Let’s Speculate! Potential Ole Miss head basketball coach candidates
((Originally posted on February 3rd, with names added/updated on February 24th))
Welcome to Let’s Speculate! on Coaches Database, where we go through programs that are or may soon be looking for a new head coach and speculate who they may hire next.
Today’s program is Ole Miss, coached by Kermit Davis since 2018 (fired on Friday).
- Bob Richey – Furman head coach
- Someone who we thought would be considered for SEC jobs last year, Richey still seems like a solid candidate for Ole Miss or any others that open up in 2023. The Paladins have won 22+ games in all of their full-length seasons under Richey, including this season. Richey has never finished worst than 3rd in the SoCon and they are still alive to win a share of the league in 2023. The only thing missing from his resume (for now) is an NCAA Tournament berth, though he has coached in both the NIT and CIT.
- Dusty May – Florida Atlantic head coach
- The Owls are having a dream season, ranked as high as #19 and poised to win the C-USA with a 25-3 (15-2) record. May is in his fifth season at FAU, having finished above .500 in all four previous campaigns and going to the postseason twice (2019 CIT and 2022 CBI). The FAU program has been to the D-I NCAA Tournament just once (2002) so May and the Owls have a chance to do something special this March. May is going to be one of the hottest names on the coaching circuit.
- Grant McCasland – North Texas head coach
- McCasland is a winner and a member of the Scott Drew coaching tree, something that is super enticing to power conference ADs now that Jerome Tang has so quickly turned things around at Kansas State. McCasland has already proven he can do the job, winning 20+ games in all but the shortened 2020-21 season at North Texas. He won 20 games in his lone season at Arkansas State and went 55-12 overall in two years at D-II Midwestern State. The former Baylor player and assistant is only 46 years old and has a long P5 career ahead of him.
- Richie Riley – South Alabama head coach
- Another up-and-coming coach who has spent most of his career in SEC country, Riley is in year five at South Alabama after two seasons at the helm at Nicholls. The Jags are middle-of-the-pack in 2022-23 which could cool Riley’s name on the carousel a bit, but with three 20+ seasons and a SoCon title under his belt he has accomplished a lot at the mid-major level and should get some calls about bigger jobs.
- Austin Claunch – Nicholls head coach
- Claunch took over for Riley at Nicholls in 2018 and has kept things rolling with the Colonels, winning the last two Southland titles and playing in the NIT last year. The current situation might cool Claunch’s name as a little, as the Cols are 14-14 and in the middle of the Soutland standings, but the 33-year-old coach is on the rise and should still get consideration for bigger jobs this cycle.
- Terrence Johnson – Texas State head coach
- Johnson was thrust into a tough situation back in 2020, becoming the interim head coach at Texas State just a couple months before the season started and promptly leading the Bobcats to a share of the Sun Belt title. He followed that up with an outright title and NIT berth last year to earn his second-straight Sun Belt COY honor. The Louisiana-native worked on the AAU circuits there and in Houston early in his career and has been in San Marcos since 2015 after a couple seasons at Samford.
- Ron Hunter – Tulane head coach
- We think there is another job that could be a better fit for Hunter if it opens (Georgia Tech) but he should truly be a candidate for any P5 jobs that open up down South. Hunter is a proven winner, starting with his time at IUPUI where he led the Jags to the NCAA Tournament just five years after moving up from NAIA. He won big at Georgia State, going to NCAAs three times and winning three Sun Belt titles in eight year, and now he is having his best season at Tulane since taking over in 2019. Keith Carter should definitely have Hunter high on his list, but it’s possible Ole Miss won’t be at the top for Hunter.
- Dustin Kerns – Appalachian State head coach
- Kerns has already turned around two programs, first at Presbyterian and now at App State. After winning 11 games in his first season, he led the Blue Hose to their first-ever winning season, 20-win season and postseason bid since joining D-I in his second. He added NCAA Tournament to his resume in 2021, taking the Mountaineers there for the first time in more than 20 years by way of a Sun Belt Tournament title. The Tennessee-native has also worked at UT, Tennessee Tech, Wofford and Santa Clara.
- Isaac Brown – Wichita State head coach
- Brown was also thrown into his job unexpectedly, taking over at Wichita State just weeks before the start of the 2020-21 season. He led the Shockers to a AAC title and NCAA Tournament bid that year, getting named AAC COY for his efforts. Things have regressed a bit since then, but the Mississippi-native will be an interesting candidate for P5 jobs. Fun fact – Brown was dismissed from the Texas A&M basketball team back in 1991 by Kermit Davis, so it would be pretty wild if he replaced him for a job all these years later.
- Jay Ladner – Southern Miss head coach
- Ladner is the name on the list with the strongest ties to the state, as he has spent nearly his entire career in Mississippi. After playing four years at Southern Miss, Ladner coached at the high school and JUCO levels (including a NJCAA National Championship in 2014) for more than two decades before getting the SE Louisiana head coaching job in 2014. He won 22 games and went to the NIT with the Lions in 2018 and a year later was hired back at his alma mater. The cumulative record doesn’t look great, but the Golden Eagles are in their first year in the Sun Belt and are having their best season under Ladner – currently tied atop the league at 24-6 (13-4).
- Chris Beard – former Texas head coach
- A name that was not on any of our lists even a week or two ago is Beard, the former head coach who’s meteoric rise to coaching at his alma mater Texas was completely derailed late last year when he was arrested for domestic assault and later fired by UT. The accuser has since recanted her story and the charges against Beard have been dropped, so he is technically available for any schools willing to take on the risk. Beard has proven to be a fantastic coach, so it’s very likely an AD will take a shot on him despite the off-the-court issue. Even though the charges were dropped, that AD is still going to have a lot of questions to answer and will have to withstand the media blitz while justifying the hire. So why Ole Miss? He’s had success coaching and recruiting in the South and a recent story noted that he was currently living in Mississippi after selling his house in Austin. And like it or not, SEC schools have a track record of hiring embattled head coaches.
- Elston Turner – Minnesota Timberwolves assistant
- There are mixed opinions on hiring NBA guys – or guys who have coached for a long time but never been a head coach – just because they are alumni. Turner played at Ole Miss from 1977-81 and helped lead the Rebs to their first-ever NCAA Tournament as a senior. He played professionally for fourteen years and has been coaching pros since 1994 (in the NBA since 1996), currently with the Timberwolves. Turner will be 64 when next season starts, so he would not necessarily be a long-term solution. It’s a matter of what AD Keith Carter is looking for.