OPINION: Who Arkansas State could target on the coaching search
JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Jeff Purinton will have his first opportunity to make a splash hire as Arkansas State’s Vice Chancellor of Intercollegiate Athletics. After firing Mike Balado as men’s basketball coach on Thursday, here’s a list of who we think Arkansas State could target.
RETREADS (Coaches fired from other high major schools)
I know this category will get some eye rolls from A-State fans. They just went down the retread route not too long ago with John Brady. But with that being said, there are some interesting names currently on the market.
Mike Anderson (former St. John’s, Arkansas, Missouri, UAB head coach)
Logan: The story writes itself. Anderson was recently fired at St. John’s after failing to reach the NCAA Tournament or reaching 20 wins in his four seasons there. But to be fair, the Anderson hire never really made sense for St. John’s. Anderson had no ties to the northeast, St. John’s had been a scuffling program in one of the best conferences. It was going to be a tall task.
Arkansas State presents an opportunity for Anderson to resurrect his career. And Anderson spent 25 years of his life in the state of Arkansas. He was on the 1994 National Championship staff. He’s been to the NCAA Tournament seven times as a head coach. He had success with another mid-major at UAB. But, he’s 63 years old and hasn’t coached a mid-major team with fewer resources since 2006. It will be a different challenge.
Josh Pastner (former Georgia Tech, Memphis head coach)
Logan: Things ended poorly for Josh Pastner at Georgia Tech, but let’s not forget what the 45-year-old accomplished at Memphis. The Tigers made 4 NCAA Tournament appearances (4 straight from 2011-2014, mind you) in his 7 years there. He’s known as a good recruiter, and for someone who knows Memphis that’s not a bad thing to have in Jonesboro.
Kermit Davis (Former Ole Miss, Middle Tennessee head coach)
Logan: It’s kind of funny looking back at Kermit’s history. The man had 9 years of mediocrity at MTSU, then during the team’s final two years in the Sun Belt everything clicked. Davis’ squads went 33-3 in Sun Belt play those two years, getting an 11 seed in 2013. Oh, and of course, everyone remembers that 15-seed upset over 2-seed Michigan State in 2016.
Brad Korn (current SEMO head coach, former SIU, Kansas State, Missouri State assistant)
Logan: Korn has injected life into a program that made its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2000 this year. The team has improved its record each year he has been the head coach (albeit, only 3 years). And the team made its first Conference Tournament Semifinal appearance in 17 years last season (running into the buzzsaw that was Murray State in the semis, a 7-seed in the NCAA Tournament that year).
The only catch: The Ohio Valley is now one of the weakest conferences in college basketball. In the first year without mid-major basketball giants Murray State and Belmont in the conference, KenPom graded the OVC the fourth-weakest conference in NCAA Division I. And it may be a hard sell to the fanbase to have a coach that lost to Arkansas State in each of the past two seasons on board. Regardless, having a coach who not only has D1 head coaching experience plus someone who has improved their team record-wise each year is an attractive candidate.
Ross Hodge (current North Texas assistant coach, former Arkansas State associate head coach)
Logan: Hodge has been on Grant McCasland’s staff since Grant was the head coach at A-State. McCasland has enjoyed success since leaving Jonesboro. After two NCAA Tournament appearances, two NIT appearances and a College Basketball Insider Championship, McCasland is rumored to be in the mix for several openings, including Texas Tech. If McCasland leaves and Hodge doesn’t get named North Texas’ head coach, this would be a possibility.
Antoine Pettaway or Bryan Hodgson (current Alabama assistants)
Logan: VCIA Jeff Purinton was a key piece in the Nate Oats hire at Alabama. Bringing in assistants from that staff seems like a direction they could go. Pettaway has been at Bama for 12 seasons, the 36-year-old Hodgson for four. If they go this route, they would be the second Sun Belt school to hire an Alabama assistant this offseason (Georgia Southern, Charlie Henry)
LOWER LEVEL SUCCESS
Ben McCollum (current Northwest Missouri State head coach)
Chris: McCollum has turned the Bearcats into a dynasty in NCAA Division II. They won 4 national championships (2017, 2019, 2021, 2022). NW Missouri State have reached the NCAA Tournament in 10 consecutive seasons under McCollum. They’ve won at least 30 games in 5 of the last 7 seasons. McCollum is a five-time NABC Division II National Coach of the Year
Adam Bohac (current Southern Nazarene head coach)
Chris: Southern Nazarene has been a force in GAC hoops for several seasons. The Crimson Storm upset NW Missouri State over the weekend in the NCAA Tournament, they ended up reaching the Central Region finals. SNU has 7 straight winning seasons under Bohac, including 29 wins in 2018-19, and 27 wins in 2022-23 and 2017-18.
Rick Cabrera (current Tallahassee CC head coach)
Chris: If the name is familiar, it should be. Cabrera was an assistant coach at Arkansas State from 2019 to 2021. He’s already had success at Tallahassee, guiding the Eagles to 21 wins last season and a 28-5 mark this season. Cabrera’s squad qualified for the NJCAA Division I Tournament.
Chris Parker (current ASU Mid-South head coach)
Chris: Look further into the Arkansas State system and there’s a success story in West Memphis. Parker has guided ASU Mid-South to six Region Championships including a Central Plains district title this season. The Greyhounds are making their 2nd trip to the NJCAA Division 2 Tournament. Parker’s best season with Mid-South was the 2017-18 campaign, they won 29 games and finished 5th place nationally.
Wes Swift (current Jonesboro High School head coach)
Logan: Hey, it’s fun to throw some curveballs every now and again right? Wes Swift left his footprint on Jonesboro basketball and high school basketball in the state of Arkansas. I mean, the man has eight total state championships including a three-peat run, what else can the man accomplish? Yes, it’s risky to hire someone straight from high school, but if anyone could make that jump, it would be this man.
Marcus Brown (current Murray State assistant, former West Memphis HS head coach)
Logan: This is a name nobody is thinking of but is a very sneaky name to watch. Remember when I mentioned Murray State not too long ago? Well, this man was on that coaching staff under current LSU head coach Matt McMahon that went to the NCAA Tournament. He had a legendary playing career for the Racers. He’s a Hall of Famer at the school. He had a long career playing professionally before returning to his hometown to be the head coach of the West Memphis Blue Devils, leading that squad to a state title. He hasn’t been a college assistant for long (only two seasons), but Brown is a coaching name that seems to be on the rise.
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