The Atlantic 10 already had an intriguing group of coaches with Chris Mack carrying the tradition at Xavier, Fran Dunphy leading the consistent Temple program, Rick Majerus leading a comeback for both Saint Louis and his own career, and the well-established Phil Martelli at St. Joseph’s.
And all that was before conference expansion.
The Atlantic 10 added to its coaching might this by adding Brad Stevens of Butler and Shaka Smart of VCU, whom we’ve tabbed as the top two coaches in the conference.
That’s not a slight to the other coaches in the league -- which includes accomplished newcomers like Jim Ferry at Duquesne and Dan Hurley at Rhode Island. The Atlantic 10 has a coaching lineup to rival any major conference. In fact, A-10 coaches have as many Final Four appearances (four combined, from Stevens, Smart and Majerus) as the coaches in the Pac-12.
Here’s our look at this mix of experienced coaches and young up-and-comers.
Note: Coaches are ranked on a mix of past accomplishments with consideration for career trajectory over the next five seasons or so. Rankings take Xs and Os acumen and recruiting prowess into account along with success in the regular season and postseason.
1. Brad Stevens, Butler
Overall record: 139-40 (11-4 in the NCAA Tournament)
Record at Butler: 139-40 (73-17 Horizon)
By reaching two national championship games, Stevens elevated Butler from plucky mid-major to a national brand. Beyond the NCAA Tournament, no coach has won more games in his first five seasons. The 35-year-old Stevens spurned an opportunity to coach Illinois to bring Butler from the Horizon the tougher Atlantic 10.
2. Shaka Smart, VCU
Overall record: 84-28 (6-2 in the NCAA Tournament)
Record at VCU: 84-28 (38-16 Colonial)
Beyond moving into the A-10 at the same time, Stevens and Smart have a handful of parallels in their careers. Both took over at mid-majors accustomed to success and elevated their profiles in short order -- Stevens took Butler to the Final Four in his third season, Smart did the same for VCU in his second, losing to Stevens’ Bulldogs. Smart has only five fewer wins through his first three seasons (84) than Stevens did in his first three (89).
3. Rick Majerus, Saint Louis
Overall record: 517-216 (19-13 in the NCAA Tournament)
Record at Saint Louis: 96-69 (44-36 A-10)
The longtime Utah coach returned to the bench at Saint Louis in 2007-08 after three seasons out of coaching. Despite injuries and suspensions at Saint Louis, Majerus has proven he hasn’t lost his touch, leading the Billikens to their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2000.
4. Fran Dunphy, Temple
Overall record: 444-228 (2-14 in the NCAA Tournament)
Record at Temple: 134-65 (69-27 A-10)
Dunphy has been a fixture of Philadelphia basketball as head coach at Temple and Penn and as an assistant at La Salle. Look beyond his NCAA Tournament record -- nine of those losses came as a lower-seeded team at Penn. Dunphy has won at least 20 games in 14 of his last 19 seasons.
5. Chris Mack, Xavier
Overall record: 73-30 (4-3 in the NCAA Tournament)
Record at Xavier: 73-30 (39-9 A-10)
A Xavier graduate in 1992, Mack played for Pete Gillen and served as an assistant for Skip Prosser and Sean Miller before taking over in 2009-10. Mack has kept Xavier’s momentum going with two trips to the Sweet 16 in three seasons.
6. Chris Mooney, Richmond
Overall record: 146-115 (2-2 in the NCAA Tournament)
Record at Richmond: 128-103 (61-51 A-10)
Mooney’s predecessors -- John Beilein and Jerry Wainwright -- took Richmond to the postseason five times in seven seasons, but Mooney arguably has had more success. After a rough start in his first two seasons, Mooney led Richmond to 75 wins from 2008-11, the most victories in a three-year span in school history. That includes the Sweet 16 and an A-10 Tournament title in 2011.
