Friar Coaching Search Commences

While there are many quality coaches in Division 1 basketball, it takes a special coach to be the right fit in Friartown. We will now look at some of the candidates that may be considered for the Providence basketball coaching vacancy, and briefly describe what these coaches are primarily known for that has made them successful.

It is Athletic Director Bob Driscoll's task to find the coach who can assemble and lead the right mix of talent at Providence into the top eight of the highly competitive Big East Conference. While Providence returns some very talented players next season, the next coach is going to have to eliminate some of the flaws that this years' Friar team exhibited, and improve the product on the court. That is going to require both a good teacher and a good motivator. Moreover, with a big recruiting class coming due in the fall of 2009, the next Friar coach is going to have to be a strong recruiter as well. It's certainly a tall order for Bob Driscoll to fill, since there are other job vacancies nationwide that Providence must also compete against for candidates. Still, the Friars have some extensive facility upgrades that are now being completed, and an ability to offer an attractive salary to most coaches that currently reside outside of the top six conferences.

Below are some of the names being considered for the Providence coaching position. All have attributes that would make them a possible fit as the Friars next head basketball coach, and all also may now feel they are ready to take on the challenge of being a head coach in the Big East Conference. This list is by no means exhaustive, as that information has not, and will not, be made available, but it is a good primer for those who are curious about where the Friars may look to hire the next head basketball coach at Providence College.

Coaches Under Consideration (listed alphabetically):

Head Coach, Kent State (2002-Present)
Background: DOB 1965 - Bethpage, New York
MAC Coach of the Year (2006, 2008)

Jim Christian has consistently coached Kent State's Golden Flashes to twenty win seasons. In fact, Christian became the first coach in MAC history to win 20 games in all six of his seasons as head coach, as he entered the 2008 season with the second highest winning percentage in conference history. Christian has posted a 135-57 (.703) record at Kent State. Prior to being named head coach, Jim Christian had previous assistant experience under both Ralph Willard and Herb Sendek. He also was an assistant coach to Stan Health at Kent St. when the Golden Flashes advanced to the Elite 8 in 2002, and the Golden Flashes have continued to enjoy success with Christian at the top. After Jim Christian's first season at Kent State, he was named the National Rookie Coach of the Year by Basketball Times. Christian's Kent State teams have made the NCAA tournament twice in his six years as head coach, and have qualified for the NIT in three other seasons. In the 2008 season, Kent State achieved the University's first ever regular season ranking of 23rd in the AP Poll. Jim Christian's Kent State teams have been known for their tenacious defense, depth, and balanced scoring.
Pro: Christian's teams win, and play tough. An intense sideline motivator, his teams come at you, and as a URI grad, he also understands the PC-URI rivalry.
Cons: Not a big name nationally, Christian wouldn't be a sexy hire, but he can coach.

Head Coach, Drake (2007-present)
Background: DOB 1973 – Massachusetts
National college coach of the year by both the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and The Sporting News magazine

Keno Davis is in his first year as a collegiate head coach after spending five years as an assistant under his father, Dr. Tom Davis, at Drake. Prior to that, Davis was an assistant for six years at Southeast Missouri State and for two years at Southern Indiana under Bruce Pearl. Keno has guided Drake to a 28-4 record this season and a first round matchup with Western Kentucky in the NCAAs. The Bulldogs play a fundamentally sound, superb passing offense and apply tough pressure defense, in making their first NCAA appearance since 1971.
Pros: A New England native, Davis might want to come home. Tutored by great basketball minds, his team plays an unselfish, fun style of team ball.
Cons: With only one year of head coaching experience, there isn't a big track record to look at. Can he recruit at the highest level in the East after spending his college career in the Midwest?

Head Coach, George Mason (1997-Present)
Background: DOB 10/02/49 - Bronx, New York
MAC Coach of the Year 1997, CAA Coach of the Year, 1999
Clair Bee National Coach of the Year (2006)

Jim Larranaga is a coach who is very familiar to Providence fans. Larranaga is a 1971 graduate of Providence who as a senior captain on the basketball team led the Friars to a 20-8 record and the NIT. In his coaching career, Larranaga was an assistant under Terry Holland at Virginia during the Ralph Sampson years, and later was the head coach at Bowling Green University, where his teams played in three NIT tournaments. He was named Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year in 1996-1997. Larranaga was then hired by George Mason, where in eleven years as Head Coach, Larranaga has made the NCAA four times in a conference that usually only receives one or two bids. Larranaga led the Patriots to the 2006 NCAA tournament as an 11 seed, and went on a miraculous run to the Final Four. As a result, he won the Clair Bee National Coach of the Year Award for his leadership. His George Mason teams have played efficient offensive basketball, and his aggressive ‘scramble' defense has also won praise for its pressure man to man with trapping principles.
Pros: An alum, Larranaga has enjoyed tremendous success recently. A solid teacher and fundamentally sound coach who knows how to run a program.
Cons: At 58, he's on the older edge of candidates, and the question remains about his ability to recruit at the highest level.

