McDonald's Nuggets: Sooners job, Walker Kessler, Syracuse
In this week’s edition of McDonald’s Nuggets, analyst Dan McDonald gives his take on the job opening at Oklahoma, updates Walker Kessler’s decision to transfer, and names his Team of the Week and the 2022 Commit of the Week.
2023 Rankings: Top 30
WHAT'S ON MY MIND: Replacing Lon Kruger at Oklahoma
It’s been hinted at for some time now, but Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger officially decided to announce his retirement from coaching on Thursday afternoon. Kruger took over the Sooners 10 years ago and compiled a 195-128 record in Norman, which included seven trips to the NCAA Tournament and a Final Four run in 2016.
Kruger’s departure from coaching makes Oklahoma one of the more attractive job openings in college basketball right now. Before Kruger’s highly successful run, the Sooners also experienced great success under Jeff Capel, Kelvin Sampson and Billy Tubbs. The Big 12 is a great league. Oklahoma has endless resources and a fertile recruiting base.
So, who are some potential candidates to replace Kruger? Starting on the current Oklahoma staff, assistant coach Carlin Hartman has been a key part of recruiting several current players on the roster. He deserves some consideration here to make this a seamless transition, much like the football program did when Bob Stoops stepped down and elevated Lincoln Riley.
If athletic director Joe Castiglione goes outside for his next hire, there are two logical candidates with tournament success this season. Straight down I-35, North Texas head coach Grant McCasland has done a terrific job as the Mean Green advanced to the round of 32 after beating Purdue in the first round. His junior college ties and Texas roots would make a lot of sense here.
On the other side of the state, Paul Mills has steadily built up the Oral Roberts program in his four seasons as head coach to the point where the Golden Eagles are now in the Sweet 16 as No. 15 seed. Like McCasland, he’s a former Baylor assistant under Scott Drew with deep Texas ties from his time in Waco and as a high school coach in the state.
There will certainly be other quality candidates to emerge for this job. Could Sampson make a return to Norman? What about another sitting head coach looking for a fresh start? It will be an interesting search to follow.
RECRUITING NOTE: Walker Kessler transferring from North Carolina
Walker Kessler’s decision to leave North Carolina came as a bit of a surprise to the college basketball world. The former five-star prospect in the 2020 class is looking for a fresh start after an up-and-down freshman season in Chapel Hill.
It shouldn’t take long for the Georgia native to find a new home. The plan is to move quickly toward a decision and start gearing up for a productive second season in college basketball. Schools from all over the country have reached out, but look for this recruitment to come down to schools that were involved and built a strong relationship the first time around in the recruiting process.
Gonzaga is firmly in the mix here. It’s a style of play fit for him and a chance to play for one of the top programs in the country right now. There is a track record of development and production for players like him. Keep an eye on Auburn, Michigan and Virginia as well. Tennessee could also be in play. Duke and Kentucky have also put in calls, but don’t expect them to be key players here.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Syracuse
Nobody seems to be better at coaching up a team with a double-digit seed than Jim Boeheim. We should all learn a lesson here to always pick the Orange to make a Sweet 16 run or better if they get a lower seed in the NCAA Tournament. Wins over San Diego State and West Virginia were impressive, but now the Orange face a big test in Houston. It will be interesting to see if Buddy Boeheim can carry his dad’s team back to the Final Four.
2022 COMMIT OF THE WEEK: Enoch Boakye to Arizona State
The 6-foot-10 center has a big, strong, athletic frame and great body control. He has a pretty good skills for a young post player and a ton of long-term upside.