Everyone loves a comeback story. Whether you're unlucky with injuries, have a new AD change, or are just let go with unjust cause, there are many reasons that can align for coaches to be let go, resign, or leave where they're at. At the same time, this doesn't necessarily mean you're not capable of getting a job done more than anyone else. There have been many coaches that have had success after resigning, being fired, or leaving from a previous job. If history tells us anything, a coach like Porter Moser can be fired from a previous job (Illinois State) and reach the Final Four with another program (Loyola Chicago). This list is for those coaches.
To be a coach considered for this list, you must not have been fired twice, you must not be more than three years removed from the college coaching business, and you must have been a former division one head coach. Coaches that fit this criteria and have a resume that puts them in contention of earning another job at some point in the future have made this list.
After months of research and consulting with AD's, presidents, search firms and numerous influencers in the basketball space - We present the Silver Waves Media Comeback coaches alphabetical order:
Courtesy of Icon Sportswire
When one thinks of Barbee as a candidate for a comeback story, his time and success as the head coach at UTEP sticks out. The John Calipari disciple steadily improved UTEP’s wins year after year taking the Miners from 14 wins in 2007 to 26 wins and a conference regular season title in 2010. The 15-1 conference success resulted in a NCAA Tournament appearance in year four. Barbee finished with a 82-52 (.612) overall record during his time in El Paso. His time in Texas came in on the heels of a highly successful stint as an assistant coach as well. Barbee helped his teams to postseason play in 10 of 11 seasons as an assistant coach at Memphis, UMASS, and Wyoming. His additional seasons at Kentucky the past five seasons make him the second longest tenured assistant coach under John Calipari. The two have recruited some of the top talent in the country together and have won at an extremely high level. Despite his time at Auburn that didn’t quite live up to expectations, Barbee’s experience bringing in top ten recruiting class level talent, his NCAA Tournament experience, and his success as a head coach at UTEP all make his resume attractive for an open vacancy.
Courtesy of USA Today
Although we’ll never know if he truly has a desire to return to college coaching, Beilein’s resume and name speaks for itself if he so chooses to. Beilein is one of 14 coaches to have taken four different schools to the NCAA Tournament -- Canisius (1996), Richmond (1998), West Virginia (2005, '06) and Michigan (2009, '11, '12, '13, '14, '16, '17, '18, ‘19). He also ranks in the top ten in career career victories among active Division I head coaches compiling a career record of 829-468 (.639) over his illustrious career. The future hall of famer took Michigan to the NCAA Tournament Championship two times in his 12 seasons in Ann Arbor and became the program’s winningest head coach while doing so. Known for his keen recruiting eye, Beilein helped mentor nine Wolverines to the NBA Draft including Trey Burke, Duncan Robinson, Caris Levert, and Nik Stauskas. The fact that many of these players weren’t necessarily highly ranked makes it all the more impressive. 18 Wolverines earned All-Big Ten honors.
Courtesy of Ethan Miller
It’s easy to argue that Washington State is a tough basketball job in the PAC 12 Conference. It falls at the bottom of the conference in terms of budget, is situated in Pullman, WA in a college town that is among the smallest in terms of population (35,000) when compared to other high major jobs across the country, the basketball program has never had much of a winning tradition (only 2 of 11 coaches in the past 60 years have finished with a winning record), among other factors. While Bone didn’t win in a big way during his five years at Washington State, he was able to have previous success in his career. Before coming to Pullman, WA, Bone had control of the Portland State program where he went 252-98 (.721) in four seasons. He elevated the program from a fifth place finish in the Big Sky in his first season to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in his final two seasons with one Big Sky regular season title. The two tournaments remain Portland State’s only NCAA Tournaments in their history. Bone was also able to have success as a NCAA Division II head coach. He accumulated a record of 252-98 (.721) in 12 seasons at Seattle Pacific. The program traveled to 7 NCAA Tournaments in those 12 seasons while finishing in four Sweet Sixteens and one Elite Eight.
Courtesy of USA Today
Brady has a lot to like for a comeback. He holds a single season record for wins at Marist and his four years there is the best stretch in school history. Additionally, he is just the second coach in school history to win a regular season league title dating back 20 years and is the only coach to record a win in the postseason. Brady’s success at Marist earned him the job at James Madison where was able to have similar success. Only one other coach in James Madison history has ever been able to have four 20-win seasons like Brady did. He is also just the third coach to win a regular season league title and make a NCAA Tournament appearance. Before he had taken over, JMU had failed to have a winning record in eight seasons. Brady also has attractive history as an assistant coach as he was in many ways a part of the best basketball stretch in St. Joseph’s history coaching a group led by Jameer Nelson & Delonte West to three NCAA Tournaments in four years including the 2003-04 season when the team went 30-2 while earning a No. 1 seed.
