College basketball coaching moves 2018: Ranking the top new hires of the offseason and last season

The 2018 coaching carousel isn't quite yet stopped, but we're getting close. Barring any unexpected movement, it looks like 52 jobs in all will have changed. The majority of motion came at the mid- and low-major level, as it usually does (but was exceptionally higher this year).

Still, there were 10 hirings that stood out above the others. Below, I have an inspection on those 10 coaches. Keep in mind that, although everything is optimistic right now, some of those coaching calls will wind up not working out. The odds essentially guarantee it. 

The 10 aforementioned men might want to call these next six coaches for a little advice. Let's look real quick at the most immediately successful hiring decisions from 2017. This half-dozen group of guys, in addition to LIU Brooklyn's Derek Kellogg, are the only first-year coaches who got things going in the good immediately. They were hired approximately one year ago -- and got to the 2018 NCAA Tournament

2017's most immediately successful hires

Ohio State's Chris Holtmann took the Buckeyes from the mired, messy middle of the Big Ten to being a No. 5 seed and going 25-9 in year one. Keita Bates-Diop developed into a probable first-round draft pick in the last eight months as well. Now Holtmann is landing five-star recruits and seemingly setting up Ohio State to position itself along the upper ridge of the Big Ten going forward. Given his rep and his record as a coach, it's looking right now like OSU has its coach for the next decade-plus.

Butler AD Barry Collier hired alumnus LaVall Jordan, who did plenty well for himself and filled Holtmann's shoes fine. The Bulldogs knocked off then-No. 1, and eventual national champion, Villanova on Dec. 30. It was Villanova's only loss in its first 23 games. Butler won an NCAA Tournament game. Jordan has the demeanor and discipline to keep this program in the top half of a very good Big East. Collier seems to have made the right call. 

NC State went 21-12 and got a No. 9 seed in year one under Kevin Keatts, who inherited some solid talent -- but a lot of those players went 15-17 the previous year under Mark Gottfried. Keatts boosted morale by coaching his team to wins over Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, Arizona, Florida State and Penn State (eventual NIT champions). 

Holtmann was the biggest surprise success story among first-year guys last season, but Missouri's Cuonzo Martin managed the biggest win turnaround. Missouri went 8-24 in its final year under Kim Anderson. With Martin, Mizzou got a No. 8 seed thanks to a 20-win run that included Ws over Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Alabama. Missouri had a strong year despite the fact Michael Porter Jr. was not available to play, save for 53 of the team's 1,330 minutes.

New Mexico State fared well under new leadership. Chris Jans went 28-6 and landed a 12 seed in the Big Dance. Perhaps even more importantly, NMSU swept loathed rival New Mexico, who is now coached by Jans' predecessor, Paul Weir. The Aggies also won neutral-court games over eventual NCAA Tournament participants Davidson and Miami. 

The last of the six first-year coaches who made the NCAAs: San Diego State's Brian Dutcher. The Aztecs (22-11) earned an 11 seed after winning the Mountain West's automatic bid, getting there by beating Nevada by 17 in the league semifinals. Dutcher was the longtime coach-in-waiting under Steve Fisher. He got the team a home win over Gonzaga, which was one of only four losses for the Bulldogs in the regular season.

So which of the coaches you're about to read up on will make the NCAA Tournament next year in their first season on the job? I'm setting the over/under at 3.5. 

The evaluations below are based on the school's end of the deal, because obviously all the coaches improved their personal situations. Here were the 10 most notable hires in college basketball this spring. 

2018's slam dunks

Previously: Head coach at Xavier
Career record: 215-97
NCAA Tournament record: 11-8
Regular-season conference championships: 3

Evaluation: Simple eval here. Mack was Louisville's top target; the school landed said target. Given Mack's profile on the market in the past three years (he was viewed as an A-level candidate), Louisville did the best it possibly could have done. That's a slam dunk. Mack, 48, brings not just a big name and buzz to the hire, but a track record to back up the noise. He went to the NCAA Tournament in eight of his nine seasons at Xavier, plus took X to the Elite Eight and got the school to its first 1 seed in history. He's outgoing, good with the media and built to handle all that comes with the Louisville job. 

