The NCAA Tournament will be the moment in the spotlight for previously unknown players and tiny schools across the country.
This is also a big moment for coaches. It’s no secret that NCAA Tournament success plays a big role in how coaches move up through the ranks from low-majors to mid-majors to high-majors. One Tournament win can make a career.
The following are the young coaches who are poised to make names for themselves whether or not they win in this year’s field. If your program is getting ready to make a coaching hire (hello, Alabama and DePaul fans!) these might be some of the names to watch this week.
Will Brown, Albany
The 43-year-old has been at Albany for 13 seasons, taking the Great Danes to their only five NCAA Tournament trips in school history. He’s currently riding a three-year streak in the field. One oddity: Albany is doing this almost entirely through the America East tournament. The Great Danes haven’t won a conference regular season title since 2006.
Bryce Drew, Valparaiso
His father was an institution at Valpo, and Bryce is the most famous player in school history. The 40-year-old has won three Horizon League regular season titles and two conference tournament titles in his four seasons at his alma mater. Will Bryce stay at Valpo like his father or will he follow brother Scott into a power conference?
Jerod Haase, UAB
Haase has never won more than 20 games in a season or finished higher than fourth in Conference USA, but he’s a former Kansas and North Carolina assistant. That will get him some looks.
Jim Hayford, Eastern Washington
Hayford cut his teeth in the Division III ranks before landing at Eastern Washington four seasons ago. The Eagles won 26 games this season, a school record, and reached their first NCAA Tournament since 2004. Hayford’s team has only two seniors playing major minutes — and one of them is not national leading scorer Tyler Harvey. Hayford could be in for a huge 2015-16 before moving up through the ranks.
Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa
Gregg Marshall’s name is floated for every high major coaching position, and now Jacobson could join his Missouri Valley rival as one of the most in-demand coaches if the Panthers can advance. Jacobson led Northern Iowa to an upset of Kansas on the way to the Sweet 16 in 2010. His team now is playing the role of favorite as a No. 5 seed.
Steve Masiello, Manhattan
The Rick Pitino disciple was as target for job openings last season when South Florida hired Masiello following the Jaspers’ 25-win season and NCAA appearance a year ago. Masiello was eliminated from consideration for the job when it was revealed he never graduated from Kentucky as indicated on his résumé. Manhattan allowed Masiello to return if he completed his final three credits for his degree. He did, and Manhattan returned to the Tournament as a play-in seed. The omission might make some schools wary, but two Tournament trips in four seasons and the Pitino pedigree — Manhattan has ranked in the national top 30 in turnover rate in each of the year three years — will make him a hot target again.
Marvin Menzies, New Mexico State
Menzies has taken New Mexico state to the NCAA Tournament five times in the last six seasons, but this season was the first in that span that the Aggies actually won the WAC regular season title. Menzies interviewed for the Colorado State job in the past and was mentioned for the Texas Tech post.
Archie Miller, Dayton
Like his brother Sean at Arizona, Archie is a superstar in the making. This season may have been his best coaching job — and this is after Miller led Dayton to wins over Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford on the way to the Elite Eight in last year’s Tournament. Dayton’s frontcourt was decimated this season by injuries and off-court issues — the Flyers have no regulars taller than 6-foot-6. And yet Dayton went 23-7 overall and 13-5 in the Atlantic 10. He’ll be a top target for high majors.
Leon Rice, Boise State
Boise State is making its second appearance in the First Four under Rice, but these are also the Broncos’ first at-large bids to the Tournament in school history. The Broncos have won at least 20 games in four of five seasons under the former Gonzaga assistant, and this season might have been the best coaching job of Rice’s tenure. Boise State has been without Anthony Drimic for all but seven games this year, but the Broncos managed to win 15 of their last 17 games to get into the field.
Andy Toole, Robert Morris
He’s 34 years old, and he’s already been a head coach for five seasons. And a successful one at that. Toole has led Bobby Mo to two Northeast Conference regular season titles, but this is his first NCAA Tournament trip. Toole also presided over the biggest win in school history — a 59-57 win over Kentucky in the NIT in 2013.
Russ Turner, UC Irvine
The former Mike Montgomery assistant has made UC Irvine relevant in the Big West. The Anteaters are playing in the first NCAA Tournament a year after winning their first Big West regular season since 2002. Turner, 44, has won 20 games in each of his last three seasons at Irvine.
Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin
Underwood is 61-7 as a head coach with one NCAA Tournament win under his belt. His teams certainly have an identity, too. The Lumberjacks’ press has finished in the top 10 in turnover rate in each of the last two seasons. This year’s team has been a better offensive squad. Underwood is a former junior college coach who broke into the college ranks under Frank Martin at Kansas State and South Carolina.
Mike Young, Wofford
Young has been at Wofford for 12 seasons, reaching the NCAA Tournament in four of the last six. He’s turned Wofford into a regular Southern Conference contender in those dozen years. His teams generally like to slow the pace and play disciplined basketball under the 51-year-old Virginia native.