Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Big Sky Coaching Primer

Here is a quick 1-2 paragraph rundown of the head coaches in the Big Sky, ranked in the order that I would want them coaching my favorite team. Would love to hear your thoughts on the rankings, and more specifically, why I am wrong!

9. Joe O'Brien (Idaho St)
It has been a tough 5 seasons for O'Brien as head coach of the Bengals, as he currently sports a career record of 54-97. He has a solid head coaching track record at lower levels, but simply hasn't been able to recruit enough to have a successful D-1 team. Word is that he is still recruiting guys to play this season. In the final year of his contract, it seems unlikely O'Brien will be back next season barring a miracle turnaround. Fan support is on life support, as attendance dropped last season, and seems unlikely to improve much this year.

8. Brian Katz (Sacramento St)
This will be Katz 4th year in Sacramento, and he has a record there of 18-69. To be fair, he inherited a program that was in a mess, and has built them back to semi-respectability. Like O'Brien, he has a strong history in the junior college ranks, but has yet to see that pay off for his alma mater. His teams have consistently been near the bottom of the NCAA in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency. He will be given a couple more seasons at least (I think) since the program he inherited was in rough shape, but it would be a good start to reach the double digit win mark.

7. Brad Huse (Montana St)
Here is where the rankings get tough. Huse coached previously at Jamestown College (ND), and as an assistant with Montana St and Montana, but has struggled to consistently find success in Bozeman. Despite the presence of two All-Conference performers in Bobby Howard and Erik Rush for much of his tenure, Huse has a career Bobcat record of 69-83 in 5 seasons, taking over a program that was a game over .500 in the 3 seasons before his arrival. Huse has put together a couple of solid offensive teams, but Montana St has consistently been poor defensively since his arrival. He has a lot of new recruits this year, so it will be interesting to see if they can turn the program around. If not, Huse might start to feel the heat.

6. Tyler Geving (Portland St)
This will be an important year for Geving. His first two seasons have not gone very well, but he was handed a program that lost a lot of players and was under some NCAA sanctions after the departure of Ken Bone. While his teams have been some of the worst defensively the NCAA has seen, he has still managed to get them towards the middle of the Big Sky. He has also had some success recruiting (especially in JUCO and with transfers), that could pay dividends this year as Portland St looks to get back towards the top of the Big Sky. It will take a little more time, but I suspect if I redo this list in a year we might Geving a little higher up.

5. Jim Hayford (Eastern Washington)
Hayford obviously has not coached a game for the Eagles, so this is based on how I think he will do. At Division III Whitworth, he compiled a .792 winning percentage in 10 seasons, which tells me he can coach basketball and get his players to respond to him. I don't care what level of basketball it is, that is an impressive coaching record. He has also been able to get and retain solid recruits, as shown with his pickup of Collin Chiverton. At only 43, he could have a bright future ahead of him.

4. Mike Adras (Northern Arizona)
Adras has been at the helm for the Lumberjacks for 11 years, an impressive run no matter the program. While NAU has had a couple of down years in his tenure, they have experienced more solid seasons since he became the head coach, including back-to-back Big Sky Conference regular season titles in the middle of the 2000's. Earlier in his career, his teams got the ball up and down the court quickly, but for the past few years he has slowed the tempo down a bit. His teams are better offensively than defensively, and he seems to make it a priority to recruit solid outside shooters, though his teams don't shoot a ton of 3s.

3. BJ Hill (Northern Colorado)
He has had only one season as head coach of the Bears, making it tough to evaluate him, but it's tough to argue with the success of making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. Hill had spent all of his career as an assistant coach, and at age 38 has a reputation of being a solid recruiter (his first full class looks to be good, with 5 members led by Brandon Keane). The worst case scenario for them is probably similar to NDSU, where Saul Phillips took over for head coach Tim Miles and led a team built by Miles to the NCAA Tournament, but has struggled since. I think Hill has a little better pedigree and should see more success. It will be interesting to see how the Bears fare this year after facing a lot of roster turnover.

2. Wayne Tinkle (Montana)
Tinkle has a career record of 91-64 (51-29 in the Big Sky), and briefly flirted with the Fresno St. job this offseason. Tinkle is a former Grizzlies player and Montana alum, so they are all hoping he will stick around for a while (and not follow in the footsteps of Larry Krystowiak). His teams have a reputation for hard-nosed defense, as they were easily the best defensive team in the BSC last year (with thanks due to Brian Qvale). He has also put together some solid offensive teams, but it is hard to notice because his teams play a slow, grinding pace. But if he keeps winning like he has to start his career, it doesn't matter what pace his teams play, just that it continues to work.

1. Randy Rahe (Weber St)
It was tough to choose between Rahe and Tinkle, but I think Rahe has been a little more successful than Tinkle and has done a little better recruiting. His career record is 95-61 (60-20 in conference play). He has been named the Coach of the Year in the BSC 3 times, and 3 times he has had the Conference POY. Almost as importantly, he has gotten the fan base fired up about the Wildcats, as attendance has increased during his tenure, and Weber State leads the Big Sky in attendance. Like Tinkle, he has flirted with other jobs as well, and WSU fans are always a little nervous that he could leave. One thing is for sure, as long as Rahe is around, it seems the Wildcats will be contenders, and they are one of the favorites again this season.

I would love to hear thoughts on this. How does this list look, and what would you change around?


  1. based on "baldy's" long tenure, longest in the big sky and ranks up high in all-time big sky wins, adras has to be in my top 3 by default despite the decline since 2008.

    Montana and PSU have had the most talent in the league over the past 5 yrs and griz have underperformed. Tinkle has got to be one of the best Big Sky recruiters if not the best.

    EWU coach can't be in my top 5 since he hasn't coached yet. I might rank Geving 8th ahead of ISU's OB who most likely won't be back after his contract expires. Land O'Tater is not happy.

    Katz I think is good but is coaching one of DI's only lost causes.

    Rahe is #1 by far and does the most with the least. Finishing 2 games out of 1st last yr losing Lillard was impressive.

  2. You can thank assistant coach Bill Evans for the hard-nosed defense at Montana. In my opinion, the guy over-achieved while head coach at Southern Utah (not an easy place to recruit to). He took them to their only NCAA tournament appearance, but the folks in Cedar City thought they could do better with former BYU coach Roger Reid. How's that move working out for you, Thunderbirds?

  3. Having watch Big Sky basketball closely for many, many years, Adras is the best coach in the league by far. He even wins with inferior talent, Rahe needs to perform better in postseason, before he can even crack the top three.

  4. "Baldy"....heh. This has to be a Weber State fan posting here. :)


  5. Love Rahe. Love what he has done with the program. His inability to win in the postseason, however, is an enormous stain on his tenure. With a loaded 2011 team, it would be extremely disappointing for Weber to miss the NCAA Tournament.

  6. If you'll remember, I told you that you had Huse too low on your list. Thought I'd point that out while Cats are still over-achieving.

  7. No doubt... he has his guys playing great basketball right now!