Courtesy of Minnesota Athletics
Conroy, one of the most widely respected “good guys” in the business, has been tasked with a trio of tougher jobs during his 13 total seasons as a college head coach. In his first-ever season, Conroy inherited a 2-win Division II Francis Marion program and led them to a 14-game turnaround. The effort would earn him Peach Belt Coach of the Year honors. After accumulating more success at Francis Marion and a return to the division one college assistant world, Conroy would find himself with his next task at The Citadel where he was able to continue this trajectory. After two years rebuilding at what is considered the worst job in terms of budget, tradition, etc. in the SOCON by Stadium, Conroy was able to add another 14-game turnaround to his resume. That year The Citadel recorded a 20-win season, placed second in the division, and made their first-ever postseason appearance. It is just the second 20-win season in the program’s 100+ year history and tied for the program single season wins record. Conroy would be called upon by Tulane where he was faced with yet another tough task. After two rebuilding seasons, Conroy turned in back-to-back postseason appearances and the program’s first 20-win season in 20 years. Injuries to starters in each season, conference realignment into the AAC, and a new athletic director would ultimately be a large part of Conroy’s fate, but it doesn’t take away from a person and resume that is more than deserving of another shot.
Courtesy of Icon Sportswire
There weren't too many media members that didn’t voice their confusion as to why Linc Darner was let go at Wisconsin Green Bay after what was a pretty successful five year tenure in the Horizon League. Darner, a former NCAA Division II National Champion head coach, averaged over 10 wins a season in Horizon League play over those five years, the third-best among all Horizon League schools during that stretch. The team managed to finish fourth or better (top half of the league) in four of five seasons and produced UWGB’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in more than 20 seasons when he first arrived. Darner, who was on contract until 2026, produced three seasons with at least a finish in the conference tournament semifinals and manufactured a runner-up finish in the CIT in 2019 before his departure. Darner won a regular season league title an impressive seven times in thirteen seasons as a NCAA Division II head coach. He managed to turn around two programs at that level and did a more than sufficient job sustaining success at Green Bay. His resume still carries a lot of weight and demands attention for the things he has been able to accomplish.
Courtesy of Marc Serota
Known as one of the great teachers and X&O gurus of the game, Dunlap showed fairly consistent improvement at Loyola Marymount before being let go this past season. Dunlap’s story doesn’t start and end here though. The former NBA head coach also found much success in previous stops as a college head coach that help make him a great candidate for a potential comeback in the future. In nine years as a head coach at Metro State, an NCAA Division II program, Dunlap was able to construct a more than impressive 248-50 (.832) overall record with nine straight appearances in the NCAA Division II Tournament that included two national championships, one finish as a runner-up, one finish in the Final Four, and one Elite Eight finish. The Roadrunners also had unparalleled success in the conference while winning five regular season league titles and never falling below third place. In fact, Dunlap’s streak of regular season league titles at one point in his career was six straight when you look back at the rebuilding project he had in his first head coaching stop at Cal Lutheran. He took a 5-win program in his first season to a 25-win program in the span of five years and won three straight conference regular season championships on his way to three straight NCAA Division III national tournaments as well.
Courtesy of ESPN
Since 1970, only two other mid major head coaches have been fired three years after winning a national postseason tournament such as the NCAA Tournament, NIT, CBI, or CIT. No coach has been fired three years later after winning a postseason tournament in their first season at the helm. That is the case with Allen Edwards at Wyoming. Edwards’ recorded 23 wins in his first season. Of the 29 first-year head coaches in Division-I basketball that year, Edward’s 23 wins were tied for the third-highest total behind only New Mexico State’s Paul Weir (28) and Valparaiso’s Matt Lottich (24). The former five year assistant (2011-16) with the Wyoming program was a part of one of the greatest stretches in program history as an assistant coach and a head coach (2016-20). To make matters worse, it didn’t help that three starters were lost to season ending injuries in Edwards’ third season after a 20-win season in year two. Edwards' time as a head coach was cut short, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that we think he’ll be a brilliant comeback story if given the chance.
Courtesy of UAB Athletics
It came as a bit of a head scratcher that Robert Ehsan was let go at UAB in 2020 after 76 wins in four seasons. When the season shut down for COVID, the team was playing for their 20th win that day. A win would have given the dragons 3 straight 20-win seasons. There are only 41 Division One teams in the country that had 3 straight 20 win seasons. In fact, there have been no mid-major head coaches in the last ten years that have been fired with as many wins as Ehsan had and he ranked 16th in amount of wins produced among the 53 coaches that were hired in 2016. Ehsan also owned the second highest winning percentage (62.5%) in conference tournament games in program history. To make matters worse, UAB significantly cut the operating budget each year, didn’t give Ehsan a car stipend/car, and left the program without a SID in the team’s final season. He almost assuredly deserved more of a chance and there may be some evidence that lies in UAB’s current 12-2 record for the 2019-20 season. A guy that was considered to be one of the brighter young head coaches in the country during his time at UAB deserves a second chance.
Courtesy of Rey Del Rio
Dane Fife has been rumored recently with some head coaching vacancies. The former Indiana University guard had success in the past with the job title as well. Fife was the head coach at IPFW starting at a young age of 25 from 2005-11 and guided the Mastadons to steady improvement during his six seasons in Fort Wayne as the program was still in the early stages of their transition to NCAA Division I competition. In fact, Fife guided IPFW from 7 wins in the year prior to his arrival (year three of NCAA Division I competition) to 18 wins, a program best for NCAA Division I at the time, in his final season. Fife chose to leave IPFW for an assistant coaching spot under Tom Izzo in 2011 where he has remained to this day. He has been able to help Michigan State quite a bit on the recruiting trail. The Spartans have been able to pick up key additions like Gary Harris, Jaren Jackson, Branden Dawson, etc. due in part to Fife’s knowledge of the recruiting landscape in the area which have bolstered the always strong spartans over the years with Fife on the sidelines.
