June 22, 2024

Dribble Handoff: Kentucky’s Mark Pope, Arkansas’ John Calipari among coaches at new schools thriving so far

College basketball’s teaching ranks underwent a major makeover through the 2024 firing/hiring cycle, as 14 main convention jobs modified palms, together with a few of the high positions within the sport. New faces are at locations like Arkansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio State and USC, simply to call a number of.

Making any assessments about how new coaches are faring would have required endurance a decade in the past. But within the switch portal period, the info begins rolling in early on which first-year coaches are off to good begins. When a training change occurs, it’s protected to imagine a mass exodus of gamers is coming with it.

That leaves new staffs with no alternative however to begin almost from scratch and pull collectively a roster in a matter of months. That course of has been taking part in out throughout the game this spring and can proceed for a number of extra weeks. While a lot of the new coaches don’t have their 2024-25 groups finalized simply but, they’ve all established a basis, at minimal.

For this version of the Dribble Handoff, our writers are selecting the new energy convention head coaches they consider are doing the most effective job so far.

Jake Diebler, Ohio State

The solely coach in his first 12 months at a new college with a crew ranked within the high 15 of the Top 25 And 1 is Diebler. So I suppose Ohio State’s coach needs to be my reply to the query requested.

I’ve rapidly turn out to be a believer.

First, Diebler was in a position to maintain main scorer Bruce Thornton from getting into the switch portal and leaving regardless of rampant tampering all through the ultimate weeks of the season. That was a giant victory for the Buckeyes. After that, Diebler secured commitments from heralded transfers Meechie Johnson (South Carolina), Aaron Bradshaw (Kentucky), Micah Parrish (San Diego State) and Sean Stewart (Duke) to remake Ohio State’s roster in little or no time. Assuming Thornton begins subsequent season alongside these 4 transfers, that’s a very nice first 5 that ought to have the Buckeyes within the 2025 NCAA Tournament after lacking the game’s signature occasion in every of the previous two years. — Gary Parrish

Dusty May, Michigan

As of Thursday morning, Michigan has the third-best switch class this cycle, according to EvanMiya.com. May managed to carry aboard two high-quality bigs (Danny Wolf, Vlad Goldin), which I feel will show to be the distinction in getting Michigan into the 2025 NCAA Tournament. He’s additionally added a pleasant piece within the backcourt by means of (gasp!) Ohio State in Roddy Gayle, plus fellow guards Rubin Jones (North Texas) and Tre Donaldson (Auburn). 

To high it off, they introduced in switch Sam Walters (Alabama), who was seldom-used as a freshman however might emerge as one of many stronger stretch 4s in school hoops subsequent season. He additionally employed perhaps the most effective high assistant of any new coach in a new spot this cycle in Mike Boynton. May inherited a program that was in dysfunction and has Michigan, in my estimation, lined as much as be a top-25 crew subsequent season. And what’s extra, I don’t assume he’s performed. One extra notable switch could possibly be on the best way within the subsequent two weeks.  — Matt Norlander

John Calipari, Arkansas

We’ve gotten so used to Calipari cleansing up on the recruiting path and been blinded partially by his current postseason failures that pushed him away from Kentucky so a lot that what he’s doing proper now in his first season at Arkansas is one way or the other getting hardly the appreciation it deserves. He’s reeled in three top-30 recruits who have been earlier UK recruits, added two essential UK transfers in Adou Thiero and Zvonimir Ivišić, and likewise addressed wants within the backcourt and frontcourt with Johnell Davis and Jonas Aidoo from FAU and Tennessee, respectively. 

If some other excessive main coach in his first 12 months on a new job did in addition to Calipari has performed within the final six weeks we’d be constructing statues. What Calipari does with the roster and whether or not he can parlay this success right into a deep postseason run is in the end the largest query, however he’s assembled the expertise and expertise to make a major splash in Year One with the Hogs. — Kyle Boone

Eric Musselman, USC

There isn’t a large identify in USC’s transfer haul. But there are 9 stable additions who ought to give Eric Musselman an opportunity to compete in Year 1 because the Trojans transition from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten. Eight of them have performed at least three school seasons, and the one who hasn’t is Desmond Claude from Xavier, who’s arguably probably the most proficient of the bunch. Claude averaged 16.6 factors per sport throughout a breakout sophomore season with the Musketeers. 

All of the transfers averaged double figures at their earlier schools, and there may be loads of dimension and flexibility within the group. USC limped to a disappointing 15-18 (8-12) mark in Andy Enfield’s eleventh and last season with a crew that featured extremely touted freshmen Isaiah Collier and Bronny James. Musselman’s first squad probably gained’t have these large names, however it’s going to have the veteran DNA and scoring punch that the 2023-24 Trojans lacked. — David Cobb

Mark Pope, Kentucky

A number of days after Pope formally received the job at his alma mater, the ultimate scholarship participant from the 2023-24 roster entered the switch portal. Rebuilding a roster from scratch is not any simple activity, however Pope has performed a masterful job at it thus far. The largest weak point of final 12 months’s Kentucky crew was protection. Pope helped shore up that unit by touchdown San Diego State guard Lamont Butler and Drexel‘s Amari Williams — both players who have won their conference’s defensive participant of the 12 months award. Pope additionally landed Dayton‘s Koby Brea, who ranked as probably the greatest pure shooters in school basketball. 

The Wildcats nonetheless have some holes to fill on the roster, nevertheless it’s onerous to not be impressed with what Pope has performed in such a brief interval. — Cameron Salerno