After the Pitino predicament set the program back -- and still might do so, given the NCAA is yet to investigate the transgressions uncovered by the FBI -- the Cardinals might come out of this OK. Outside factors could still hinder the school going forward, but judging his hire based on who was available and who was attainable, Louisville was splendid. 

Previously: Head coach at Rhode Island
Career record: 151-105
NCAA Tournament record: 2-2
Regular-season conference championships: 1

Evaluation: UConn is similar to Louisville in that it reeled in its top target -- a high-profile target at that -- so it easily lands in the slam dunk category. But unlike Mack, Hurley wasn't just debating between staying at his old school or moving to a bigger league and better program. Pitt was also tugging on Hurley's ear. Ultimately the 45-year-old took the more sensible job for him and his personality. It would have been devastating to UConn's fan base and administration if Hurley picked the Panthers over the Huskies. His decision stabilized some of UConn's standing in college basketball.     

UConn's in a critical time of transition. The Huskies should be a top-three team in the American year over year. Hurley's tenure will go a long way to proving if that's the case, or if UConn is a few stages removed from what it was in the Big East under Jim Calhoun. Hurley's built to thrive at a place like UConn, but a lingering question is how many five-star types Hurley will get to Storrs. Keep in mind, this isn't the Dan Hurley you might have in your mind. That guy is gone. Hurley was quite successful at Rhode Island. At UConn, the expectations are fivefold to URI. Keeping that in mind, I think he will will be about as good in Storrs as he was in Kingston. 

2018's quality hires

Previously: Was fired at Indiana in 2017, resumes coaching after a year's hiatus
Career record: 356-231
NCAA Tournament record: 11-9
Regular-season conference championships: 3

Evaluation: The 52-year-old Crean takes what could/should be his final coaching job. What makes me say that? I think Crean, who just had a lauded year as a color commentator, either finds decade-long success at Georgia or washes out and heads back to TV work for good. I think the more likely outcome is the former. Georgia is one of the biggest underachieving programs in Division I men's basketball. Its proximity to Atlanta-area talent and its opportunity to bolster its facilities have left a lot to be desired. The Bulldogs sit short of where they should stand in their league and on a national scope.

UGA brings in Crean, who is unquestionably the most accomplished coach of any who was hired this year. That's a big win for Georgia. The reason it's not a slam dunk is Crean's newness to the region. He's coached at the highest levels of college basketball for almost two decades, but how will he fare in the SEC and with a different set of circumstances around him? 

Previously: Assistant coach at Duke 
Career record: 175-110
NCAA Tournament record: 4-3
Regular-season conference championships: 1

Evaluation: Capel, 43, is back to running a program for the first time since he was fired at Oklahoma in 2011. Pittsburgh, which I and many other coaches would rank 10th or 11th in the ACC in job appeal, landed the most high-profile assistant coach in the game. Athletic director Heather Lyke seems to have made a nice hire here, though I'd be remiss not to mention that Capel did have 13 wins vacated while at Oklahoma due to violations made by one of his former assistants. 

Capel's been integral to recruiting Duke to top-two status in recruiting classes year over year since 2012. He knows the league well and has nine years of experience as a head coach. This can work. Other solid options were out there for Pitt, but no one Lyke interviewed had the recruiting track record to match Capel. 

Previously: Head coach at Middle Tennessee
Career record: 403-238
NCAA Tournament record: 2-5
Regular-season conference championships: 7

Evaluation: After building a borderline powerhouse at Middle Tennessee, Davis gets to coach in the conference he's long coveted a job in: the SEC. Credit to school AD Ross Bjork, who did not hold Davis' age (he's 58, making him the oldest of any of the hires listed in this story) against him. The Rebels' job is no-doubt-about-it considered in the bottom three of the SEC, but Davis has the acumen and recruiting strengths to work his way up in the league. This looks like a good connection.

It's key to remember that Ole Miss parted ways with Andy Kennedy, who only made two NCAA Tournaments but was still the best coach in school history. Davis might be able to match Kennedy. It won't be uncomplicated but I think he can get Mississippi into the NCAAs by year No. 3. Take a look at that career record above. Four hundred and three victories. Ole Miss went out and hired the winningest coach of any on the market this year. 

