10 coaches on the rise: Jerod Haase has UAB on right track

Brad Underwood (USATSI)
Stephen F. Austin coach Brad Underwood is a rising star in the coaching ranks. (USATSI)

Who will be the next under-the-radar coach to be make a jump to a power-five conference? Check out our list of 10 coaches on the rise in college basketball. In no particular order:

Travis DeCuire, Montana

DeCuire nearly succeeded Mike Montgomery in 2014 at Cal and his first season as head coach of his alma mater was a successful one. Montana won 20 games last year and advanced to the Postseason NIT all while showing tons of promise for the future. A terrific recruiter, DeCuire already landed Oregon transfer Ahmad Rorie -- a former Top-100 recruit -- and should be in position to keep the Grizzlies’ foundation strong thanks to his keen eye for talent.

Mike Rhoades, Rice

Ask anyone who was associated with VCU’s program during the Shaka Smart era and they’ll tell you Rhoades had a major hand in the Rams’ success. A coach’s coach, the Pennsylvania native coached his tail off last year as he led the Owls to an unthinkable eight conference victories despite limited resources. With Rice’s recruiting on the upswing, look for Rhoades to have this program among the elite in Conference-USA by the 2016-17 season.

Heath Schroyer, UT-Martin

A grinder’s grinder, Schroyer quietly orchestrated one of the biggest turnarounds in the sport last season as he led the Skyhawks to 21 wins in his first year as head coach after the program only won eight the season prior. Known for his recruiting prowess when he was an assistant at UNLV, Schroyer proved he could coach last March when he led UT Martin to an appearance in the CIT which resulted in the program’s first postseason win in 22 years. Don’t be shocked if this team winds up winning the OVC West and pushing Belmont for a conference title with Schroyer on the sidelines.

Bryce Drew, Valpo

After being mentioned for the vacancies at both DePaul and Iowa State, Drew returns to Valpo where he’ll coach a team that took Maryland to the wire last March in the Round of 64. In four years as a head coach, Drew has never won fewer than 18 games in a season and boasts an impressive 49-17 record in the Horizon League. It’s not a matter of if, but when Drew becomes a head coach in a power conference.

Dan Muller, Illinois State

Muller led his alma mater back to national relevance when it upset Wichita State last March and the hope is that things go a step further this year after last season’s appearance in the Postseason NIT. Illinois State has an aggressive non-conference schedule and it says here the Redbirds will beat one team in November or December they’re not supposed to because of Muller -- a player’s coach who gets his guys to buy in on defense in exchange for freedom on offense.

Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin

You know you’ve made it as a mid-major head coach when nobody will schedule your program. Underwood scrambled all summer long to fill his non-conference slate because nobody would play Stephen F. Austin and with the Lumberjacks success the past two years it’s tough to blame potential opponents. In the last two seasons, Underwood has led Stephen F. Austin to a 61-8 record along with an impressive 35-1 mark in conference play. That includes a trip to the Round of 32 in the 2014 NCAA Tournament which was headlined by an upset victory over VCU.

Jerod Haase, UAB

Conference USA needs a new program to emerge as an anchor and UAB has a chance to fill that void because of Haase. The 41-year old head coach officially arrived on the national scene last March when he led the Blazers to an upset over Iowa State in the NCAA Tournament and he should have an excellent chance to lead UAB to the field of 68 for the second straight season. Eloquent, mature, and confident beyond his years, Haase doesn’t get too high or too low and that allows his team to play with an unbelievable sense of confidence. Just ask Fred Hoiberg.

Andy Toole, Robert Morris

The former Penn point guard has averaged 22 wins per season in five years as a head coach and finally broke through last March and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Toole was offered the Fordham job last spring, but opted to stay at Robert Morris with the hopes of landing something better down the line. As long as he does what he’s done over the last half decade, that’s a virtual certainty.

Tim Cluess, Iona

The former high school coach has won an unfathomable 78.0 percent of his conference games since taking over the Gaels’ program in 2010 and has led Iona to two NCAA Tournaments and five postseasons during that span. If an athletic director in a power conference wants to sleep well next spring, they’ll hire Cluess based on the one attribute that matters most in collegiate athletics -- winning.

Russell Turner, UC Irvine

Former NBA assistant was a possession away from beating Louisville last year in the NCAA Tournament and then decided to turn down the vacancy at George Mason. Turner has the pedigree, demeanor, and respect needed to be a high-major head coach and he should again have the team to beat in the Big West.

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