Courtesy of Auburn Athletics
When you have to follow a 30-5 season and someone that was considered arguably the hottest coach in the country in Chris Beard at the time, it’s hard to do. This is part of the story with Wes Flanigan. After completing by far the best season in program history as an assistant at UALR, Flanigan took over for Chris Beard who left for Texas Tech. In that season, the Trojans went 30-5 winning the regular season title, the Sun Belt Tournament championship, and upset Purdue in the first round of the tournament. Despite starting the following season off 11-4, an injury to the team’s best player would ultimately derail Flanigan’s team. The team went on to lose eight straight while he wasn’t in the lineup. After losing much of the roster that contributed to the best season in school history while Flanigan was an assistant and adding ten new guys to the roster, more injuries plagued UALR. The starting point guard went down with a foot injury, two grad transfers were in and out of the lineup, and the starting shooting guard dealt with a knee issue for the majority of the season. Flanigan, who is a native of Little Rock, ended up starting three freshman and a sophomore by season end based on the injury situation with a now NBA player, Rayjon Tucker, sitting out and waiting to play in year three. Looks aren’t always what they seem and that is the case with Flanigan. Not many coaches get fired after two seasons.
Courtesy of Associated Press
Grier, who previously helped Mark Few and others build Gonzaga into what it is today as an assistant, is among just four coaches to go to the NCAA Tournament once at San Diego in the program’s near 70-year history. He is also among just two coaches to have taken the Toreros to two postseasons. His 51 conferences wins are among the best in the WCC. In his time working at Gonzaga in the WCC from 1991-07, the Bulldogs went to 10 NCAA Tournaments & 3 NITs while accumulating a 381-126 (.751) overall record and a 178-44 (.802) conference record. In fact, Grier’s first season in Spokane in 1992 under Dan Fitzgerald was just the third ever 20-win season in program history and the first since 1967. Serving as the program’s defensive coordinator, the Bulldogs led the WCC in field goal percentage defense six times, including the third best mark in the nation in 2004. Grier served as the recruiting director for his last 10 years with the Zags, and his 2007 class was the program’s best to that point. That class ranked 11th in the nation by Rivals, and boasted four recruits among the top-100 in the country. Many program records have been broken during his time as an assistant at Gonzaga & Colorado. He has also coached/recruited 10 NBA players during his time at both stops which is quite impressive as well. He deserves many ADs’ attention for a return to the head spot in the near future.
Courtesy of Rutgers Athletics
There’s coaches that school’s wish they never got rid of and that is likely every bit of the case with Karl Hobbs and George Washington. Dating back to the 60s, the program has never had much previous success outside of the Mike Jarvis era and hasn’t had much since his removal. In fact, no other coach in George Washington history has had three straight NCAA Tournament appearances. In fact, with the way the league stands now only one coach at VCU (Shaka Smart), one coach at UMASS (John Calipari), and one coach at Dayton (Archie Miller) can say they’ve done the same in the history of the league. Pretty good company to be in for Hobbs at what is considered to be one of the tougher jobs in the league with the way the budget, academic requirements, and other resources are concerned. Hobbs is also one of three coaches to ever go undefeated in the conference joining John Chaney and Anthony Grant and three of Hobbs’ former assistants that were on staff with him are now head coaches (Steve Pikiell - Rutgers, Kevin Broadus - Morgan State, Darrell Brooks - Bowie State). Hobbs’ two NCAA championships on two different staffs at UCONN, his ability to recruit NBA level talent, and the way that success has followed him everywhere he has been make a great candidate for a comeback story.
Courtesy of Greensboro News & Record
After a 3-29 in his first year at the helm, Joyner led the North Carolina A&T Aggies to the single greatest turnaround in NCAA Div. I in year two. The 20-15 record was good for the best single season winning percentage in 28 years and it was the first time in 30 years that A&T went undefeated at home. The accomplishment earned Joyner MEAC Coach of the Year honors marking the first time since 1988 that a coach from North Carolina A&T earned the award. Joyner came to A&T after serving as the head coach at Columbia State CC. Joyner led the chargers to a 61-23 record in three seasons and led them to their first NJCAA National Tournament appearance since 1977 during his last season in 2012. His track record of turning around program’s quickly make him an excellent candidate for an open vacancy and he is sure to make plenty of noise as a “comeback coach.”
Courtesy of Kansas State Athletics
It’s with great irony that nearly all of Lowery’s assistants, support staff, and one of his best players, Bryan Mullins, have at one point earned head coaching jobs after serving under him at Southern Illinois from 2004-12. Jack Owens (Miami OH), Lance Irvin (Chicago State), Anthony Stewart (UT Martin), Brad Korn (SEMO), Bryan Mullins (Southern Illinois), Rodney Watson (USI), and Koby Altman (GM of Cleveland Cavaliers) have all moved on to bigger and better positions after numerous glory years at Southern Illinois that are bullet pointed on their resumes. It in many ways goes to show just how much Southern Illinois had it rolling when Lowery, who has also been a part of one of the greatest stretches in Kansas State recently as an assistant, was piloting the program. In many ways, he raised the bar and expectations far too high on himself before key injuries and an athletic director change ultimately contributed to his removal. SIU went to an astounding seven straight postseasons (6 NCAAs and 1 NIT) in a one bid league. Outside of Wichita State, which the success greatly mirrored, no other program in the history of the league has accomplished such a feat. Additionally, only four coaches (Dana Altman, Gregg Marshall, & Nolan Richardson, Denny Crum) have ever been able to advance to four straight between the NCAA & NIT like Lowery did in the 100+ year history of the league. He has been mentioned with many jobs in his native midwest over the years and it won’t be long until he gets a second chance that he deserves.
