Some of the best men's basketball in the country is played at the Division III level. These coaches not only master the X & Os but they also navigate a world with no athletic scholarships and help their athletes balance a heavy academic workload. The coaches on this list are considered to be some of the rising stars in men's basketball and have all been head coaches for under five years. After consulting with a wide array of industry professionals, these are the Silver Waves Media Rising Head Coaches at the Men's NCAA Division III level, listed in alphabetical order.
When Macalester Head Coach Abe Woldeslassie took over in 2018, he was faced with an uphill battle and a program that had won just 35 games in its prior 10 seasons combined. Under Woldeslassie the Scots have increased their wins in each season. Prior to Macalester, Woldeslassie spent time at Siena College, Davidson, Dartmouth, and Bowdoin. Despite battling covid cancellations and shortened seasons for half of his head coaching career, Woldeslassie has made an immediate impact on the program and will continue his success for years to come.
Currently in his fourth season at the University of Puget Sound, Head Men’s Basketball Coach Aubrey Shelton has slowly begun reshaping the program. Despite being plagued by covid for half of his head coaching career, Shelton has produced wins for the program and has developed high level athletes - three earning all NWC honors. Prior to UPS Shelton spent 11 years at Lincoln High School where he won over 80 percent of his games.
Currently in his first season at Tufts, Brandon Linton is one of the top up and coming coaches in the country and he brings two years of head coaching experience (Nichols) and combined seven seasons of assistant coaching experience (Bowdoin and Army). With his ten years of experience, Linton is no rookie and took Nichols to a 21 win season ending with an NCAA Tournament berth.
Despite being in only his third season as the head coach at Whitworth University, Damion Jablonski has over 15 years of combined college coaching experience. Before earning his head coaching position, Jablonski spent the previous eight seasons as the assistant coach for the Pirates. Whitworth has been a dominant force in Division III Men’s hoops and as the recruiting coordinator, Jablonski played a major role in their success. Under Jablonski the pirates have started strong despite dealing with covid seasons for most of his time.
The College of Wooster Head Coach Doug Cline is currently in his second year but he is no newby to the game. Prior to taking over at Wooster, Cline was the assistant coach for 25 years. As the assistant and associate head coach, he helped the Wooster program to nearly 600 wins, 23 NCAA appearances, and three final four appearances. Although he has dealt with Covid in both of his first two seasons, Cline looks to continue the success of the program for years to come.
Currently in his fourth season as the head coach at Brandeis, Jean Bain has quickly taken the NCAA by storm. In his first two seasons, Bain led Brandeis to a combined 35 wins and a top 25 ranking in 2019. Prior to Brandeis, Bain spent time at Dartmouth, Columbia, New Hampshire, and WPI as an assistant coach. He is one of the rising stars in Men's College Basketball and I would expect to see Brandeis playing for a national championship in the future.
Since officially taking over as the head coach in 2018, Kent Dernbach has made a huge impact. His UW La Crosse program has won 59 games in total (including a year as the interim head coach) and he earned himself the 2020-21 WIAC Coach of the Year. In the 2020 season Dernbach led the Eagles to a 13th ranked regular season - the highest in school history. He is off to another amazing start sitting at 15-2 on the season.
Aurora’s Head men’s basketball coach Matt Airy joined the program in 2019 after spending 13 years as the associate head and assistant coach at Whitman. During his time at Whitman, Airy helped evolve the program from one of the worst in the NCAA to a national contender. Whitman won 132 games in Airy’s final 5 seasons and he played a pivotal role in their success. Airy’s head coaching career has been plagued with Covid seasons but he is sure to make strides in the future years to come.
Matt Lewis is entering his third season as head coach of the UW-Oshkosh Men’s Basketball Program. Lewis guided the Titans to an NCAA Division III National Championship in 2019. This past season Lewis and UW-Oshkosh won the WIAC postseason title and reached the second round of the Division III Tournament. Lewis collected Division III Coach of the Year honors from the NABC, D3hoops.com, DIII News and the Glenn Robinson Award committee. He was also named WIAC Coach of the Year and Division III Public Schools Men's Basketball Coach of the Year by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association. Lewis is a rising star in the industry.
After spending the previous eight seasons as the assistant coach for Franklin & Marshall, current head coach Nick Nichay took over as the interim in 2019 and then the official head coach in 2020. As an assistant coach, Nichay helped lead the Diplomats to 156 wins and a 2018 NCAA tournament appearance. While he has battled covid throughout the past two and a half years - including a cancelled 2020 season - Nichay has won 18 games and looks to continue Franklin & Marshall’s storied success.
Raul Placeres is currently in his third season as the head coach for the Maryville Men’s Basketball program. During his first season Placeres went 9-17 but quickly turned things around in year two with a 10-2 record. Despite another Covid plagues season, Placeres has increased his win count again currently sitting at 13-1 on the year. His impact has been immediate and Placeres is emerging as one of the top young head coaches in the country.
Prior to his hire in 2018, Ryan Mee spent the previous six seasons as an assistant at Davidson College under Bob McKillop. In his first two seasons at Vassar, Mee won 11 games in each (22 total) before losing the 2020 season to Covid. This year, Mee has already trumped his previous seasons sitting at 13-2 with eight more regular season games to go. Starting his coaching career as a graduate assistant in 2005, Mee has experience across multiple levels of the game and is continuing his success now as a head coach.
One of the younger head coaches in the NCAA, Stefan Thompson took over at Hobart College in 2019 after spending the previous five seasons as an assistant coach for Wilkes & Hobart. Thompson began his coaching career after an electric career as an athlete for Hobart that finished in 2013. Thompson led the Statesman to a 23 win season in his first year before losing the 2020 season to Covid.
After spending seven years as an assistant coach & associate head coach for Oberlin, Tim Mcrory was hired as the head coach for Lewis and Clark in 2018. McCrory took over a Pioneer program that was coming off of three losing seasons in a row. He has improved records in each of his first two seasons and lost the 2020 season to covid.
In 2019 Tyler Simms was hired as the head coach at Clark University after spending the previous decade as an assistant coach at Brown and Trinity College. In the two seasons prior to Simms, the Clark men’s basketball program won a combined nine games. In his first season, Simms led Clark to eight wins before shutting things down for Covid in 2020. This year, Clark has exploded to a 14-3 record, making this their best year since 2009 with nine games left in the season.