Resetting the Names to Watch for Virginia Tech Basketball's Coaching Search

Resetting the Names to Watch for Virginia Tech Basketball's Coaching Search

Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP

TLP: Editor
Apr 07, 2019

Seton Hall's Kevin Willard and Marquette's Steve Wojciechowski were two of the top initial names linked to the opening at Virginia Tech. In the past couple days, Wojciechowski has denied interest in leaving Marquette while Willard has removed his name from Virginia Tech's coaching search. Additionally, a report from the Washington Post's Gene Wang suggested UMBC's Ryan Odom was set to be named the next head coach though multiple reporters both in Baltimore and covering VT. Meanwhile, two of the other big names that have been thrown around as potential candidates, Wichita State's Gregg Marshall and Cincinnati's Mick Cronin have both seemed unlikely the whole time. Marshall's name hasn't really gained any traction probably in part because Virginia Tech likely can't outbid Wichita State financially. Part of the appeal would have to built on Marshall, who grew up in nearby Roanoke, coming home to finish his career in the ACC giving that Marshall is in his mid-50s. While it's unlikely Marshall would consider leaving Wichita State, it's the one appeal that Virginia Tech has that no one else has been able to throw at him. Mick Cronin has been thrown out time and time again simply because he worked with Whit Babcock previously when both were at Cincinnati. However, it appears Cronin is simply helping Babcock with his pursuit of some coaches as he did last time when VT landed Buzz Williams. So after a roller coaster of rumors, here's my reset list of coaches that I think Virginia Tech should consider for their opening.

Wofford's Mike Young

Mike Young is undoubtedly one of the first names thrown out from outside the power conferences largely due to his success this past season, leading Wofford to a 30-5 record, an undefeated conference record, a 7 seed, and an NCAA Tournament win; an impressive achievement for a program in the Southern Conference. Young has also been linked as a contender for the job by Dan Wolken of USA Today. Overall, Young has done quite well at a Wofford program that has slowly improved its support of the program with a 299-244 record including 5 NCAA Tournament appearances, all of which have happened this decade. Additionally, Wofford has had 6 20-wins seasons this decade with a losing conference record only once. Young also is a regional guy with local ties having been born and raised in Radford, VA, graduated from Emory & Henry, and an assistant coach at E&H and Radford early in his career. Combine that with his age (turns 56 in May), and it's easy to imagine Young staying till his retirement if he did well at the helm of Virginia Tech. The big concern with Young would be the fact that he has never coached above the Southern Conference with this being a semi-big jump. Young has spent a lot of time in the Mid-Atlantic but it remains to be seen how good of a recruiter he could be. However, Young has shown that he is a solid talent recruiter in one of the better mid-major conferences. Young has done pretty well during his tenure at Wofford with his best years coming over the past decade. There definitely is some risk with Young given his lack of power conference experience, but his talent evaluation and success this decade would make him a good hire on paper.

East Tennessee State's Steve Forbes

While Mike Young and Mike Rhodes may be the most popular names on this list, Steve Forbes may be the best hire among this group. In four seasons at the helm of ETSU, Forbes has been extremely impressive with a 100-39 record including a minimum of 24 wins each season. Additionally, Forbes was 62-6 in two season as the head coach of JUCO program Northwest Florida State with runner-up finishes in the NJCAA Tournament both years. While Forbes may only have 1 NCAA Tournament appearance in those 4 years, he's proven that he can in at a very high level consistently both with the players he inherited and the players he's brought in. Winning that consistently regardless of who is on the roster or which coach recruited those players is definitely a testament while his time at the JUCO level could be a benefit for being able to evaluate the JUCO level, something that has helped VT as Ty Outlaw showed. Forbes, unlike the other names on this list, has power conference experience as an assistant whether that was with Billy Gillespie (alongside Buzz Williams) at Texas A&M or with Bruce Pearl at Tennessee. Additionally, Forbes spent two seasons as an assistant for Gregg Marshall at Wichita State including their 35-1 season. Now there may be some questions as to how well Forbes can recruit as a head coach at the highest level while him being in his mid-50s may not be as ideal. However, there's no doubt that Forbes has proven he can win both at the JUCO and high mid-major levels while also bringing a strong resume of power conference assistant experience.