Courtesy of Associated Press
It’s not easy to go to Wake Forest in the ACC after just two years of career head coaching experience at Tulsa in the American. It’s also not easy to have your first job be in the American, the country’s 7th best conference by RPI in the last six seasons. Despite the degree of difficulty, Manning was able to have short lived success at Tulsa before embarking on his journey in Winston Salem, NC. Manning took his Tulsa team, the fifth-least-experienced team in the nation in 2012–13, from a near .500 record in his first year to a 21-13 record in his second year that was highlighted by a trip to the NCAA Tournament, a conference regular season title, and a conference tournament title. Manning helped produce the first NCAA Tournament in seven seasons at Wake Forest, but was never quite able to sustain the success in the remaining three seasons. However, injuries did play a pretty significant role in his last season.
Courtesy of The State
Widely respected as one of the better assistant coaches in the country for his efforts on the recruiting trails, player development, and ability to help produce wins at the different spots over the years, Martin would be a great comeback story when the right situation presents itself. The former assistant in the national championship game for John Calipari at the University of Memphis, was a head coach at Marist from 2008-13. While Martin didn’t have outstanding success during his time with the red foxes, the three coaches that have followed him haven’t had much success either. In fact, Martin has the highest win total dating back nearly fifteen seasons at what is considered the second hardest job in the MAAC due in large part to the school’s strict academic requirements according to a college coach review by Stadium analyst Jeff Goodman. Additionally, a big lawsuit between the school and former coach that Martin had taken over for, Matt Brady, left a dark cloud over the program. Regardless of his time at Marist, Martin’s abilities to recruit and develop high level talent like Derrick Rose & Thomas Bryant, advance deep in the tournament like he did at Memphis & Indiana, and his NBA experience with the Oklahoma City Thunder make him a deserving candidate.
Courtesy of USA Today
While it’s still uncertain if we’ll ever see Thad Matta again, it doesn’t take away from the high possibility of him having success in a return when one reflects on the successes of his past. The decorated coach went to a remarkable 13 NCAA Tournaments in 16 eligible seasons while on the sidelines at Ohio State, Xavier, and Butler. He was a frequent visitor to the tournament’s second weekend during that time as well. The Illinois native managed to at least advance to the second weekend in six of 13 trips, which included one NCAA Runner-up finish, one Final Four finish, two Elite Eights, and two Sweet Sixteens. In addition, he won 8 regular season conference titles in 17 seasons. The future Hall of Famer and winningest coach in Ohio State history was 439-154 (.740) over the course of his career and players like Greg Oden, D’angelo Russell, Mike Conley, Jared Sullinger, and Evan Turner highlight just some of the talent Matta was able to haul in to make it possible. He has been rumored with some jobs of late and there’s plenty of programs that might be willing to experiment with some Matta magic.
Courtesy of Peoria Journal Star
McKenna has quite a bit that catches your eye when you skim over his resume and connect the dots. The longtime Dana Altman assistant at Creighton and Oregon began his head coaching journey at Nebraska Omaha, a NCAA Div. II school at the time, from 2001-05. The mavericks went 89-33 (.730) in four seasons with two regular season conference championships and three trips to the NCAA Tournament. After a short return to the sidelines under Dana Altman for a second stint as an assistant at Creighton, McKenna landed a job at Indiana State. Although the first few years had some bumps, there was a lot to take away from it as the team progressively showed flashes. In McKenna’s third and best season at Indiana State, the Sycamores had their full lineup of student-athletes for just 28 minutes of the rough and tumble Missouri Valley Conference slate. The Sycamores' success despite losing over 50 percent of their scoring punch for the greater portion of the MVC slate, led coach McKenna to being tabbed as the MVC Coach of the Year by CollegeInsider.com and helped the Sycamores record their first winning season in nearly a decade as they finished tied for fifth in the league standings. McKenna would ultimately choose to follow his former boss, Dana Altman, to Oregon upon completion of the season and the summer before 2010-11 Indiana State team would ultimately go to their first NCAA Tournament in ten years. That team returned 65% of the scorers from the previous season and added a class featuring Jake Odum, who went on to be one of the school’s all-time leading scorers, that McKenna recruited.
