If UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford is going to reach his goal of hiring a new men’s basketball coach by the end of the month, the process of choosing a new coach could go pretty fast.
Here are some coaches who would make sense to be in the mix: Head coaches
King Rice, Monmouth — If Monmouth had made the NCAA Tournament last year or this year, Rice might be targeted at bigger programs than UMass, but despite losing in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament each of the past two seasons, Rice has made the Hawks one of the nation’s top mid-major programs.
The former North Carolina star guard, who has been as assistant at Illinois State, Oregon, Vanderbilt and Providence, signed an extension after last season. He loses two of his top three scorers, which might make now an attractive time to jump.
On top of that, Rice has connections to Eddie Fogler, who is consulting on the UMass search. When Fogler was an assistant at North Carolina, he recruited Rice to play there.
Tim Cluess, Iona — The Iona coach’s name doesn’t get tossed out very often for job openings. Seven of his 11 players either transferred from another four-year school or a junior college. That can sometimes scare off schools, but the 57-year-old New York native has never won less than 20 games at Iona and has been to the NCAA Tournament three times. He will add a fourth this year. He coached in Division II and Junior College before Iona, and has never had a losing season.
His top assistant Jared Grasso has experience in the Atlantic 10 at Fordham.
Bill Coen, Northeastern — The Northeastern head coach is respected around college basketball for his X’s and O’s acumen and took Northeastern to 2015 NCAA Tournament. It would be surprising if he wasn’t in the mix.
Joe Dooley, FGSU — Dooley is the embodiment of reasons why coaches who have struggled before, get second chances. He struggled at East Carolina in his first stint as a head coach, but has done well with four postseason appearances in fours years at Florida Gulf Coast. He’s taking the Eagles to their second NCAA Tournament in a row this year. He’s considered a favorite to take over at George Washington.
James Jones, Yale — Often confused for his brother, the Boston University coach, Jones accomplished a difficult task getting Yale to the NCAA Tournament a year ago. He has ties to Bamford from when the UMass AD worked as the administrator for basketball at Yale. He’s won 20 games each of the last two seasons and was 17-10 this year as the No. 3 seed in the first Ivy Tournament, which begins Saturday.
Pat Skerry, Towson — He’s a Medford native and is rumored to be interested. He has worked around the northeast at Northeastern, Rhode Island, Providence and Pittsburgh. After a 1-31 season his first year at Towson, the former Tufts guard has led the Tigers to a 96-69 record. He’s never been to an NCAA Tournament or NIT, which hurts his chances.
Kevin Keatts, UNC-Wilmington — This is going to be the name people clamor for. He’s a terrific coach on the rise, but he’ll likely be in the mix at North Carolina State and could be a target for other openings as well. It would make sense for UMass to at least inquire, but he might have his sights set elsewhere.
Pat Kelsey, Winthrop — Kelsey’s been too successful to stay at Winthrop much longer. He’s not mentioned as much as Keatts, but the 41-year-old Cincinnati native will likely have his name tossed for quite a few open jobs.
John Becker, Vermont — The Catamounts dominated America East regular season play (16-0) and are 28-5 going into Saturday’s conference tournament final. But even as an assistant, he’s never coached above America East, which is one of the lowest leagues in Division I. There are questions about whether he’d be able to recruit players at the Atlantic 10 level.
Zach Spiker, Drexel — The former Army coach is well regarded and on the rise, but he’s only been at Drexel a year. Since he’s a close friend and former teammate of Bamford, he’s worth keeping an eye on.Assistant coaches
Chris Caputo, associate head coach Miami — Caputo has two things working in his favor. He has western Mass. ties as a 2002 Westfield State graduate, and, if the coaching staff is hoping to keep DeJon Jarreau and Brison Gresham, he could help make that happen. Their second choice was Miami. He could potentially be someone they’d be comfortable with.
It’s obviously a slippery slope to pick a coach based on players, but Caputo is much more than that. He was named one of Sports Illustrated’s top 20 assistant coaches due to get a head coaching offer in 2014.
Dwayne Killings, UConn — Killings is a former walk-on player at UMass (although he transferred and graduated from Hampton) and grew up in Amherst. He was well regarded on Fran Dunphy’s Temple staff before being hired at UConn this season.Former head coaches
Brian Gregory — The former Dayton coach has won in the Atlantic 10 before. Did he do it because of his coaching or because the Flyers have things well set up in terms of resources and tradition that it’s hard not to win there. Bamford worked with him before at Georgia Tech and has spoken highly of him. He’s currently a consultant at Michigan State.
Tony Barbee, assistant coach Kentucky — This is unlikely, but worth including. The former Minuteman star had a good run at UTEP, but struggled at Auburn, a job where no coach has had a sustained run of success. He’s currently on John Calipari’s staff at Kentucky. Would Barbee take a job just vacated by his friend getting fired? Would Bamford hire another Calipari assistant?
Other possibilities: Matt McCall, head coach Chattanooga; Will Brown, head coach Albany; Jamion Christian, head coach Mount St. Mary’s; Steve Masiello, head coach Manhattan.
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage