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Jason Belzer

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Top College Basketball Assistant Coach Hires

Over the past few seasons, I compiled lists of the top assistant coaches in men’s college basketball, most of which have now gone on to lead their own programs as head coaches. In creating such lists, I have had to consider a number of factors, including: work ethic, servant’s mentality, reliability, attention to detail, recruiting skills, and overall basketball knowledge. What is most imperative to remember is that even though assistant coaches are integral parts of each program, they are not irreplaceable. A good assistant supports his head coach, and not the other way around.

Instead of releasing another generic ranking of top assistants, this time around I wanted to focus on recognizing recently hired assistants who had the big impacts on their respective coaching staffs. These are the guys who have given countless hours of dedicated service both on and off the court, and offered much blood, sweat and tears to elevate their programs to new heights over the last few years.

Almost all of those listed have proven themselves to be worthy of running their own programs soon. Most importantly is the realization that this list was created not to classify the haves from the have-nots, but to honor those assistants who have done exceptional work and been an invaluable piece of the puzzle when it comes to their head coaches’ efforts to build a successful program.

Bacari Alexander – Michigan
After a disappointing 2010 season, John Beilien needed to retool his staff and bring on an assistant with strong Mid-West ties and a second-to-none work ethic. Detroit native Bacari Alexander was just that person, proving to be an invaluable asset to the Michigan staff over the last two seasons. Bacari played a critical role in securing in Michigan’s top ranked recruiting 2012 class, highlighted by elite Power Forward Mitch McGary, and has the Wolverines on the cusp of their second straight NCAA tournament apperance.

TJ Cleveland – Arkansas
The only coach on the list now at his Alma mater, Mike Anderson’s hire of TJ Cleveland was not only a sure fire way to establish credibility with the Arkansas fan base, but all but guaranteed success on the recruiting trail for years to come. Not surprisingly, Cleveland helped secure an outstanding inaugural class for the Razorbacks, including state natives Bobby Portis and Dederick Lee.

Mike Dunlap – St. Johns
Arriving at St. Johns after a hiatus in coaching, Steve Lavin turned to long time friend and mentor Mike Dunlap to ease the transition and insure he could lead the Johnnies to the same success he brought to UCLA. Dunlap, who spent much of his career on the West Coast, led Metropolitan State College to two Division II national championships. Dunlap helped the St. Johns’ staff hit the ground running by landing back-to-back recruiting classes featuring the country’s top prospects, including forward Maurice Harkless, center Norvel Pelle and guard D’Angelo Harrison.

Andre LeFleur – Providence
Much of the reason behind Providence College’s fall from the top of the Big East in recent years has been its inability to keep key Northeastern recruits from going to rival schools. New coach Ed Cooley understood this well enough to steal away longtime UConn assistant Andre LeFleur when he took over the Friars last summer. LeFleur’s impact could be felt instantly, as Providence landed one of the top recruiting classes in the nation, anchored by headliners Richard Ledo and Kris Dunn.

Bobby Lutz – North Carolina State
The opportunities to add a quality vetern head coach to a staff are few and far between, but the benefits can tremendous. In hiring Bobby Lutz to his new staff, Mark Gottfried was able to reel in one of the most respected basketball minds in college basketball. Not only does Lutz add immeasurable support by way of X’s and O’s, but his recruiting prowess has been a force to be reckoned with too. With the help of Lutz, the Wolfpack have been able to pull in a Top 10 class, stealing away McDonalds All American forward T.J. Warren from arch rival North Carolina as well as landing highly touted guard Rodney Purvis.

Jack Murphy – Memphis
Many thought that Josh Pastner would look to fill his staff with veteran assistants, but Pastner stayed close to home by luring long time college friend and NBA staffer Jack Murphy to the Motown City. Not only did Murphy help Pastner the winningest head coach in his first three years at the university, but he also played an integral role in landing three straight top flight recruiting classes. Murphy has helped the Tigers build a virtual wall around Tennessee, landing the states top prospects with seeming impunity.

Matt McMahon – Murray State
The only coach from a true “Mid-Major” program on the list, Matt McMahon has proven his ability to stand with the best assistants in college basketball. Coming by way of UNC- Wilmington and Appalachian State, Matt was scooped up by new head coach Steve Prohm for his keen recruiting abilities and high basketball IQ. Along with helping Murray to a top 10 ranking in the polls this year, McMahon was the primary reason behind the signing of highly touted recruits Erik McCree and C.J. Ford.

Josh Postorino – Georgia Tech
One of the business’ true hidden gems, Josh Postorino is the cornerstone of Bryan Gregory’s new staff at Georgia Tech. A Florida native, Postorino spent several years helping turn Clemson into a perennial top 25 team under Oliver Purnell. He’s also one of the primary forces behind Tech’s Top 25 recruiting class this year, including star Power Forward Robert Carter.

Heath Schroyer – UNLV
The former Portland State and Wyoming head coach was quickly hired by longtime friend David Rice to help lead the next great chapter in UNLV basketball. Schroyer, a DeMatha Catholic alum, landed a top 50 player in Katin Reinhart out of Mater Dei High School, and wooed point guard DaQuan Cook from Baltimore as well as McDonald’s All American Pittsburgh transfer Khem Birch to the desert. With Schroyer’s extensive head coaching experience on the sidelines, Rice has had an impressive start in his first year debut.

Jason Belzer is a senior writer for EMAIL JASON

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