Courtesy of UNLV Athletics
Considering all the circumstances, it was shocking that Marvin Menzies was let go after year three at UNLV and steady improvement from ground zero of a nightmare of a situation. Menzies, the first African American ever hired at UNLV, inherited a total of two scholarship players when he arrived in Las Vegas and a program that was on the verge of serious APR issues. Despite the setbacks that he faced, Menzies was able to secure a more than impressive top 15 ranked recruiting class prior to year two that would provide a foundation for steady improvement in the years to come. The Runnin Rebels improved their conference position each year and had a very likely chance to do the same with their overall win total as well before top player Shakur Juiston went down with a season ending injury early in year three. To take matters even further, Menzies improved UNLV’s APR situation so much in three years that they were awarded a NABC Academic Excellence Award for the first time in program history. In the end, a new athletic director after year one and a new president after year two ultimately ended up being a large part of Menzies’ dismissal. His impressive success getting UNLV back on its feet combined with unrivaled success at New Mexico State (8 championships in 9 years) make him an overwhelming candidate for another chance.
Courtesy of Omaha World Herald
Tim Miles, one of the few coaches who has taken teams to the postseason at the Division I, Division II and NAIA ranks, has had plenty of success to be a worthy candidate when a vacancy comes about in the near future. The veteran head coach of over 20 seasons has proven that he can consistently put teams into position to have success at each of his five stops. The South Dakota native has been able to produce a top national postseason appearance and/or a 20-win season in as many as five seasons at each of his rebuild projects over the years. Most of those haven’t come easy either. He took Mayville State, an NAIA program which had won just four games in two previous seasons, to back-to-back NAIA Tournament appearances in his first two years as a head coach. At Southwest Minnesota State, he turned a program that had one winning season in a decade to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight in just four seasons. Furthermore, he oversaw a transition from NCAA Div. II to NCAA Div. I at North Dakota State and was responsible for impressive rebuilds at tough jobs in their respective conferences in Nebraska and Colorado State.
Courtesy of Las Vegas Review Journal
Murphy has the respect of many on the west coast and numerous people in basketball circles would support him in a comeback. After being hired as one of the youngest coaches in the country at the age of 32 with just three years of college assistant experience under Josh Pastner at Memphis, Murphy inherited a 5-win team that had had their coach leave mid-season the year before he arrived. After one season of rebuilding, Murphy guided the lumberjacks to a second place Big Sky finish in year two and their best season in school history in year three by winning 23 games and advancing to the CIT finals. It still remains one of the best two and three year stretches in program history. It’s even more impressive when you look at some of the hardships that Northern Arizona is faced with. Murphy had a talented group of players coming back before he chose to leave for Arizona including Cameron Shelton, who is on pace to be among the top scorers in program history. His experience recruiting top ten recruiting classes, NBA experience with the Denver Nuggets, and his successes at NAU make him a guy that could very easily be back soon.
Courtesy of Ethan Miller
Craig Neal has been a part of a lot of success as an assistant. In nine seasons as an assistant before coming to Nevada, he has helped lead teams to the postseason eight times, capture three conference tournament titles and win four regular season conference championships. Those teams have accumulated an overall record of 218-87 (.710) with an average of 24 wins a season. His time at New Mexico was even more impressive and remains one of the best stints in school history. From 2007-13, Neal helped win six total titles and produced an astounding record of 155-52 (.750). The success and a Mountain West Tournament title in his first season as a head coach at New Mexico alone should’ve granted him more of a chance in Albuquerque. In fact, it was the most wins all-time by a first year head coach in New Mexico history and his .594 winning percentage still ranks 10th out of 49 coaches that were hired in 2013. He is also just one of 15 coaches hired in 2013 that can say they went to a NCAA Tournament.
Courtesy of New Haven Register
Despite facing initial adversity as a first year head coach at the University of Connecticut stemming from low APR scores that resulted in a postseason ban, Kevin Ollie was able to have an impressive six year stint with the Huskies after replacing a legend in Jim Calhoun. Ollie was able to win a NCAA National Championship in year two of his head coaching career and managed to win at least twenty games in each of his first four seasons. After a NIT season in Ollie’s third year, he managed to make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2016 before injuries and NCAA violations derailed in him in his final two years. In year five before the season was 10 days old, UCONN lost three players, two of them starters, to season-ending injuries, setting a tone that continued throughout the year. In total, 106 games were missed by eight different UCONN players due to injury or sickness. In a few games, UCONN had just six scholarship players available. NCAA violations that surfaced in Ollie’s sixth season and another subpar effort ultimately led UCONN to part ways, but due to Ollie’s national championship resume, his experience as a former NBA player, and his ability to develop players, he deserves another chance.
Courtesy of Pitt Athletics
O’toole is widely respected around the country. He has worked for some of the country’s best coaches in Mike Kryzewski and Jim Boeheim as an assistant and has things to like during his time as a head coach at his alma mater as well. His back-to-back 19-win seasons in his fourth and fifth year at the helm are good for the third greatest two year stretch in program history. Additionally, his second place finish in the MAAC in year four is among just two second place finishes in school history and his three consecutive winning seasons from 2002-05 was the first time for the program in over 25 years. As an assistant, his Final Four at Syracuse, No. 1 overall recruiting class at Duke that would go on to win a national championship and finish as a runner-up, his Sweet Sixteen and NIT Championship with Stanford, and his development/recruitment of over 25 NBA players over the years sticks out. The former MAAC Coach of the Year will and should get a second chance soon.
