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Bossi's Best: Ranking the power conference's coaching hires

RANKINGS: 2019 Rivals150 | 2019 Team rankings | 2019 Position rankings

2020 Rivals150 | 2020 Position rankings

Top 75 of 2021


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Buzz Williams
AP Images

National Analyst Eric Bossi takes a look at this year's coaching hires in the power conferences and ranks them in order.

MORE: Three-Point Play | Twitter Tuesday mailbag

1. Buzz Williams,Texas A&M 

The good: The best hire of this year’s coaching carousel, Williams has been highly successful everywhere he’s gone. He’s very well liked inside the state of Texas and he looks to be exactly the right guy

The bad: With the renewed emphasis on hoops in the SEC, a turnaround at A&M won’t be quite as easy as it may have been even as recently as five years ago. The tools are there to be a perennial top-three type program in the league, but places like Auburn and LSU care way more about hoops than they have in some time.

Recruiting outlook: Let’s just say things look real good here. Williams has proven that he can find under-the-radar talent like Jimmy Butler and recruit well-known guys. If he can land nine Rivals150 prospects in five years at Virgnia Tech, imagine what he can do at A&M. But the competition inside the state of Texas for players is as stiff as it has ever been.

2. Fred Hoiberg, Nebraska 

The good: So the NBA didn’t work out for Hoiberg. Who cares? He was a proven winner at Iowa State, where he won 67 percent of his games and finished between second and fourth in the Big 12 while going to the NCAA Tournament each year and winning a pair of Big 12 Tournament titles in his last four years. If he does that in Lincoln, they will erect a statue.

The bad: Hoiberg is a few years removed from college coaching and the landscape has changed dramatically in the four seasons he’s been gone. Nebraska hasn’t exactly been a destination spot for talent.

Recruiting outlook: Hoiberg built Iowa State into a power through shrewd talent evaluation, effective management of transfers and a fun playing style. His NBA experience as a player and coach will be a big sell and he’s experienced in working a program without a huge local talent base from which to choose.

3. Mick Cronin, UCLA 

The good: Make no mistake about it, Cronin is a proven winner. No matter the level, you can’t win 22 or more games and make the NCAA Tournament nine years in a row while winning 68.2 percent of your games if you aren’t a very good coach.

The bad: The UCLA brand has diminished since Ben Howland got let go and this coaching search was a debacle. It took the Bruins three months and some high-profile rejections before making their way to a guy that finally said yes.

Recruiting outlook: Since 2011, Cronin has managed to lure 11 Rivals150 prospects to Cincinnati. He has also found under-the-radar talent. What he’s not done is recruit the West Coast much, and he’s going to need an assistant or two to help him navigate SoCal. On the bright side, the kids out there have proven they are very willing to stay home.

4. Nate Oats, Alabama

The good: Alabama moved swiftly and effectively to land one of the hottest names in the coaching business. Oats made three NCAA Tournaments in four years at Buffalo while winning just over 69 percent of his games. His two NCAA wins in two years equals the number Alabama has won in the last 15.

The bad: A native of the Midwest who has only been a head coach in New York, Oats doesn’t have a lot of experience recruiting the Southeast. Alabama is now the second-best program in its own state.

Recruiting outlook: Though he does not have experience in the Southeast, Oats was landing Rivals150 level players at Buffalo, so he’ll be able to recruit. The fact that he is retaining players like Kira Lewis and already got five-star Trendon Watford onto campus is a great sign. But time will tell.

5. Eric Musselman, Arkansas

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Eric Musselman
AP Images

The good: At Nevada, Musselman won at least 28 games while making the NCAA Tournament each of the last three years. He’s got NBA experience and has coached all over the world. Nobody disputes his ability as an Xs and Os guy.

The bad: The thought in college basketball circles is that Mike Anderson was fired because Arkansas believed it could land Kelvin Sampson. Since Sampson said no thanks, the Razorbacks could look real bad if this doesn’t work out.

Recruiting outlook: Musselman did land a five-star player from the class of 2018, Jordan Brown, at Nevada and that’s saying something. Primarily, though, he built the program off of transfers and had some roster turnover. It’s tough to win in the SEC with that approach. The talent in the region is good and Arkansas will always have a great chance with homegrown kids.

6. Jerry Stackhouse, Vanderbilt 

The good: Give Vanderbilt credit for going way outside of the box here and making a bold and daring choice. Stackhouse is a passionate, no-nonsense dude with name recognition.

The bad: There’s a lot of risk involved with hiring a guy who has never been around the college game as an assistant or head coach. But, after a winless season in the SEC, it can’t exactly get any worse in Nashville.

Recruiting outlook: One of the biggest things Bryce Drew had going for him with high school players was his NBA experience, if Drew can sell that than Stackhouse sure as heck can, too. Hiring quality, experienced assistant coaches is going to be key, but high-level academic kids in the Southeast who can play are always going to be keen on Vandy, so there’s a receptive audience.

7. Mike Young, Virginia Tech 

The good: Young is a seasoned head coach after spending 17 seasons at the helm of Wofford. He managed five NCAA Tournament bids since 2010, thanks to winning the SoCon Conference Tournament five times.

The bad: While Young was good, he wasn’t otherworldly either. A 58.2 percent winning percentage in conference play in the SoCon is solid, but can he compete with what he’s about to face in the ACC?

Recruiting outlook: Williams set the bar pretty high at Tech and it’s going to be tough to clear it. At least Young is used to recruiting in the region and he’s built a winner on finding under-the-radar guys and shooting. Those are good strengths to have when going up against the stiff competition he’s going to face.

8. Kyle Smith, Washington State 

The good: Smith is known on the West Coast and he’s got nine years of head coaching experience plus a solid background as an assistant. He was one of the Cougars' top targets and he said yes quickly.

The bad: Many would argue that Washington State is the toughest high major job in America. Hiring a coach who has never finished higher than third in conference or made the NCAA or NIT doesn’t provide for a lot of optimism.

Recruiting outlook: This is a time-will-tell deal. It’s not like high-level talent has ever flocked to Pullman, and the Cougars have realistically been recruiting at about the same level that Smith was at San Francisco the past few years. But, guys like Tony Bennett and Kelvin Sampson have proven that you can get some good players there and develop them while being competitive.

9. Mark Fox, Cal 

The good: Fox began his career as one of the hottest names in coaching, making the NCAA Tournament each of his first three seasons at Nevada. He’s got some experience dealing with the West Coast from his time in Reno and as an assistant at Washington.

The bad: Fox only made the NCAA Tournament in two of his last 11 years as a head coach and he had a losing record in the SEC. There's not much that he's done recently to get too excited about his hiring.

Recruiting outlook: Attracting talent to Cal hasn’t ever been an issue. There’s lots of local talents, out-of-state prospects are intrigued and the support will be there if Fox can win. Also, Fox did land seven Rivals150 players in his last five classes at Georgia, so he’s got some experience getting highly rated talent.