

VCU, Smart attempt to remain tempered, methodic

Posted by Matt Norlander

Shaka Smart's team has been a target this entire tournament.

First it was because of its unwarranted invitation to the NCAA tournament, or so most of us claimed. Then it was because his Virginia Commonwealth Rams defeated a slogging Georgetown squad on the heels of convincingly killing USC in the first round. And then, Sunday: Purdue. The smackdown on the Boilers; oh, what a performance.

We kept — some still keep — waiting for VCU to fail. The longer the wait, the smarter Smart seems. And is.

You see, now the target is as much on the Rams as it is their head coach. Now VCU is dangerous. A hot team not to be flirted with. And Smart's name is being tossed about like an old photo album at a family reunion. Tennessee's the primary school connected to Smart, but pretty much any BCS conference program with a vacancy is considered open for speculation and connotation for Smart's eventual services. He's not the only one (his Richmond colleague, Chris Mooney, is very sought-after, as is Butler's Brad Stevens, who turned down many offers last year; Marquette's Buzz Williams is another), but the Rams' head man is, undoubtedly, 2011's Hot Coaching Prospect.

Richmond, as a city, has embraced its "Hoopstown, U.S.A.," identity. Mooney and Smart live within minutes of each other, yet haven't spoken this week about their good fortune and hard work that's paid off. Here's why.

“They don’t talk to opponents within a week of the game," Smart said. "It's just what they choose to do. So, even one of my assistants, Mike Rhoades, who was the head coach at Randolph-Macon (College), coached one of Mooney’s assistants, and they haven't even talked this week. I've got a ton of respect for those guys.”

Smart is just 33. Thanks to the play of Joey Rodriguez, Jamie Skeen and Bradford Burgess, Smart's stock is ever-rising. Ninety-four points in 66 possessions. That's what VCU did against Purdue, pasting the Boilermakers in the Round of 32. Unheard of against Matt Painter's rugged Purdue crew. An explanation, please.

“Not to sound overly simplistic, but our guys really played. They played," Smart said by phone Tuesday night. "We talked about three things. Playing aggressive, confident and loose. I don’t think there’s been a play where our guys have been looking over their shoulder or been worried about the pressure on them.”

Smart's coached without a sense of pressure as well. At least, he hasn't shown it publicly. These get to be awkward times paired with the thrill that comes with a second-weekend appearance for a non-BCS school. But the VCU players took on the straight-and-narrow approach of their coach. In fact, they wanted out of the River City as soon as possible. 

“They’ve been excited, but they want more and they really are hungry to do more and win more," Smart said. "It’s a good group. All year I think our guys have done a great job putting the last game behind them. Everybody around Richmond wants to remind our guys that we’ve made history, not just at VCU, but first team to win three games in five days in the NCAA tournament. Joey and a couple of other guys told me, 'I can’t wait to get out of Richmond, coach.' They love it here, not that they don’t like Richmond, but they understand our minds need to be clear. We don’t necessarily needed to be patted on the back because we won a few basketball games.”

Read that quote again and have it reinforced to you why Smart's voicemail mailbox is currently full. The only thing Smart can't do right this week is return all the phone calls. The man is forced to put as much information regarding his future to the side right now while he prepares for Florida State.

“They really do a great job of creating droughts for teams in games they play," Smart said about the Seminoles. "Numbers-wise, they are the best defensive team in the country. Every time you play an opponent, you look for defenses' weaknesses and they don’t really have ... any.”

Smart's a capable, terrific candidate to move on to a better job, if he chooses to do that. He's got options in addition to perspective. If VCU doesn't get into the tournament, he probably doesn't get chased. His team has picked the best time possible to play its best basketball. Smart said he hasn't done anything different, and it's not him magically connecting with his group during the more pressurized time of the year.

“We’re certainly playing our best basketball right now, but it’s not like guys who weren’t making 3s are suddenly making 3s weren’t handing the ball beating people off dribble moves," Smart said. "As a whole, we’ve defended better, and I think we’ve also played with an added level of urgency. But at the same time, we played loose. Guys have been able to go out there and do what they do. They haven’t been tense.”

And neither has Smart. His demeanor is as much a reason for the courting as the winning. But the winning always trumps all.

Photo: AP

More NCAA tournament coverage

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 10, 2011 10:39 am
Edited on: March 11, 2011 8:24 pm

Unlike Pearl, Pelphrey's crime could be costly

Posted by Matt Norlander

It’s not as bad as Bruce Pearl, but it’s definitely in the same ballpark.

And Arkansas coach John Pelphrey’s most likely going to lose his job over it. A photo. Another freaking photo. A photo that looks as harmless as the coach so wrongfully taking part in it.

At least Pelphrey didn't lie about it, unlike Pearl. But, to be fair, Pelphrey hasn't been in the same room with people from the NCAA and been given a chance to lie. Also, in his defense (?), Pelphrey did not invite recruits to his house and ask them to go forward and pretend it never happened.

There should be a new rule instituted, or at least a code amongst college basketball coaches: Unless there’s a blood relation, no more pictures taken with anyone under the age of 18. Ever. It’s best not to chance it. Because things like this happen. Things get out. Things are now always getting out, coaches, don't you know that? Yes, you do. Yet this still goes on. The temptation seems Teflon to consequences, no matter how harsh.

Amazing that Pelphrey not only breaks the rules and visits a couple of high school juniors, but then he willfully puts evidence out there. Only a matter of time, in this culture, until the no-no falls crosses the wrong eyes and gets in the wrong ears. The Arkansas coach couldn’t stay away, and now the Arkansas administration will have its hand forced. Or maybe guided, seeing how many believe Pelphrey’s a dead man walking, as is.

This seems to be the tipping point of Pelphrey's tenure.

The symbiosis of this, and how it's ironic as well, is Pelphrey had quite the 2011 recruiting coup. With a heralded class coming in, he was  believed to have at least two more years to turn ship in Fayetteville. But an 18-12 season and a 7-9 SEC record was apparently not enough to warrant him sticking around to reap the rewards of his apparently shady recruiting.

The irony here is unavoidable. Bruce Pearl still has a job for lying and covering up, and then breaking rules after confessing to his lying and cover-ups. Now, here comes Pelphrey, a fellow SEC coach who's probable to be cut loose from the Hogs for a crime far less egregious, but just as illegal.

Photo: AP
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com