Courtesy of Arkansas Athletics
Patrick has many things to like on his resume in his return to the first seat on a college bench. The former UC Riverside head coach helped flip the Highlander program from 8 and 9 wins in the two years prior to his arrival to 10 and 17 wins in his two seasons at the helm that included wins against Nebraska and Fresno State. The 17-win season is tied for the most program history. As a result, Patrick was a finalist for two National Coach of the Year Awards. Patrick’s recruiting history as an assistant is also impressive. At TCU, his top 25 recruiting class proved to be an integral part of the second-largest turnaround in program history and second-winningest season in program history when the horned frogs posted a 12-game improvement, took home the NIT Championship, and posted a 24-win season. The following season, TCU went 21-12 and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 20 years. LSU was also able to benefit from two top five recruiting classes that Patrick played a big role in that included number one overall NBA Draft pick Ben Simmons.
Courtesy of USA Today
Turning around programs with energy and excitement through the media, fan base, and recruiting is in Patsos’ basketball DNA. Known for being a revival guy, Patsos began forming this reputation as a young assistant at Maryland where he helped remarkably turnaround a last place ACC team into a national championship team in the span of eleven years. His reputation continued to cement itself even more after earning his first head coaching job at Loyola (MD) in 2004-05. After an abysmal 1-win season in the year before he arrived, Patsos restored life into the program by year three and a NCAA Tournament team in year eight. It was the program’s second NCAA Tournament appearance in their 100+ year history and the best stretch in school history as well. More of the same happened when Patsos took the job at Siena. After an 8-win season in the year before his arrival, Patsos reeled in 20 wins in year one and followed it up with a MAAC Tournament championship appearance in year four where the Saints eventually fell to conference power Iona in overtime by a point to advance to the NCAA Tournament. His involvement with the UAA since his removal and appearances in the media also make him a strong candidate for a job in the near future.
Courtesy of Idaho
Perry inherited just a 4-win team when he was hired in 2001 as the youngest head coach in the country at the age of 30. To make matters worse, the NCAA’s 5/8 rule was in place at the time and left Perry with his hands tied in terms of who could ultimately go out and get to improve the program. Regardless, Idaho still prevailed and showed improvement in the first three years. Perry navigated the vandals from last place in the conference to fourth place earning a first round conference tournament bye for the first time in school history before a new athletic director, new president, budget and constant conference realignment ultimately derailed the efforts. The vandals would switch from the Big Sky, Big West, Sun Belt, and WAC in a nine year span. Since, Perry has added to a more than impressive resume. After working with the Indiana Pacers for a handful of years, he has emerged again on the college scene having success with Southern Miss (school record for wins), Colorado State (two school records for wins), and now at Pacific under Damon Stoudamire where he has played a major role in bringing back success that the program hasn’t seen in fifty years. His time as a successful assistant earning at large bids and breaking into top 25 polls on top of his NBA experience make him an attractive candidate for a comeback story.
Courtesy of Arizona Daily Star
In the past 50 years of the Drake program, only 1 of 13 coaches have ever finished their stint with a winning record. While Phelps wasn’t the guy that did, he didn’t finish far off and is third best in winning percentage when you look at those near dozen coaches over the years that have made an attempt to crack one of the worst jobs in the Missouri Valley according to a college coach review by Stadium analyst Jeff Goodman. Furthermore, with 62 wins in his first four seasons, Phelps had more victories than any Drake coach in his initial four years on the job. Phelps’ best season and the ninth best season in the program's 100+ year history at the time was injury plagued and completely without the bulldogs’ starting center. Since, Phelps has been key in the recruiting efforts of other schools like he has done his whole career. NC State, Arizona State, and Arizona have all benefited tremendously with Phelps on the sidelines for multiple seasons. In sixteen years as an assistant between those three stops, Phelps traveled to the NCAA Tournament eight times and has recruited/developed sixteen NBA Draft picks. His work with West Coast Elite and Prolific Prep at the grassroots level will undoubtedly help his cause in a return to the driver’s seat as well.
Courtesy of Northern State Athletics
While Phillips didn’t put things together at Ohio like the administration would have liked, he did have some success for the Bobcats as well as plenty of success with North Dakota State. Phillips came to Ohio after two NCAA Tournament appearances and three 20-win seasons over the course of seven years at NDSU. After a season rebuilding, the Bobcats would win 23 games in Phillips' second season and advance to the CBI semifinals after securing a 2nd place finish in their MAC division. Another 20-win season and 2nd place finish would come in the next season before key injuries to some of the team’s best players like Jordan Dartis (13.1 PPG), Jason Carter (16.5 PPG), James Gollon (6.8 PPG), and Ben Vander Plas (8.6 PPG) would throw them off the following years. Phillips was an assistant coach at North Dakota State and at Milwaukee for Bo Ryan before he began his coaching journey. He has been the head coach at Northern State, a NCAA Division II program, in the years since his removal at Ohio. He is 34-6 (.850) in a year and a half so far with one conference title.
Courtesy of Georgia Tech Athletics
Reveno is respected throughout the country and has strong support amongst coaches and basketball circles for a comeback story. Reveno, a former Final Four assistant coach at Stanford under Mike Montgomery, has four things that stick out during his time at Portland. He was voted the WCC Coach of the Year for the first time in 30 years and just the second time in school history, he coached the team to a school record of 60 wins over three years, and he coached the team into AP National Top 25 for the first time in 50 years, and he graduated 100% of his players over 10 seasons. For a job that is ranked second to last in the league according to a college coach review by Stadium analyst Jeff Goodman, the job Reveno did in Portland is quite admirable in many ways. His time as an assistant at Stanford where the Cardinal won four PAC-10 Championships over nine year and most recently at Georgia Tech where he has helped lead a resurgence at a program that has laid dormant for quite some time is noteworthy as well. Georgia Tech was the NIT runner-up in 2017 after being picked to not win a game in the ACC.
