Every April there is a flurry of coaching moves following the Final Four. The coaching carousel has spun increasingly fast in recent years, and for the coaches who changed jobs this past off season, the 2011 class is the first one that they really have a chance to put their stamp on.
Sure all the stars can align sometimes like they did with John Calipari when he took over at Kentucky or Sean Miller when he was handed the reins at Arizona where they are able to bring in a blockbuster group of recruits immediately after getting the job, but usually it is the following November where coaches have a chance to make their mark and build a foundation for their program.
While ultimately the success of each of these coaches at their new jobs will be judged by wins and losses on the court, here is a look at some of the coaches who fared particularly well in the all important recruiting battles.
Steve Lavin -- St. John’s
He was always known for his ability to recruit while at UCLA, and Lavin proved quickly that he could still get it done despite time away. He landed a key early recruit from his own backyard in Maurice Harkless, a four-star forward, and then that opened up the flood gates. Ohio native Jakarr Sampson pledged his services, high scoring Texas guard D’Angelo Harrison came on board, athletic freak Dom Pointer also joined in, and then Lavin found the engine to run his team in junior college point guard Nurideen Lindsey.
Lavin came into one of the more unique situations of any new head coach. The Red Storm are primed to have a good year on the floor with nine seniors, but those nine seniors also mean that he had to fill needs in a big way in order to maintain that success.
Overall this class should have the Red Storm in a position to stay competitive in the Big East for a long time. Also he was able to land enough players with enough versatility to fill the holes on the roster left by his unique situation.
Mike Rice -- Rutgers
Rice knew he had to bring in a big class, and knew he had to do it quickly in order to right the ship in Piscataway. Using his deep ties in the Northeast, Rice felt comfortable attacking the lucrative New York/New Jersey metro area, and then a shrewd hire of assistant coach David Cox from Big East rival Georgetown put him in a position to land kids out of the always fertile Baltimore/Washington D.C. recruiting grounds.
Using those connections, prospects began coming to Rutgers in droves. Four star prospects Kadeem Jack, Myles Mack, Jerome Seagears, and Derrick Randall all jumped on board with Rice and company, and they are complemented by talented forward Greg Lewis, and a pair of scoring wings in Malick Kone and Michael Taylor.
This group is the most talented to make their way to Rutgers in a long time, and there is no doubt that the dividends on this recruiting haul will be on display immediately.
Donnie Jones -- Central Florida
Some wondered why Jones would move from Marshall to Central Florida. After all both schools play in Conference USA, and Jones had a good thing going in Huntington. However this class proves that Jones knew what he was doing.
UCF has gorgeous new facilities and a dedicated administration. That combined with the job that Jones and his staff did brought a potential program changing class to Orlando. The Knights landed a pair of forwards in Wayne Martin and Rod Days who had offers from BCS schools, and then added a high motor beast in Kasey Wilson who will also contribute up front.
By landing these three prospects, Jones has put UCF in a position to be a team near the top of Conference USA for years to come. All three players in this class have the potential to make an instant impact from their very first practice.
Dana Altman -- Oregon
For a while it seemed that Altman was never going to leave his post at Creighton, but when the Oregon Ducks came calling he decided to move. Due to attrition after his hire, Altman had several scholarships to give, and in the short time he had he was able to make some good things happen.
Most importantly, Altman landed a premier recruit that makes everyone take notice. When Jabari Brown chose the Ducks over Arizona State, Connecticut, Washington, and California it signaled that Altman and company would be a force on the West Coast.
While Brown will get all the headlines in this class, Bruce Barron is a very talented and athletic point guard who is capable of being a national sleeper. Also Brett Kingma and Austin Kuemper are solid players who will find a way on the floor early in their time in Eugene.
Steve Donahue -- Boston College
Coming from Cornell, Donahue knew he had major work to do. The roster construction of the Eagles meant that he could literally be building from scratch in his second year on the job. Knowing this Donahue went to work, and brought in some solid pieces.
The state of California has been great to Boston College through the years. Knowing this Donahue picked a trio of three-star prospects from the Golden State. Massive center Kyle Caudill has solid skills and rare size, Ryan Anderson is a scrappy combo forward, and Lonnie Jackson is a marksman who can light up the scoreboard.
Those three players came from far, but maybe the nation’s biggest sleeper on the post was right next door to Donahue. Dennis Clifford is 6-foot-10, runs the floor well, has a good touch, and isn't afraid to rebound. While many don’t know the name, Clifford could open up some eyes with the immediate chance to get playing time that no doubt he will have.
Alan Major -- Charlotte
Moving from the ranks of an assistant to a head coach is never simple, and on the recruiting trail it requires an adjustment, but Major did just fine as the lead dog for the 49ers.
With a talented roster in his back pocket, Major added some good pieces headlined by the ultra athletic E. Victor Nickerson. Nickerson picked Charlotte over DePaul, Colorado, and Richmond, and could see time right away. Also developing post Mike Thorne has made huge strides in the past 12 months, and could be someone who down the road makes a big impact.
The third recruit for Major is energy wing Terrence Williams who provides a little bit of everything. Charlotte can add these three prospects to an already solid roster, and easily build for good things in the future.
Tony Barbee -- Auburn
Barbee actually did a lot of good work for the Tigers right after getting the job, and he continued it into the summer by landing a quality class headlined by an excellent scorer in Cedrick McAfee.
McAfee shocked many when he committed to Florida International, but that commitment was short lived, and soon thereafter he would decide to head to Auburn. While McAfee was the icing on the cake, Barbee had already built a solid class before him.
In-state prospects Bernard Morena and Willy Kouassi were both coveted by numerous programs in the south, but Barbee jumped on them early, and was able to snag commitments from the AAU teammates. Both could have big impacts, but keep a close eye on Kouassi who possesses the size and athleticism that is rare in the 2011 class.
This trio of prospects combined will provide a strong foundation going forward for the Tigers.
Fred Hoiberg -- Iowa State
As a Cyclone player Hoiberg was nicknamed the mayor due to his popularity. He turned that sentiment into the head job in Ames, and immediately went to work in building a nice class.
Hoiberg was able to keep energy small forward Elgin Cook in the fold after a brief de-commitment from the school, and that was key. Cook is the type of character and hustle guy that every new coach loves. Also Hoiberg and his staff found a point guard to move the program forward. New York City native Tavon Sledge is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Jamaal Tinsley who came from the big Apple and excelled in Ames.
Add in wing players Anthony Odunsi and Tyrus McGee, and this class should go a long way to shoring up the Cyclones roster and potentially get things turned around.
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