Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton hired Cannen Cunningham as the Cowboys' newest assistant coach on Tuesday. A ho-hum offseason move on its face made all the more interesting by the fact that Cunningham just happens to be the brother of the No. 3 recruit in the nation: Cade Cunningham.
As expected, many see it as a play to cut to the front of the line for the services of the five-star guard, who is currently uncommitted. Cade Cunningham holds offers from Duke, Kansas and Kentucky among others, but is expected to sign with, you guessed it, Oklahoma State.
It's fair to be skeptical of the hire and the optics behind it, but let's cut to the chase: it's hardly the first time eyebrows have been raised over such a move. College coaches hiring family members, guardians or confidants tied to top recruits as assistant coaches is not a new phenomenon. Cowboys coach Mike Boynton isn't the first to pull such a stunt, and he sure won't be the last.
Dating back to the 1980s, there are instances of coaches hiring fathers, guardians, anyone with a pulse remotely related to a can't-miss player in hopes of said can't-miss player can turn the fortunes of one program around.
Most times, it has been successful. In the 1980s Kansas coach Larry Brown hired Ed Manning to get Danny Manning and was rewarded with a national title. In 2000, then-Memphis coach John Calipari hired Milt Wagner to get DaJuan Wagner, resulting in a key checkpoint in Calipari's quest to one-and-donedom. There are countless other similar occurences.
It should be noted that in an effort to curb the practice, the NCAA enacted a rule in 2010 prohibiting the hiring of individuals associated with recruited players to non-coaching positions (such as director of basketball operations or other supporting adminstrative jobs), but that rule does not pertain to assistant coaches.
Here's a handful of the most interesting times a staff member's hiring drew some attention because of their relationship to a top recruit.
1. Southern Cal hires Eric Mobley (2018)
This was a two-fer. As a result of this hire not only did Southern Cal land top-20 recruit Isaiah Mobley, Eric Mobley's elder son who will be a freshman next year. The hiring of Eric Mobley (likely) will get them Evan Mobley, the younger son ranked as the consensus No. 1 player in the 2020 class. The result is still yet to be determined on this hire, but even amidst an FBI scandal and zero wins in the Big Dance since taking over in 2013, coach Andy Enfield has remained employed. Hiring the elder Mobley essentially bought him three years insurance in this case. The Trojans could be the most talented team in the Pac-12 in 2020.
2. SMU hires Tyrone Maxey (2017)
In an effort to keep South Garland (Texas) product Tyrese Maxey, the No. 10 player in the 2019 class, at home, SMU hired his father in the late summer months of 2017.
Nine months later, Maxey pledged to Kentucky -- shortly before Maxey pledged to UK and, presumably, with news that the hire wasn't enough to sway Maxey into going to SMU. He's now signed his national letter of intent and will be a freshman at UK this upcoming season. What was supposed to be a package deal wound up being a package dud.
3. Washington (2016) - then Missouri (2017) - hires Michael Porter Sr.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar hired Michael Porter Sr. in 2016 in hopes of getting his son, Michael Porter Jr., who at the time of his hiring was the No. 1 player in the 2017 recruiting class. And it worked. Porter Jr. pledged to Washington months after his father was hired ... but Romar was canned in March 2017 and the Porter's looked elsewhere.
Later, in 2017, after Cuonzo Martin left Cal for Missouri, Martin hired Michael Porter Sr. From there, Porter Jr. got out of his letter of intent in the spring of 2017 and ultimately signed with Missouri. Martin and Mizzou got a triple-helping of the Porter family when Porter Sr. and Porter Jr. were joined by Jontay Porter, the younger brother who reclassified from 2018 to 2017 shortly afterwards. He spent two seasons at Mizzou and went undrafted after entering the NBA Draft last week.
4. LSU hires David Patrick (2012)
This wasn't as blatantly foul as some other moves, but LSU coach Johnny Jones hiring David Patrick -- the godfather of prodigious prospect Ben Simmons -- in 2012 certainly seemed calculated. Even by 2012, Simmons was seen as a game-changing talent and later became the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2015 class. Simmons picked LSU in the end, joining his godfather. LSU won 19 games and missed the NCAA Tournament in Simmons' only college season and Patrick left in 2016 to take a job on TCU's staff with Jamie Dixon.
5. Western Kentucky hires Shammond Williams (2016)
If you weren't convinced by now that hiring godfather's isn't a guaranteed win, this instance will win you over. Western Kentucky coach Rick Stansbury in 2016 hired Shammond Williams -- the godfather of five-star recruit Mitchell Robinson -- and things never worked out. In fact, Robinson committed to Western Kentucky, arrived on campus, but never actually played. He left campus and waffled on whether to play college basketball before ultimately deciding to take the year off. He was drafted No. 36 overall in 2018 by New York and is now one of the few bright spots for the basketball future of the Knicks. Williams resigned before the 2017-18 season.
6. Western Kentucky hires Hennssy Auriantal (2018)
A double dosage of Western Kentucky. Rick Stansbury knows how to work it!
In this instance, he hired Hennssy Auriantal, the guardian of former five-star center Charles Bassey, to land Bassey. Unlike Robinson, it worked. Bassey was one of the best players in Conference USA last season, and after a disappointing pre-draft process, he announced earlier this summer he'll be back for a second season with the Hilltoppers. Auriantal is still on staff at WKU.
7. Memphis hires Milt Wagner (2000)
DaJuan Wagner was a potential preps-to-pros candidate and could have been a top pick in 2001, but instead he played at Memphis for one season under John Calipari after Calipari brought on board his father, Milt Wagner, as the Coordinator of Basketball Operations at Memphis. The elder Wagner remained employed with the Tigers program through 2006, just a few years before Calipari parachuted into the Kentucky job.
8. Kansas hires Ronnie Chalmers (2005)
The instance most people connect to Kansas is the one I noted earlier: that Larry Brown hired Ed Manning, the father of star recruit Danny Manning. But a lesser-known perhaps more notable, instance came under the current coach Bill Self in 2005 when he hired the father of Mario Chalmers, Ronnie.
Yes, like many on this list, Mario wound up playing at KU -- and playing a large role. In 2008, he hit a critical shot in the national title game that pushed the KU-Memphis game to overtime. The Jayhawks would oust the Tigers, giving Self his first (and thus far, only) national championship.
9. Memphis hires Keelon Lawson (2014)
Josh Pastner made a strategic, smart hire in 2014 by tabbing Keelon Lawson as an assistant. The move ultimately netted the Tigers commitments from Dedric and K.J. Lawson, Keelon's eldest sons, and seemingly put them in the catbird seat to land Class of 2019 star Chandler Lawson. Tulane next season.) Chandler signed with Oregon and will be a freshman with the Ducks next season., Tubby Smith demoted Keelon Lawson, and Dedric and K.J. wound up transferring to Kansas. (Dedric has since turned pro, and K.J. will be a grad transfer at
10. Baylor hires Dwon Clifton (2008)
In most cases, hires are rewarded by a commitment from whichever prospect the respective incoming employee is tied to. In this case, that was not so. Baylor hired Dwon Clifton, the AAU coach of blue-chip recruit John Wall, as its Director of Player Development in 2008. It backfired. Less than a year later, Wall committed to Kentucky.