Hirings and firings: 2015 college basketball coaching changes


Oliver Purnell has resigned from DePaul. (USATSI)
Oliver Purnell has resigned from DePaul. (USATSI)

Which coaches have been fired, which jobs are opening up, and which coaches are being looked at as possible replacements? We’ve got everything you need to know about 2015 coaching hirings and firings.

San Diego

Out: Bill Grier. Grier was at USD for eight years, accumulating a 117-144 record over that time. He did make one NCAA Tournament appearance in his time there, but it was in his first year when the Toreros won the WCC Tournament. Since then, he made one other postseason appearance, last season. This job is actually a pretty good mid-level one in my opinion, and a guy who succeeds here could leap rather quickly into higher-level job. The obvious candidate is Eric Musselman from LSU. The former Golden State Warriors’ coach is currently on Johnny Jones’ staff, but is a San Diego alum and has experience coaching basketball at literally every single level. He’d be a solid hire, and he’d fit well within the recent tradition of WCC schools looking for an alum (Mike Dunlap, Marty Wilson).

Northern Kentucky

Out: Dave Bezold. Bezold was there for 11 seasons, compiling a 194-133 record with the Norse. However, his team really struggled since making the transition to Division I, going only 33-54 since moving up. Still, there seemed to be some real progress this season, as the Norse went 13-17 overall and actually finished at .500 in the Atlantic Sun. Given that momentum, it’s a bit odd that he was shown the door, so I’ll be interested to see if there is another shoe to drop here. Given the university’s proximity to the city of Cincinnati, maybe taking a run at Larry Davis of UC would be a good idea. Davis was terrific in getting the Bearcats to the NCAA Tournament, but he’ll be forced to take a back seat to Mick Cronin when he returns next season. If they wanted to go younger, Xavier’s Travis Steele also might not be a bad candidate.


Out: Alan Major. This one seemed to be inevitable this offseason, as Major has struggled with health issues over the past year that have limited his time on the sidelines. But even before those complications came up, he was on the hot seat for his performance on the job. Major will finish his tenure at Charlotte with a 67-70 record overall and an abysmal 22-43 mark in conference. My guess is that the former Ohio State assistant under Thad Matta will have a landing spot there when he decides to get back into coaching. As far as Charlotte is concerned, Gary Parrish noted on the Eye on College Basketball Podcast to look out for Chattanooga’s Will Wade on this one. Wade is a 32-year-old former VCU assistant that has led the Mocs to a 40-25 mark in two seasons on the job.


Out: Anthony Grant. Grant only made the NCAA Tournament once in his four years with the Crimson Tide after coming over from VCU, where he was the coach before Shaka Smart. His record was a 117-85, and he did have a winning conference record, but ultimately it just wasn’t quite enough. The program wasn’t really showing any positive signs of momentum, and the recruiting class this year is shaping up to be relatively weak despite losing three seniors. All eyes will now turn to Murray State’s Steve Prohm, who will likely be the frontrunner for this job. He’s an Alabama grad that is coming off of yet another successful season with the Racers, this time going 27-5 before being left at home from the Big Dance. His record in four years at Murray is 102-29, and I just don’t see how the Crimson Tide would be able to lure a stronger candidate than this right now.


Out: Oliver Purnell. Purnell resigned from his position as DePaul’s head coach after the Blue Demons’ season ended. Purnell spent five seasons in Chicago trying to rebuild this program, and it just never happened. He’ll leave with a 54-105 record at DePaul, having never finished higher than the seventh-place he did this year. This was actually his best season in Chicago, with a 12-20 record. This resignation also continues one of the most remarkable streaks in all of sports: Purnell, in his 27 consecutive years as a head coach at five different schools, has never been fired. This actually may be a better job than it gets credit for. The Blue Demons have some pretty solid talent on the roster already, and also have a pretty solid recruiting class coming in. Plus, they have a new arena coming in. If the administration makes the right hire, this could really be a decent job. The key here will be an excellent recruiter that can be aggressive within the city of Chicago.

East Tennessee State

Out: Murry Bartow. Bartow has been a head man for 18 years, spending the first six at UAB and the next 12 at ETSU. The son of the legendary Gene Bartow (winner of 627 career games), Murry’s firing came as something of a shock. He led the Buccaneers to the NCAA Tournament three times, to five 20-win seasons, and had only two losing seasons in his tenure. That’s typically not the resume of a guy that gets fired in a smaller league, even though expectations were a bit higher than this year’s 16-14 final mark. It’s going to be tough for the athletic department to find a guy better than Bartow.


Out: David Carter. Carter had been in Reno for the last 16 seasons, the first 10 of which had been as an assistant under Mark Fox and Trent Johnson — both of whom have moved on to greener pastures. However, Carter could not replicate the success of his predecessors in his six seasons. He was able to make the NIT in two of his first three seasons with the program, but was thoroughly unsuccessful in the three following years following Nevada’s move to the Mountain West Conference, including a 9-22 overall mark this season (5-13 in league). Carter will finish his tenure in Reno with a 98-97 mark as a head coach, but a 36-58 one over the past three seasons. This is a program that is teetering on the brink of becoming nationally irrelevant after a near-decade of success that included four NCAA Tournament appearances and six NBA Draft picks. A strong hire here is absolutely essential to the well-being of Nevada hoops.


