Full-Court Press: Starting at the bottom
By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Basketball Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Andy Enfield took the nation by storm as his Florida Gulf Coast squad, also known as "Dunk City", battled against all odds into the 2013 Sweet 16.
Enfield went from an unknown head coach of a lesser-known mid-major program to the new leader of the USC Trojans in just two short years. There are plenty of coaches just arriving on the scene in 2013-14 that are seeking similarly impressive results at schools within lower level conferences.
Among the NCAA's highest level's new crop of head coaches are former NBA players, long-time assistants and journeymen who have worked their way up from the lower ranks. The following list of guys are just getting their feet wet as head coaches at the Division I level, but could be introduced as the head coach of an elite program in the near future:
DAN MAJERLE - The Grand Canyon Antelopes needed the right type of leader to guide the school into its new era as a Division I team in the Western Athletic Conference. The Phoenix-based school chose one of the most celebrated basketball players in the city's history when it announced Majerle would take over the program. The former shooting guard of the NBA's Phoenix Suns has no prior coaching experience, but his storied playing career and his presence in the community should at least help attract some of Arizona's top players to test their talents in the WAC.
"I know I can coach," Majerle said. "I haven't recruited (players), but I'll surround myself with a staff that's like-minded as far as work ethic and knowing what needs to get done. I have to do a good job of hiring guys who know the ropes."
COREY WILLIAMS - When Majerle reached the NBA Championship with the Suns during the 1992-93 season, he and Charles Barkley were defeated by the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in six games. Williams was a rookie reserve for Chicago that season and also played a year with the Minnesota Timberwolves before making stops in three different semi-professional leagues. The former Oklahoma State point guard began working as an assistant coach full-time in 2000 at Oral Roberts and held the same position at Florida State from 2007-13, the team's "winningest" five-year period in history. Williams was named the head coach at a rival Sunshine State school, Stetson, on June 3. The Hatters are in good hands going forward with their new coach who places an emphasis on playing stingy defense.
"I knew back when I first started that my ambition was always to be a head coach," said Williams. "For Stetson University to give me this opportunity, I'm very grateful. I'm humbled, I'm grateful, and the truth of the matter is that I'm ready to go to work."
BOBBY HURLEY - Majerle and Williams aren't the only former big-time players who were part of the coaching carousel this past offseason. The former Duke All-American point guard, whose playing career was cut short by an unfortunate knee injury, will do his best to emulate his former mentor, Mike Krzyzewski, at Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference. Hurley had been a member of his brother Dan's staff at both Wagner and Rhode Island before being offered the job with the Bulls.
"He is one of the most accomplished players in college basketball history with a legacy that includes three Final Four appearances and winning two national championships. I'm confident, after our discussions, that he is the right leader to take our program to the next level," said UB Director of Athletics Danny White.
Hurley has a very strong basketball pedigree, being the son of Bob Hurley, Sr, who has won 26 state championships and compiled over 1,000 wins at St. Anthony's High School in New Jersey. He will have some talent to work with right away as Buffalo returns All-MAC First Team selection Javon McCrea and All-Freshman Team pick Jarryn Skeete.
WILL WADE - Virginia Commonwealth has been fortunate to retain its head coach Shaka Smart with all the success it has experienced over the past four seasons. Smart has remained the Rams coach although his name seems to surface every time a more lucrative job in a bigger conference becomes available. Smart's staff was not immune to the slew of job openings as Wade, who was one of the driving forces behind VCU's trademark 'Havoc' defense of the past four years, took his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.
"UTC is hiring an absolute star in Will Wade," stated Smart. "Will is extremely bright, hard-working and diligent. No one will spend more time building relationships with student-athletes than Will. There is no question in my mind that he will be a tremendous success."
Wade hopes to bring the Rams' frustrating style of defensive play to the Mocs' which could help them compete with the Southern Conference's perennial powerhouse Davidson for years to come. The Rams went 111-37 and made three consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament with him as an assistant, so it is clear he knows something about building a consistent winner.
GREG HERENDA - After a seven-win season that concluded with 15 losses in a row, Fairleigh Dickinson parted ways with Greg Vetrone. FDU AD David Langford made a great hire when he brought in Herenda to become the next coach of the Knights. The New Jersey native has never been a head coach at the Division I level before, but he is fresh of a stint at UMass Lowell where he became the school's all-time winningest coach with a 95-54 record over five seasons. Herenda spent a great deal of time as an assistant at prestigious programs like Holy Cross, Seton Hall, Yale and East Carolina.
"This is a dream come true. This will be my 30th year of coaching college basketball, and the road has taken me all over the country and the world," said Herenda at his introductory press conference. "It's incredible that I start my Division I career at home."
In his last three head coaching jobs, his teams have improved their win totals by an average of 9.33 games in his inaugural campaigns with each school. Herenda brings an immeasurable amount of energy and charisma to the table, which will both be important as he attempts to take the Knights back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005.
Other first-year head coaches in lower level conferences to keep an eye on include: James Whitford (Ball State), Mark Byington (Georgia Southern), Mike Brennan (American), Phil Cunningham (Troy) and Jeff Bower (Marist).
08/21 11:18:04 ET