7. Phil Martelli, St. Joseph’s
Overall record: 320-223 (6-5 in the NCAA Tournament)
Record at St. Joseph’s: 320-223 (152-107 A-10)
A campus institution after 17 seasons at St. Joe’s, Martelli might not again reach the heights of 2003, when the Jameer Nelson-led Hawks went 30-2 and reached the Elite Eight. St. Joe’s also went 68-12 in the A-10 from 2000-05. After back-to-back losing seasons, Martelli has the Hawks on the upswing after going 20-14 overall and 9-7 in the A-10 last season.
8. Danny Hurley, Rhode Island
Overall record: 38-23 (no NCAA Tournament appearances)
Record at Rhode Island: first season
Athlon already rated Hurley as the top hire for 2012-13. In his second season at Wagner, Hurley led the Seahawks to a school-record 25 wins and a second-place finish in the Northeast conference -- only two seasons after Wagner went 5-26.
9. Mark Schmidt, St. Bonaventure
Overall record: 156-170 (0-1 in the NCAA Tournament)
Record at St. Bonaventure: 74-80 (33-47 A-10)
Schmidt successfully led St. Bonaventure out of deep NCAA sanctions. The Bonnies crept up the A-10 standings progressively under Schmidt before going 10-6 in the league and winning the conference tournament last season. Now, he’ll try to do it without Andrew Nicholson.
10. Jim Ferry, Duquesne
Overall record: 150-149 (0-2 in the NCAA Tournament)
Record at Duquesne: first season
Ferry took over an LIU-Brooklyn program in the midst of nine consecutive losing seasons, but he slowly built up the Blackbirds in his decade-long tenure. LIU-Brooklyn ruled the NEC in his final two seasons, winning two regular season titles (32-4 combined), claiming two NEC Tournament titles and going 52-15 overall.
11. Derek Kellogg, Massachusetts
Overall record: 64-65 (no NCAA Tournament appearances)
Record at Massachusetts: 64-65 (28-36 A-10)
An alum who played for John Calipari at UMass in the 90s, Kellogg has needed four seasons to post his first winning season and postseason appearance for the Minutemen. With a roster returning mostly intact, Kellogg could be poised for more than an NIT in 2012-13.
12. Archie Miller, Dayton
Overall record: 20-13 (no NCAA Tournament appearances)
Record at Dayton: 20-13 (9-7 A-10)
Dayton exceeded expectations by finishing fifth in the A-10 in Miller’s first season despite a depleted roster. Miller was a key assistant for his brother, Sean, at Arizona before his debut with Dayton. He’s already been tabbed as a rising star in coaching.
13. Mike Lonergan, George Washington
Overall record: 136-89 (0-1 in the NCAA Tournament)
Record at George Washington: 10-21 (5-11 A-10)
The first season at George Washington was a rough one for Lonergan, but he has an established track record. He won at least a share of three America East titles in six seasons at Vermont. Before that, he won a Division III title at Catholic University of America.
14. John Giannini, La Salle
Overall record: 244-239 (no NCAA Tournament appearances)
Record at La Salle: 119-128 (54-47 A-10)
It’s been a long climb for Giannini at La Salle. The Explorers have had a losing record in five of his eight seasons, but he’s coming off his best season in Philadelphia. La Salle’s 21 wins last season was the most for the program since 1989-90 and its NIT appearance was its first postseason trip since 1992.
15. Tom Pecora, Fordham
Overall record: 172-166 (no NCAA Tournament appearances)
Record at Fordham: 17-40 (4-28 A-10)
Fordham has not played in the postseason since 1992 and still has an awful long way to go. Pecora’s record at Fordham is ugly, but the Rams went a combined 5-51 the two seasons before he arrived. Prior to Fordham, Pecora led Hofstra to three consecutive NITs from 2005-07.
16. Alan Major, Charlotte
Overall record: 23-37 (no NCAA Tournament appearances)
Record at Charlotte: 23-37 (7-25 A-10)
The former Ohio State assistant is still working to rebuild his roster, but the 49ers at least improved by three games in the A-10 last season. Perhaps Conference USA will be kinder when Charlotte returns to the league in 2013-14.