Patrick Ewing has the toughest job among college basketball's new coaches

There were dozens of coaching changes this offseason which shook up the landscape of college basketball heading into the 2017-18 season. Some coaches were ousted, others left on their own volition, and others -- such as Indiana's Archie Miller or Ohio State's Chris Holtmann -- left for greener pastures.

No matter the scenario with these moves, there were 13 which could alter the course of this season -- 11 in the major conferences, as well as two big-time mid-majors that lost their coaches to greener paychecks. Each of these new coaches is in for a challenge all his own, but some are more difficult than others. With that, we rank these jobs from easiest to most difficult starting position.

1. Indiana: Archie Miller

Miller loses three of the top four leading scorers Tom Crean coached a season ago in a disappointing season. But he inherits senior Robert Johnson, a sharpshooter poised for a big senior year in Bloomington, as well as starting point guard Josh Newkirk and rising forward Juwan Morgan.

Expectations under Miller in year one are largely tempered. Given what talent migrated to the NBA, the Hoosiers are rebuilding and aren't likely to challenge for the Big Ten title -- or even the top half of the league, for that matter. But he's recruited well, landing signatures from four top-250 talents headlined by four-star forward Justin Smith. He's also got three commitments from top-100 prospects in the Class of 2018, so the future under Miller in Hoosiertown appears bright, even if Year One isn't a major splash for the former Dayton coach.

2. Ohio State: Chris Holtmann

chrisholt.jpg
Holtmann had plenty of success at Butler. USATSI

The former Butler coach inherits a difficult situation at Ohio State, where the roster has largely been gutted following the departure of longtime coach Thad Matta. Holtmann has a trio of reliable veterans in Jae'Sean Tate, Kam Williams and Keita Bates-Diop, but replacing Marc Loving and JaQuan Lyle -- two of the team's top three scorers from 2016 -- will be a challenge.

Fortunately for him, things have gone off without a hitch on the recruiting trail. He's already signed three top-150 prospects and brought them on campus, and his 2018 class is loaded with talent from California, Texas and New Jersey. He's gone national in his recruiting approach, and right now his Buckeyes recruiting Class of 2018 ranks 13th in the country, according to 247Sports

Don't expect an NCAA Tournament appearance from Holtmann's Buckeyes in 2017-18, but he's got incoming talent that will change those fortunes soon. And most importantly: Ohio State is invested in him long-term, which should smooth out the beginning of his tenure as he transitions to a school largely focused on football. 

3. LSU: Will Wade

The good news for Wade is that LSU went 10-21 last season, which means there's plenty of room for improvement. Even better news? Wade returns a nice core of players including four of the teams starters, headlined by Duop Reath and Brandon Sampson.

And the best news of all? Wade's enrolled three top-150 high school recruits headlined by former Georgetown point guard pledge Tremont Waters.

If there's a downside, it's that the SEC appears to be a stronger conference from top to bottom this season, and LSU is likely to finish on the lower end of the spectrum. With all the positives, it's important to note that Wade has a beast of a rebuild in front of him. However, LSU is a place he's already proven he can recruit to. It's yet to be determined if it's a place he can also win big at like he did at VCU but he's also not being brought into a situation where he's expected to win big right away.

4. VCU: Mike Rhoades

Outlook: Last season, VCU won 25 games under Will Wade. That helped make it easier for the program to be turned over to Rhoades, a former VCU assistant who had spent three seasons turning around Rice.

Rhoades enters a situation with the team coming off a 25-win season, and despite losing three of the top four scorers in Mo Alie-Cox, Samir Doughty and JeQuan Lewis, inherits a roster ready to compete for an Atlantic 10 title with Justin Tillman and Jonathan Williams returning. An A-10 regular season title shouldn't be out of the question, even with as much turnover the team has suffered this offseason. He arguably enters the best situation just in terms of inheriting a ready-made team primed to challenge for the conference crown.

5. Butler: LaVall Jordan

Outlook: The Bulldogs tradition of maintaining coaching excellence handed down by Chris Holtmann should continue under Jordan, who has a team that should challenge for the top-half of the Big East. Butler is led by Kelan Martin, a lock for the All-Big East First Team, as well as a ready-made point guard and budding star in Kamar Baldwin

With a recruiting class which features four-star point guard Aaron Thompson, Jordan's tenure should go off without a hitch. If he can recruit like Holtmann did and develop talent as Butler has been known to do, Jordan should have no issues adapting to his new role at the helm.

6. Missouri: Cuonzo Martin

361224.jpg
Martin already has had recruiting success. USATSI

Outlook: No coach has done more in a short span than Martin, who left Cal to take over the Tigers program from fired coach Kim Anderson. Martin landed the No. 2 overall prospect in Michael Porter Jr. and his five-star younger brother, Jontay, and has a talented freshman class primed to make an impact right away.

Expectations for Martin, fair or not, are to make it to the NCAA Tournament this season. If he falls short with the amount of talent on the roster, it might be difficult to maintain the extraordinary momentum he's been able to channel this offseason given their recent struggles in the SEC. But if he can continue recruiting the way he's started, the Martin era at Missouri could prove to be fruitful -- even in one of the tougher jobs in the conference.

7. Illinois: Brad Underwood

Outlook: Underwood bolted Oklahoma State days after it lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, replacing John Groce in Champaign and bringing with him an offensive philosophy that will rejuvenate Illini nation.

