Coaching near the bottom of the Division I is tough and the rankings for America East prove exactly that fact. There are probably three or four jobs in the conference where a head coach can make a name and move up towards a brighter future.
Mike Lonergan, formerly of Vermont, bucked that trend. He’s at George Washington now and still a hot name in college basketball circles. Don’t be surprised if he eventually moves up to a bigger job. Rocking the trend lately? Steve Pikiell, the current Stony Brook head coach. If this list was compiled even a few seasons ago then I doubt SBU would be considered such a good job, but with its location on Long Island, the team’s consistent success and a dedication to facilities it seems like the Seawolves are moving up the DI athletics ladder.
From 1 to 8 here is our ranking of the most desirable coaching jobs in America East.
1. Vermont – The Catamounts have a long tradition of solid programs and that’s one of the big reasons they find themselves atop this list. Vermont has had just one losing season since 2001-02 (13-17 in 2005-06). The school has also earned four NCAA appearances and averaged almost 2,500 fans per game in 2012 (amongst the leaders in America East). Their spending is also competitive with all of the top teams in the conference.
2. Albany – Will Brown has this job on lockdown. He’s been there since 2001 and should sign an extension soon. The program just made its third NCAA appearance in the past 10 seasons. Albany has made a commitment to the men’s basketball team. SEFCU Arena is also one of the nicer facilities in America East, which leads to nice benefits, like hosting the conference tournaments first two rounds. The Great Danes have found a guy that can build a program in Brown, so I don’t expect this job to come open any time soon, but if it were to I’m sure they could find someone to come to New York’s state capital.
3. Stony Brook – The Seawolves might not have the tradition in their program that some of the other America East schools do and they might’ve only averaged 1,500 fans per game or so during the 2012 season, but that’s all about to change. SBU has made a commitment to facilities and has upgraded its entire athletics program. As I mentioned above, Pikiell is proving that this job can be a stepping-stone to bigger things. He’s been involved in numerous coaching rumors this season. The ability to recruit to Long Island – even the far reaches of it – shouldn’t be understated.
4. Hartford – This job might not seem like a logical choice for the fourth slot, but the Hawks have certainly made a strong financial commitment to putting a quality basketball team on the court. John Gallagher took over in 2010 and earned 17 wins and a postseason berth this past season. He’s doing something that’s particularly difficult, building tradition at a new school. The location is West Hartford is better than some of the other schools that are lower on the list and The Sports Center is one of the larger arenas in America East. Now can they find the fans to start filling it?
5. Binghamton – The toughest job of all to figure out. The Bearcats just convinced former Rider head coach Tommy Dempsey that this was a good place to be, so there has to be some selling points. The budget isn’t bad and there is an NCAA tournament on the books, but it comes with one big asterisk. I honestly have no idea how the scandal impacts coaches decisions to come to Binghamton, but it certainly plays a part in the school’s basketball history. Upstate New York isn’t the best place to recruit to, but the MAAC schools seem to do okay and guys like Jordan Reed have come to BU. For those reasons (and the fact that the fans still come out) this job has the potential to move much higher up the list in the future.
6. UMBC – Another sleeping giant of a job is UMBC. There seems to be a lot to like about this job. There might be no better place to find college basketball talent than in Baltimore, MD. Also, the school did make an NCAA appearance in 2008. That though is a fortunate blip in a rather mediocre to awful past decade of basketball for the Retrievers. UMBC has won fewer than 15 games in nine of the past 11 seasons. Aki Thomas had his interim tag turned off in March. He did win eight games this season, more than each of the past three. If he’s successful this job could move way up this list.
7. New Hampshire – One of the smallest home fan bases in the country. No NCAA tradition (heck they haven’t even won 20 games in a season in the past 20 years). A budget in the bottom half of the league. There’s not a lot to like about the UNH job. Bill Herrion, who had some success at other mid-major stops, has really struggled there not even surpassing .500 in conference play during his eight seasons with the Wildcats.
8. Maine – Recruit basketball plays to Orono, ME? Good luck. The Black Bears also have the smallest men’s basketball budget in America East according to the Office of Postsecondary Education. There is no NCAA tradition. People have won at Maine before, but lately it’s been a downward spiral under Ted Woodward and I’m not sure if anyone would want to come in and try and fix it.