Replacing a School’s Icon

8 Nov

Most every college basketball team has a coach that puts its program on the map.  Mike Krzyzewksi at Duke, Bobby Knight at Indiana and John Wooden at UCLA are just a few examples of coaches who will always be associated with certain programs.  This off-season some schools were forced to move on from coaches who put their schools and teams on the national conscience.  Florida, VCU and Murray State have new coaches because their former ones left for new positions and Utah State will have a new head man because their coaching legend entered retirement.

Billy Donovan spent 19 years at the University of Florida with six Elite Eights, three Final Fours and back-to-back National Championships in 2006 and 2007.  He won 467 games while in Gainesville and 15 of his players went on to play in the NBA.  After finishing 8th in the SEC last season the opportunity to coach Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder came calling, leaving Florida looking the a new basketball coach for the first time since the Clinton administration.  Florida went out and reeled in one of the hottest young coaching prospects in the country, Michael White formerly of Louisiana Tech.  White won 101 games in four seasons with the Bulldogs including 83 over the last three seasons with three first-place finishes in Conference USA and three straight trips to the NIT.   Donovan came to Florida after just two seasons at Marshall and Florida is hoping lightning strikes twice with White.

Shaka Smart was an assistant at Florida under Donovan in 2008-09 before taking the head job at a little school in Richmond, Virginia called Virginia Commonwealth.  In six seasons at VCU Smart installed a style of play that would come to be known as Havoc to the college basketball world.  He won no less than 26 games, won the CBI in his first season, went to the Final Four in his second, and four straight trips to the NCAA Tournament followed before he was finally lured away by the University of Texas.  What better to build upon the foundation that Smart built than to hire a man that served as Smart’s assistant from 2009-2013 Will Wade.  In 2013 Wade left to be the head man at Chattanooga.  In two years with the Mocs he won 40 games and now returns to VCU to continue what Smart started.

Steve Prohm took over at Murray State in 2011 for Billy Kennedy and won 31 games and beat Colorado State in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.  In his final three seasons he won 73 games, a CIT championship and a trip to the NIT quarterfinals.  Prohm was then tabbed to take over at Iowa State for Fred Hoiberg who left for the NBA.  Much like VCU, Murray State looked a few seats down the bench to fill the head role.  Matt McMahon has never been a head coach at the college level but he has been an assistant at Murray State since 2011. He then left to be an assistant at Louisiana Tech for about two weeks before he was offered the top job by his former employer.

Stew Morrill had spent the last 28 years as a college head coach, the last 17 of which have been at Utah State.  In those 17 years he won over 400 games, winning 30 games twice, eight trips to the NCAA Tournament and four other trips to the postseason.  Like some of the other teams looked at here, Utah State looked to a familiar face in assistant Tim Duryea to take over as head coach.  Duryea spent the seven years prior under Morrill.  Now he gets to take over for the school’s basketball icon.

Replacing the guy who is seen as an institution of an institution can be difficult that is why most schools choose to go with someone familiar to them in order to continue their successes.  It will be interesting to follow the happenings at Florida, VCU, Murray State and Utah State this year as icons have moved on and need to be replaced.


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