VCU's Mike Rhoades

Mike Rhoades is the in-state coach that looks like the most credible candidate after leading VCU back to the NCAA Tournament and to a dominant season in the Atlantic 10 in only his second season at the helm. Rhoades has gone 43-23 in his 2 seasons at VCU with a 16-2 record in the strong Atlantic 10 this past season while going 47-52 in three seasons at Rice before then. While that Rice record may seem weak, he went from 12 wins each of his first two seasons to 23-12 in his third season, an impressive sign of what Rhoades can do when given time. Additionally, Rhoades went 197-76 from 1999-2009 as the head coach at Randolph-Macon before Shaka Smart hired him as his associate head coach. One thing that is intriguing about Rhoades is what he has done bringing in transfers at VCU that have helped the Rams significantly this year whether it was Rice's Marcus Evans or Maine's Isaac Vann. Given how the landscape of collegiate athletics has changed, having someone who knows how to find quality talent via the transfer market is definitely a valuable trait. Rhoades definitely should have the in-state connections from his vast amount of time in Virginia which could prove valauble recruiting throughout the Mid-Atlantic. Rhoades also will only turn 47 next season, almost a decade younger than Mike Young and Steve Forbes which would a likely benefit. Rhoades definitely is a name on the rise and rightfully should be among those considered by the Hokies.

UNC Greensboro's Wes Miller

Wes Miller is by far the youngest candidate on this list at 36, but former JMU and UNC point guard has proven that he has the potential to be a really good coach at the highest levels of the sport. Miller is only 141-117 in 7.5 seasons at the helm, but has done impressive work building the program up and winning at a high level with three-straight 25-win seasons including a 29-7 record this past season. Additionally, Miller does have a pair of Southern Conference titles (shared or outright), 1 NCAA Tournament appearance and 4 total postseason appearance while being the first at-large eligible team being left out of this year's Big Dance, an impressive accomplishment for a team from the Southern Conference. There's no doubt that Miller is young and would likely need a veteran power conference assistant to help him, but he should be a recognizable name throughout ACC country from his time at UNC, something that should help him in recruiting. Miller's age could be an advantage in his energy on the trail, but his lack of coaching experience would make the transition from the Southern to the ACC a lot tougher. The other concern could be that Miller is likely to be a top candidate at North Carolina when Roy Williams does well if he does well in Blacksburg. Having to replace a successful coach every 5 years is something that VT obviously would like to avoid but if Miller is the best candidate that will take the job, that shouldn't stop the Hokies.

St. Bonaventure's Mark Schmidt

Mark Schmidt's name hasn't been mentioned but the job he has done at one of the toughest jobs in the Atlantic 10 can't be understated. Even with their recent success, St Bonaventure was still ranked by A-10 coaches as the 11th best job in the 14-team conference, making the job Schmidt has done even more impressive given how success usually would skew those programs higher up the list. Schmidt has gone 210-168 in 12 seasons at the helm of the Bonnies while making 4 NCAA Tournaments, having 4 20-win seasons, and five-straight seasons with a winning conference record in the Atlantic 10. Schmidt also came close to making a second-straight NCAA Tournament appearance a year after losing star Jaylen Adams and important guard Matt Mobley. Schmidt's record isn't the best and most of his success is in the past 5 years, but his improvement as a coach and the way he has built his program over the past few years in the tough Atlantic 10 is very good. However, there are some who likely could bring up how the changing dynamics of the A-10, given how schools like Xavier and Butler have left, may have opened some doors of opportunity. Now a concern with Schmidt is the fact that most of his coaching roots are in the Northeast and while the ACC's territory has extended up into that section of the country, that may make Virginia Tech a less than ideal fit. However, Schmidt has proven that he can put together strong programs in places that feel off the beaten path. Schmidt seems very unlikely and this may be the first time his name has been mentioned, but the job he's done at one of the worst spots in the A-10 is impressive and given the praise he's received for that jobs, deserves at least some consideration for the VT job.

Photo Credit: Harley Taylor

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