Previously: Head coach at Florida Gulf Coast
Career record: 171-110
NCAA Tournament record: 0-2
Regular-season conference championships: 3

Evaluation: At 52, Dooley returns to a job he had when he was turning 30 years old. ECU had Dooley on staff for eight years total, four as an assistant (1991-95) and four as coach (1995-99). He went 57-52 at ECU, back when the Pirates were in the CAA. Now Dooley's got a thicker resume, including a terrific five-year operation at Florida Gulf Coast. 

East Carolina's not a great job, but it's in a good conference and it's so overdue for some success. The Pirates last made the NCAA Tournament in 1993. This school was going to have to hire an assistant coach at a major program that was familiar with the region or it was going to need to lure in a successful mid-major coach. It got the latter. I think this works out. I think Dooley takes ECU to at least one NCAA tourney, which is all the school can ask for at this point. 

Previously: Assistant coach at Villanova
Career record: 0-0
NCAA Tournament record: 0
Regular-season conference championships: 0

Evaluation: The right hire, the guy who can potentially get La Salle consistently in the top half of the A-10. Howard's been assistant at La Salle, Drexel and Villanova. He played at Drexel. When you're in Philly you need a Philly guy in order to succeed. Might seem like an outdated philosophy, but it's the reality in college basketball. Howard's a Philly guy through and through. You'll notice in the next section that all the coaches listed have never held head coaching jobs before. Howard fits that criterion, but he falls under a quality addition in this section because of his city ties and the fact that Villanova doesn't win two national titles in three years if he isn't on Jay Wright's staff.

2018's wait-and-see hires

Previously: Promoted from assistant coach at Xavier
Career record: 0-0
NCAA Tournament record: 0-0
Regular-season conference championships: 0

Evaluation: The Xavier job in 2018 isn't what the Xavier job was in 2008 or 2000 or 1992. Which is to say: It's never been this good.  It's in the Big East, now a top-30 post. So while Xavier athletic director Greg Christopher opted to stick the formula that's worked for decades (hire an in-house guy who's not a big name and has never been a head coach before), we've still got to see if Steele, who is 36, can pull this off. There's a good chance that he will, because Xavier is well-run. 

But it is only fair to judge this hire with a wait-and-see approach. Steele was a critical recruiter for Mack at Xavier, and now he gets a shot at going up against a lot of heavy hitters in his region. That includes his former boss, Mack, who he'll inevitably wind up battling on the recruiting trail. Villanova is still the throne-holder in the Big East, while Xavier has the strongest claim to the No. 2 spot. If the Steele hire works out, X doesn't lose its toehold there. 

Previously: Head coach at Memphis-East High School
Career record: 0-0
NCAA Tournament record: 0-0
Regular-season conference championships: 0

Evaluation: Hardaway, who is 46 (if you can believe it!), is already getting big things done at his alma mater. What's not in question is Hardaway's love of basketball, his devotion to the city of Memphis and his ability to land top-100 recruits. But he's never coached in college, and now comes a fascinating experiment. We've seen a lot of alumni in recent years take over at the schools that made them famous. Those results have varied. Hardaway's gone even more unconventional by adding Mike Miller, a former NBA player and star at Florida, to his staff. (Miller's using his NBA championship ring with the Miami Heat as a recruiting tool, of course.)

Maybe this winds up being a brilliant hire that gets Memphis back to being a top-25 program. Maybe the whole thing caves in on itself and winds up as another disappointment at a school dotted with them. What we do know: Barring anything unethical, Hardaway should get at least five years to fix Tigers basketball. 

Previously: Promoted from assistant coach at Rhode Island
Career record: 0-0
NCAA Tournament record: 0-0
Regular-season conference championships: 0

Evaluation: Cox, 44, was promoted after Hurley took the UConn job. AD Thorr Bjorn probably made the right call here, because keeping Cox means that everyone who was expected to return to Rhody next season should do so. That will correlate to being a top-three team in the A-10 again and keep stability at the program. If Cox and his staff can bring in at least one top-125 player annually, Rhode Island will operate as a top-50 program in college basketball.

URI has a fan base that's dispirited it lost Hurley to a bordering state and much bigger program, but now it has a chip on its shoulder as well. They'd love to see evidence that URI can win without Hurley. It would mean the program has something going for itself. Cox appears equipped for the task, but let's check in three years from now to see where the Rams stand in their conference.      

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning senior writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his ninth season reporting on college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics... Full Bio

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