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Let’s Speculate! Potential Cincinnati head basketball coach candidates

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 Cincinnati, coached by John Brannen for the last two seasons (fired on April 9).

  • Dennis Gates – Cleveland State head coach
    • We have mentioned Gates’ name for every high-major head coaching opening in the Midwest, but he has stayed put so far. Cincinnati makes sense from a geographical standpoint, but more importantly the Bearcats need someone to come in a repair the damage done over the last months. Gates quickly turned Cleveland State into a NCAA Tournament team and is someone who should be able to connect with the players and reverse the current course from day one.
  • Darren Savino – UCLA associate head coach
    • Mick Cronin‘s right-hand man for the last 11 years (and 13 total), Savino was on staff at Cincinnati from 2011-19 where he was part of eight NCAA Tournament runs. This season, the Bruins made a surprise run to the NCAA Final Four and Savino stock has soared even further. If AD John Cunningham wants someone with ties to the program – and a callback to the successful Cronin Era – then Savino is the obvious pick.
  • Erik Martin – West Virginia assistant coach
    • Martin played for the Bearcats and head coach Bob Huggins and now has worked on Huggins’ staff for the last 15 years (1 at K-State and now 14 at WVU). He’s never been a head coach but there have been a lot of schools hiring alumni recently and given his coaching resume, Martin is perhaps the best choice from the group of former Bearcats.
  • Nick Van Exel – Dallas Mavericks scout
    • While we are on the topic of former Bearcat players, Van Exel has to be in the conversation. An All-American in 1993 and a NBA All-Star five years later, Van Exel has had a second career coaching in the pros. He’s currently working as scout with the Dallas Mavericks and was recently an assistant with the Memphis Grizzlies (2016-19). He also went 23-27 in one season as head coach of the Texas Legends in the developmental league.
  • Frank Martin – South Carolina head coach
    • Another protege of Huggins, Martin spent two years as an assistant at Cincinnati before becoming a head coach, first at Kansas State and now at South Carolina. He took the Gamecocks to the Final Four in 2017 but the last few years haven’t gone as well and he will be headed into next season squarely on the hot seat. He just got a two-year extension but it did not come with a pay raise and it reportedly has no buyout. Martin did really well at K-State (four NCAA Tournaments in five years) and maybe a change of scenery back up to Midwest is what he needs to get back on track.
  • Archie Miller – former Indiana head coach
    • Indiana clearly wasn’t the right fit for Miller, but his tenure at Dayton shows that he can definitely coach and have success. He took the Flyers to four NCAA Tournaments (include two at-large bids) in six years and reached the Sweet Sixteen in 2014. Fans might be turned off by his mediocre tenure in Bloomington, but Cincinnati might be a better fit for Miller.
  • Richie Riley – South Alabama head coach
    • Riley has been climbing the ladder and winning along the way, grabbing a Southland title with Nicholls in 2018 and now 54-39 in three years at South Alabama. He grew up across the border in Kentucky, played at EKU and also started out his coaching career in that state. He might need one more stop before he’s seriously considered for a job like Cincinnati (we have him as a potential fit at UTEP), but he’s not a bad candidate as it stands and could be the type of guy who is motivated to take on this “project.”