Out: Howard Moore. Moore was let go for a lack of on-court success, according to athletic director Jim Schmidt. And honestly, it’s not a huge surprise. UIC never really showed any consistent modicum of success under Moore, going 49-111 in his five seasons at the helm with only one winning season (2012-13). The Flames went 10-24 this year with an upperclassman-laden roster, and didn’t show a ton of progress following the winning year two seasons ago. One other thing worth mentioning: the Flames do have three top-400 recruits coming in next season according to 247Sports. That’s an impressive haul for a school the size of UIC, and it’ll be interesting to see if they stick around with the switch.

The Citadel

Out: Chuck Driesell. The son of legendary coach Lefty Driesell, Chuck struggled to establish himself at The Citadel. He had a record of 42-113 in five seasons, and only won one-quarter of his conference games in the SoCon. He never finished higher than 5th in his division in the split-league, and ended his run with an 11-19 season that saw the Bulldogs finish 7th overall in the league with the ignominious honor of having the worst defense in the entire country, according to KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the administration go in that direction, given that the school has been in the bottom-six teams nationally in that metric for each of the past three seasons.


Out: Jerome Allen. Allen was something of a Penn and Ivy League legend, winning Ivy League Player of the Year in both 1992 and 1993 for the Quakers, even getting drafted by the Pacers in 1995. However, his coaching career hasn’t quite gotten on track yet, as Penn only finished higher than fourth once in his five-plus years in charge after Glen Miller’s firing. The Quakers also didn’t reach double-digit wins in four out of Allen’s six years. It’ll be interesting to see where Penn goes on this one. There are quite a few candidates around the northeast that have been successful recently, but will they go for someone with a Penn background given what happened with Miller and Allen?

In: Steve Donahue. He seems to have been the Quakers first choice hire. Prior to leaving for the Boston College job, Donahue coached at Cornell for 10 seasons with a record of 146-138, including first-place finishes in each of his last three seasons and a Sweet 16 appearance in the final season, 2010. And before that even, he was a 10-year assistant at the school he takes over at now. Can he turn around the program that Jerome Allen is leaving? It’s up for debate. On one hand, he has a proven track record of success in the Ivy. On the other, the Ivy he enters now is a stronger league than it was when he left. Only time will tell on this one.


Out: Lennox Forrester. Forrester helped the program transition from Division-II to Division-I, but unfortunately never had the success necessary to stick around over the long haul. In seven years at the D-I level, the Cougars’ record under Forrester was 66-138, with this season’s 12 wins being the most he could muster. The Cougars need someone who can bring the program momentum that it desperately needs. The new coach will also be coming into something of a barren roster, as four of the Cougars’ top five scorers this season have exhausted their eligibility as seniors. It’s tough to guess what direction this program will go in.


Out: Dale Layer. Layer led the Flames to an incredible, shocking Big South Tournament championship and NCAA berth in 2013 despite a 15-20 record, but beyond that there wasn’t been much to write home about from the six-year coach. He ended this season 8-24 with a 2-16 mark in conference, and he’ll finish with an 82-117 record at Liberty, with only one winning season under his belt and only one season with a league finish higher than fifth. This is now the second wash out at a school for Layer, as he was fired in 2007 at Colorado State. There are quite a few excellent coaching candidates in the Virginia area, including UVA assistants Jason Willimon and Ron Sanchez, who the athletic staff could look to in order to replace Layer. Also, another UVA assistant, Ritchie McKay, was the head man at Liberty prior to leaving in 2009 to join his friend Tony Bennett’s staff. Any of those three would be a great hire.

Utah Valley

Out: Dick Hunsaker. Hunsaker has not been fired, but rather is stepping down in order to spend more time with his kids and grandchildren. The former Utah and Ball State head man that was twice an assistant under Rick Majerus is leaving after 13 years at Utah Valley, where he won 198 games overall, including 96 games in Division-I after Utah Valley rose from the ranks of junior college to the highest level. Overall throughout his career, Hunsaker won 211 games on the D-I level, including winning regular season conference championships in six of his 11 seasons. UVU won the WAC’s regular season last year, but stumbled to a 11-15 mark this season. They’ll be the No. 6 seed in the WAC Tournament this weekend. It’s unknown what direction the school will go this time around. However, both Utah (Tommy Connor) and BYU (a bevy of younger coaches) have pretty decent candidates if they want to try to lure someone in-state.

Holy Cross

Out: Milan Brown. Brown was at Holy Cross for five seasons, going 56-67 during that time and 32-28 in Patriot League games. Athletic director Nathan Pine said after making the switch that he felt Holy Cross’s success wasn’t quite adequate enough, making this the right time for a switch. It does come just one season after Brown got the Crusaders to 20 wins and a CIT appearance; however, this year the Crusaders fell back to earth, going 14-16 and finishing tied for sixth in the conference. No indications yet as to where CoHC will look for a replacement, although every single school with an opening in the northeast should be calling Jim Engles from NJIT to try to poach him from the conference-less Highlanders.

Utah State

Out: Stew Morrill. Morrill is retiring after a long coaching career that began all the way back in 1974 with Gonzaga. His first head coaching job was with Montana in 1986. He parlayed that job into one with Colorado State, then went to Utah State where he stayed for 17 years. Morrill led the Aggies to 14 consecutive 20-win seasons from 2000-2013, and overall won 620 games in career that included nine NCAA Tournament appearances (although he only went 1-9 in tourney games). Morrill is a legend and will be extremely difficult to replace. Tommy Connor at Utah is a pretty terrific assistant, and he’d be a solid candidate in-state to replace Morrill.


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