Head Coach, Saint Joseph's (1995-Present)
Background: DOB 08/31/54 - Media, Pennsylvania
A10 Coach of the Year (1997, 2001, 2004, 2005)
Naismith & Henry Iba National Coach of the Year (2004)

Phil Martelli is one of the more talented but underrated coaches in the country. His St. Joseph's teams have excelled for years in the A-10 Conference without great fanfare under his old school leadership style, as the Hawks have made the NCAA tournament five out of the last 11 years.(Sweet 16, Elite 8) However, his 2004 team thrust Martelli into the national spotlight as the Hawks went undefeated in the regular season and Martelli was named National Coach of the Year. Phil Martelli guided Saint Joseph's to a number ranking in the AP Poll. Besides success in the NCAA tournament, Martelli's Hawks have also reached the final game of the NIT twice during his Saint Joseph's tenure. Martelli has a reputation as a coach whose teams are always prepared, excelling on both ends of the floor, and rarely play zone defense. Saint Joseph's under Phil Martelli has often overachieved, and the Hawks have developed a reputation for playing their best basketball in March.
Pros: Pretty much everything… great Xs and Os, excellent recruiter, superb with the media, and can you imagine Martelli on Federal Hill?
Cons: Will he be a fish out of water outside of Philadelphia?

Head Coach, Davidson (1989-Present)
Background: DOB 1949 – Long Island, New York
SoCon Coach of the Year (1994, 1996, 1997, 2002, 2005, 2008)

Bob McKillop is one of the most unassuming coaches in America. He has never been a self promoter, but since Davidson joined the Southern Conference in 1992, McKillop's teams have won the Southern Conference Championship on multiple occasions, taking small but prestigious Davidson College to the NCAA tournament five times in that period.(4 in the last seven years) He's also led Davidson to three NIT appearences. While Bob McKillop grew up a New York basketball player, he's become a respected fixture in North Carolina over the years; first as a college athlete at East Carolina, and now as the Head Coach at Davidson. In the past two seasons, McKillop's Davidson Wildcats have only lost 1 conference game. McKillop's teams are known for their preparation and attention to detail, as he is known for stressing fundamentals and team discipline. As a result, Davidson has often played the role of giant killer, knocking off more talented non-conference opponents from major conferences.
Pros: Excellent strategist and bench coach. A New England guy, his teams play great team ball and he knows how to build a program.
Cons: Like Larranaga, he's 58 and has been at Davidson for 18 years. Does he have the energy to compete in the Big East?

Head Coach, Ohio University (2001-present)
Background: DOB 1962 – Wayland, Massachusetts

O'Shea arrived in Athens from Boston College, where he spent four seasons at his alma mater under Al Skinner. He moved to BC from URI with Skinner, where he was Skinner's top recruiter for nine seasons. Ohio was named College Basketball's "It" Team in 2005 by, and the Bobcats have enjoyed steady success under O'Shea's tutelage. This season, Ohio compiled a 19-12 record and will host Brown in the inaugural CBI Tournament. Ohio's top season under O'Shea was the 2004-05 campaign, which saw a NCAA run, but the Bobcats have been postseason contenders on an annual basis. O'Shea has always played an Al Skinner-type of motion offense, along with tough man to man defense.
Pros: After serving under Skinner for 13 years, O'Shea knows how to win, play a style and run a program. Has great contacts in New England and can spot under the radar players.
Cons: Like Christian, would not be a sexy hire, but Christian has surpassed him in the MAC. Has been a bit up and down at Ohio.

Head Coach, Brown University (2006-present)
Background: DOB 1971 – Chicago, Ill

Robinson has guided Brown to the inaugural CBI Tournament in just his second year as coach. The 19-9 Bears established a school record for victories in a season and have a chance to win 20 for the first time in their 103 years playing the sport. Robinson came to Brown from Northwestern, where he spent six years under Bill Carmody, and played his collegiate ball at Princeton under Pete Carril. He's spent some time in the national limelight as Barack Obama's brother-in-law, and runs the same system on offense and defense as fellow Princeton grad, John Thompson III of Georgetown, with backdoor cuts and patterned offense.
Pros: If you like the way Georgetown plays, you'll like Robinson. Could be JT III before JT III was JT III. Has elevated Brown in a short time to Ivy contenders. Great pedigree.
Cons: Not a lot of experience and as a result, not much of a track record to examine. Would be a high risk hire.

There are also darkhorses. Both Fran Fraschilla and Jim O'Brien have expressed interest, and may be looked at, but both have well-publicized baggage, and would be risky hires. From the list above, it would seem that the Friars should be able to go a less risky route if they choose, and still end up with a top notch coach. Keep an eye on the tournaments… action should heat up in the coaching search as teams coached by potential candidates lose.

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