Courtesy of UNLV Athletics
Rice was 98-54 (.645) in four and a half seasons at UNLV with two NCAA Tournament appearances. Many coaches have accomplished the same or less and have still gotten more rope to work with. On top of winning at least 20 games in three seasons, Rice mentored four players that went on to be drafted by the NBA, including the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, Anthony Bennett. He also guided the Runnin’ Rebels to 10 wins over top 25 teams during his tenure, including an upset over No. 1 North Carolina and No. 3 Arizona. Rice’s abilities as a recruiter helped him accomplish much of his highlights during his time at UCLA. Three top 15 recruiting classes bolstered the roster. Rice has also had success everywhere he has gone as an assistant. The former player under Jerry Tarkanian at UNLV has been to a NCAA Tournament and won a conference regular season title at Washington, Nevada, UNLV, and BYU as an assistant coach. There’s much to like about his resume and he would be a terrific comeback story many would rally behind.
Courtesy of BYU Athletics
The former Southern Utah coach just had three years of division one college assistant experience before he was hired at the young age of 33 to lead what would be the 16th youngest team in America. Southern Utah, which coaches consider the second worst job in the Big Sky Conference according to a coach review done by Stadium analyst Jeff Goodman, would experience their first Big Sky season under Robinson as well after conference realignment took them out of the Summit League. Robinson came to Southern Utah with experience at LSU and Stanford under Trent Johnson. Robinson’s stop from 2006-08 with the Cardinal, his alma mater, is among the best stretches in school history as Stanford advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for just the fifth time in school history. Robinson was a team captain for Mark Montgomery & Trent Johnson at Stanford as a player. Stanford advanced to the NCAA Tournament each year earning three No. 1 seeds and advancing to one Elite Eight.
Courtesy of NWI Times
Schilling’s name has been mentioned with jobs throughout his native midwest in recent years and it probably won’t be long until he receives another chance. Schilling, the former Wright State head coach at the tender age of 31, had just one year of college coaching experience before being hired as a head coach at Wright State. While there were signs of improvement by year four and five, Schilling could not quite sustain and keep building upon the success in his youthful head coaching career. Since, Schilling has made quite a name for himself and built up quite a reputation in and around his native state of Indiana. Most recently, Schilling played a major role as an assistant at Indiana where he helped secure a top ten recruiting class that featured Romeo Langford and bolstered the program back on its feet. The effort came after having similar success at UCLA as an assistant for Steve Alford where he was able to recruit/develop nine NBA players including Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Anderson, Norman Powell and Kevon Looney. The Bruins made three Sweet Sixteen appearances during his time in Westwood and amassed a 96-45 (.681) record.
Courtesy of USA Today
For a guy that is by far and away the winningest coach in Oral Roberts history, and failed to finish third place or better in the conference just six times in 18 years, it comes as a surprise that Oral Roberts would even contemplate letting Scott Sutton go. However, a change in leadership and major financial difficulties leading to reprioritization of athletics ultimately was a huge reason why something so great that was happening took a fall. In many ways, he is not only the best coach that Oral Roberts has had, but the Summit League has seen. Only one other coach in the league’s history can say they’ve been to three straight NCAA Tournaments and his .662 winning percentage during conference play ranks just second all-time among coaches that have coached at a school for at least four years behind Scott Nagy’s .672 at South Dakota State. Sutton, the son of legendary Oklahoma State head coach Eddie Sutton, is also known for his player development and recruiting as well. He also coached Caleb Green to three All-America seasons and Summit League Player of the Year awards and helped Dominique Morrison earn All-America honors and Summit League Player of the Year in 2012. He also coached five Freshman All-Americans, four conference Newcomers of the Year, two league Defensive Players of the Year and three Sixth Men of the Year. He has helped Oklahoma State bring in two top 25 recruiting classes in the past two seasons.
Courtesy of USA Today
While he had too many ups and downs at Georgetown for the administration’s liking, Thompson was able to have much success during his 13 years in DC. The Hoyas made it to the Big Dance eight times while also participating in three NITs. In six of the eight NCAA Tournament appearances, the Hoyas were among the top four seeds and advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 2007. Thompson guided the Hoyas to three Big East regular season championships and a 278-151 (.653) overall record while in the driver’s seat. In addition, in a span of four years (2006-07 -- 2009-10), more Georgetown players (5) were selected in the NBA Draft than any other school in the BIG EAST Conference. He has coached two BIG EAST Players of the Year, five All-Americans, nine First Team All-BIG EAST selections and 28 players who have earned All-BIG EAST accolades. He was able to have much of the same success as the head coach at Princeton from 2000-04. Thompson turned in a remarkable 45-11 (.804) Ivy League record over those four seasons winning the conference regular season title three times. He deserves another chance and could really help a school.