Underwood has to replace the top three scorers from last season but with a top-30 incoming recruiting class, he's got a lot to build around and should have no issues getting upper-level talent to join his system moving forward.

For 2017, a roster filled with graduate transfer Mark Alstork, junior Leron Black and true freshman Mark Smith might be fun to watch. However, Underwood is undertaking a rebuild bigger than the previous job he volunteered for at OSU. Illinois is a likely mid-tier Big Ten team at best this season, but Underwood took a job he's positioned to win big at. Getting talent won't be a problem, and he's proven he can do more with less at each of his stops as a head coach.

8. NC State: Kevin Keatts

After a successful stint at UNC Wilmington, Keatts has taken the reins from Mark Gottfried, who was fired after six seasons and failed to meet expectations bestowed on him based off the NBA talent he recruited. Keatts now inherits an overhauled roster that lost its three leading scorers from last season, including lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr.

However, the Wolfpack bring in talented graduate transfer Allerik Freeman and bring back big men Omer Yurtseven and Abdul-Malik Abu. There's enough experience and depth to make a push in the middle of the ACC. Factor in talented incoming prospect Lavar Batts, as well as a top-40 recruiting class for 2018, and it's easy to become bullish on the Keatts era at NC State.

9. Dayton: Anthony Grant

anthony-grant.jpg
Grant has done this before. USATSI

Outlook: Filling the shoes of Archie Miller in Dayton won't be easy, but Grant -- a former Alabama and VCU coach -- steps into a position at his alma mater where he won't be required to lead a rebuild.

The Flyers replace three of their top scorers, but with the return of Darrell Davis, Xeryius Williams and Josh Cunningham, the pieces are there for Grant to compete at a high level in the A-10 now and moving forward -- even if they don't make it to the NCAA Tournament in year one.

Grant has already gotten off to a fast start on the recruiting trail, too. With the commitment of Class of 2018 four-star Dwayne Cohill already in hand -- the second-highest rated player to ever commit to the school -- Grant has a chance to build something unique and carry on the success Archie Miller began.

10. California: Wyking Jones

Outlook: Cal promoted an assistant coach from within following the departure of Cuonzo Martin -- a not-so-sexy move that didn't make much sense at the time. But Jones has a wealth of coaching experience at places Cal, Louisville, New Mexico and Pepperdine, and he has an opportunity with a rebuilt roster to prove he belongs.

The problem? Jones loses Ivan Rabb to the NBA, Charlie Moore to transfer, and Grant Mullins and Jabari Byrd to graduation, which makes the Year One outlook look rather bleak. 

Cal is likely to take a major step back this season after back-to-back 20-plus win seasons. With eight newcomers to the team as part of its Class of 2017, Jones is steering a completely new ship this season. And while he's fighting an uphill battle, he's got two top-100 commits for 2018 who could help shape his tenure moving forward.

11. Washington: Mike Hopkins

Outlook: The Huskies are coming off an abysmal 9-22 season despite boasting No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, but the good news for long-time Syracuse assistant Hopkins is that he inherits a relative young and talented roster. With four of the team's five leading scorers returning, Hopkins has plenty to build on. David Crisp and Noah Dickerson can form a fearsome inside-out duo, and both averaged double-digits last season.

Still, Hopkins has quite a task in front of him and expectations are that his squad will finish in the bottom tier of the Pac-12. He's not likely to recruit the way former coach Lorenzo Romar did, so he'll have to rely on development and a keen eye for scouting to become successful in Seattle.

12. Oklahoma State: Mike Boynton

Outlook: As with Jones at Cal, promoting assistant coach Boynton to head of the program after Brad Underwood left wasn't a sexy, splashy move by Oklahoma State. But Boynton has a talented roster handed down by Underwood headlined by preseason All-Big 12 guard Jeffrey Carroll, as well as high-flying forward Davon Dillard.

Boynton's big loss will be replacing Jawun Evans who left for the NBA, but C-Sun graduate transfer Kendall Smith and talented true freshman Zach Dawson may be able to split the duty in replacing Evans' production.

For Boynton, however, the most difficult task he's inherited since taking over is an ongoing FBI investigation which resulted in the arrest of his associate head coach Lamont Evans. Evans is accused of steering players to agents or advisers in exchange for bribe money, and the investigation into the program continues to cast a cloud over the OSU program and Boynton's tenure, although he's not been implicated in the matter.

13. Georgetown: Patrick Ewing

patrickewingcoach.jpg
Patrick Ewing has a tough task ahead of him as Georgetown's coach. USATSI

Outlook: The offseason wasn't kind to Georgetown, which lost its top-rated recruit to LSU and two of its top scorers. Not the kind of welcome back you might expect for the greatest player in program history. Jessie Govan and Marcus Derrickson return, however, which gives Ewing a nucleus to build around. And adding graduate transfer Trey Dickerson was a boon, as well. Also in Ewing's favor - a ridiculously easy schedule after the Hoyas backed out of the PK80 tournament.

Even taking into account the projected core, expectations for Ewing aren't high right away. The Hoyas might still be one of the bottom two teams in the Big East, and even at a place like Georgetown with a name like Patrick Ewing, he has an uphill climb to returning the Hoyas to prominence. Factor in a impatient fanbase and a lack of relevance on the national scale in the last several years, and it's easy to understand why Ewing has his work cut out for him. John Thompson III left the cupboard bare for the Georgetown legend.

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories