Arkansas State has announced that Louisville assistant Mike Balado will become head basketball coach Grant McCasland who opted to move his family back to the DFW Metroplex.
Balado will be introduced at a press conference on Monday morning at the Convocation Center auditorium.
Balado, who is from Miami had two stints in the Sun Belt. He was an assistant under Richard Pitino’s 2012-13 FIU squad that went 18-14 and resulted in Pitino becoming head coach at Minnesota. Rather than following Pitino to Minnesota he joined Rick Pitino at Louisville. He spent three years as an assistant at Florida Atlantic starting in the 2005-06 season.
In recent interviews Rick Pitino has stated that he makes his assistants take on many head coach responsibilities. He was also quoted as saying that Balado was now ready to be a head coach.
Former Pitino assistants lead four teams to the NCAA Tournament, including UNC Wilmington coach Kevin Keatts, who just parlayed success at the Colonial Athletic Association school into the head coaching position at North Carolina State.
Balado who took on primary recruiting duties for most key Louisville recruits will need to find a scoring threat who can immediately contribute if the Red Wolves are to maintain or build on last year’s success. Presumably a juco or grad transfer scorer to be immediately ready.
He has two signees but it is rumored that both Marquis Eaton, the Jonesboro High product who was MVP of the state tournament and prep school signee Mark Tikhonenko have been told they could receive releases if they want one after meeting with the new coach.
If the 6’10” Tikhonenko opts for a release, Balado will need to add a big man to his immediate recruiting needs list.
Balado seems to tick off every box on an AState coaching hire wish list except one.
He is a younger coach with experience at both high and low levels, high level of recruiting responsibility, strong X and O reputation with extensive scouting responsibility for Louisville, and comes from a program that presses and plays aggressive defense trying to pick up transition scoring.
The only box left unchecked is prior head coaching experience at a lower level. Of course such experience is no guarantee of success. Tom Crean took then CUSA member Marquette to the Final Four and had NCAA success in the Big East but finished in the bottom half of the Big Ten more often than not at elite program Indiana. John Groce who had multiple NCAA appearances and one Sweet Sixteen at Ohio was unable to lead Illinois to the NCAA’s the last four years, while not as elite in perception as Indiana, the Illini program has made five Final Fours, the most recent in 2005 when they fell in the national title game.
AState is expected to hold a press conference with Balado on Monday.