Courtesy of Arkansas Athletics
Williams’ NBA experience and time building some of the best programs in their respective conferences makes him deserving of a second chance alone. The former NBA championship level point guard for Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State helped bring much success to Oral Roberts under Scott Sutton in the Summit League and did the same under Leonard Hamilton at Florida State. In fact, Williams was a part of what is considered in many ways to be the best stretch in school history at both schools. He helped develop ORU into a program that would only finish outside of second in the Summit League twice during his tenure and eventually advance to three straight NCAA Tournaments with an additional NIT stop. His success at Florida State under Leonard Hamilton would be very similar. During this time the team won its first ACC Championship, enjoyed a school-record run of four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, four consecutive years of double digit wins in ACC play, produced five NBA Draft picks, recorded 16 wins over nationally ranked teams and appeared in the national rankings in four straight seasons. He is now trying to do the same thing at Arkansas. Williams was a basket away in overtime from a NCAA Tournament at Stetson. It would’ve been the first time in school history. We think he’ll have different luck if he gets another chance.
Courtesy of Ethan Miller
While the oceanside cliffs of Malibu are appealing, people may be surprised that the infrastructure and intangibles that make up the Pepperdine basketball program are harder to win with when you look at how it stacks up against the rest of the conference than one might think. Despite having one of the lower basketball budgets in the league, one of the smaller gyms and atmospheres, little wiggle room with the type of player you can bring to the university, among other aspects, Marty Wilson was able to show some improvement during his time at Pepperdine. He took a team from ten wins in his first season to back-to-back 18-win seasons in years four and five. Some of Pepperdine’s best players in their recent history have been recruited by Wilson as well. Colbey Ross (Pepperdine’s all-time leading scorer), Kessler Edwards (a NBA Draft prospect), Lamond Murray (WCC scoring crown in 2016-17), along with 11 other All-WCC selections. Wilson has an impeccable reputation amongst his peers and in basketball circles on the west coast and is worthy of being granted another chance.
Courtesy of Florida State Athletics
The youngest division one head coach in the country on the day of his hiring and the first African American ever hired at the university, Young has more than a case to receive another shot in the near future. Facing three scholarships taken, APR issues, academic scandal, and probation in his first year, Young could only recruit true freshmen during his time at Georgia Southern. A total of sixteen freshmen came through the program in Young’s first three years in the driver’s seat that was highlighted by the 6th ranked recruiting class amongst mid-majors according to ESPN in 2011. Despite the adversity, Young did show improvement by year three after two brutal years of having to grow organically with freshman. The eagles climbed to No. 2 in the SOCON standings for conference play in the loaded south division. However, he couldn’t quite get over the hump enough. A new athletic director and in year four and a new president the year before would ultimately decide that country’s youngest coach wasn’t rising up to expectations. Since, Young has been a part of huge momentum at Florida State as an assistant under Leonard Hamilton. Young has been to the NCAA Tournament at almost each of his six stops as an assistant coach and recruited impressive talent along the way. 8 postseason appearances, 5 McDonald’s All-Americans, and 10 NBA Draft picks over the course of 19 seasons as an assistant.
Courtesy of Kansas City Star
A case of having three different athletic directors didn’t help the respect for the fact that Richardson remains the only coach responsible for the program’s first-ever post season and first-ever postseason victory. Instead, the third winningest coach in school history faced significant budget cuts and a real documented consideration of returning to the NCAA Division II level after completing the second winningest season in school history and two years after matching the highest conference finish (2nd) in school history as a division one program. To make matters worse, UMKC would lose their arena and return to play in the school’s recreation center that they once used one year later. Plenty of talent was brought in to help this successful initiative for Richardson, a former national championship assistant for Rick Pitino at Louisville and Sweet Sixteen coach at Xavier. Richardson developed a WAC Player of the Year and a NABC All-American honorable mention that headlined this group. His efforts as a recruiter at Indiana State helped result in two NCAA Tournament appearances and his abilities at Drake under Mark Phelps, another coach on this list, helped advance the program. He deserves a hard look for a comeback story.
The former 1,000 point scorer at New Mexico State has been a familiar face in the college basketball coaching world for the state of New Mexico. With stops at University of New Mexico, New Mexico State, & New Mexico Highlands, Mason has contributed to success at each stop. Conference titles at both New Mexico & New Mexico State plus a one year stop at New Mexico Highlands where he helped the Cowboys turn a 5-win team into an eventual RMAC Champion and 22-win team/class through recruiting are all bullet points on his resume. Mason's success, ability to recruit, ability to develop players, and the respect he has within basketball circles throughout the country are all attractive pieces that make him an excellent candidate for a comeback very soon.
As someone that has been visibly emotional and outwardly sorry, Richardson has not refrained from publicly sharing his story in an effort for others to learn from it. The former Elite Eight assistant with Xavier and Arizona lost his dream, lost his freedom, and in many ways his family/friends when he was put in prison for the college bribery scheme. While we will all truly never know the complete minute-by-minute details of what went down nearly three years ago, one thing is clear. Book Richardson has paid the price and has learned from it while others that may or may not have been involved have been in many ways untouched. Whether right or wrong, many can agree that many that were involved meant no harm. Richardson has learned his lesson and undoubtedly deserves to earn his way again. There have been numerous incidents with other coaches in the past 40 years that many could argue are much worse. Let's give Book and potentially others that were involved a way back in sometime in the near future.