Let’s Speculate! Potential Valparaiso head basketball coach candidates
[[ ORIGINALLY POSTED ON JAN 13, 2023 – UPDATED ON MAR 27, 2023 ]]
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 Valparaiso, coached by Matt Lottich since 2016 (fired last week).
- Dane Fife – former Indiana, Michigan State assistant
- Fife left his alma mater after one season as an assistant, but still has love for the Hoosiers and the state of Indiana. Before he spent ten seasons under Tom Izzo at Michigan State, Fife was one of the youngest head coaches in the country at IPFW where he went 82-97 in six seasons (34-27 in the last two). Other mid-majors have courted Fife over the years and he nearly took the Duquesne job back in 2017, but Valpo provides an opportunity to back onto the sidelines in a state he is familiar with (and is very familiar with him!).
- Bryce Drew – Grand Canyon head coach
- Valpo should at least try to bring Drew home. His Grand Canyon salary isn’t public but it is likely Drew is the highest paid coach in the WAC and might have to take a pay cut to come back. He has a great thing going at GCU, going to two NCAA Tournaments in the last three years, and could be holding out for a better job. But if the financials work out, it’s hard to count out an alma mater.
- Chris Lowery – Northwestern associate head coach
- It’s been more than 10 years since his last head coaching gig, but Lowery has spent that time as a right hand man at the highest level, first for Bruce Weber at Kansas State and now for Chris Collins and the resurgent Northwestern Wildcats. Lowery’s tenure at SIU stagnated after a hot start in which he went to three-straight NCAA Tournaments (with the Salukis’ third-ever trip to the Sweet Sixteen in 2007. He was fired in 2012 after going 8-23 but finished with an overall record of 145-115. The 50-year old is an Indiana-native and has plenty of MVC experience.
- JR Blount – Iowa State assistant coach
- Blount’s name has come up with a couple searches so far this cycle, but there is a connection to Valpo that should put him in the mix for the Beacons’ job, too. Current Valparaiso AD Dr. Charles Small was hired away from Iowa State last year. Blount has been in Ames since 2021, following a at Colorado State, and has connections to the Midwest as a Milwaukee-native and former player at Loyola Chicago. Considered an up-and-comer in the profession, Blount will be a head coach soon enough.
- Billy Donlon – Clemson associate head coach
- Donlon just finished his first season at Clemson after a three-year tenure as head coach at Kansas City which just wasn’t the right fit. He was successful in his six-year tenure at Wright State and his firing in 2016 was a shock in CBB circles, as he had just completed his third 20-win season in four years and finished 2nd in the Horizon. Donlon originally hails from the Chicago suburbs and has spent much of his coaching career in the Midwest.
- Roger Powell Jr. – Gonzaga assistant coach
- The Illinois-native and former Fighting Illini star has been at Gonzaga since 2019, a tenure that will include three NCAA Tournament appearances and the Bulldogs’ 2021 Runner-up finish. Powell started his coaching career at Valpo, spending five seasons with the program before following Bryce Drew to Vanderbilt as associate head coach. His name has come up with a number of jobs back in the Midwest but this one makes a ton of sense given his previous experience with the program.
- Terry Johnson – Purdue associate head coach
- Johnson doesn’t have any head coaching experience but his strong ties to the area, going back to his playing days at Anderson HS (IN). He played and coached at Fort Wayne, later spending 14 years working under Chris Holtmann at Butler and Ohio State. He is back in Indiana right now, having joined Matt Painter‘s staff at Purdue in 2021 (and part of the first two Boiler teams to ever be ranked #1 in the country).
- Ed Schilling – Grand Canyon assistant coach
- Bryce Drew might be out of reach, but his assistant Ed Schilling should be a candidate in his own right. Schilling graduated from Lebanon HS (IN) and started his career out coaching at several high schools in the state. His tenure at Wright State (1997-2003) was not great (75-93, no postseasons) but that was now 20+ years ago and the 57-year-old has done quite a bit since then. He’s at GCU now after two seasons at Indiana, four at UCLA and four as the head coach at Park Tudor HS in Indianapolis.
- Ben McCollum – Northwest Missouri St (Div II) head coach
- Some D-I program is going to hire McCollum, one of the brightest stars in all of D-II and a four-time National Champion as a head coach (including three-straight!). Jumping from Northwest Missouri State to a high-major might be a stretch, but a stop at a Midwestern mid-major could be a really smart career move for the 41-year-old. He has nothing left to prove in the MIAA or Division II so it shouldn’t be long until he makes the move.
- Greg Tonagel – Indiana Wesleyan (NAIA) head coach
- Just like NCAA D-II to high-major D-I is a stretch, NAIA D-II to mid-major D-I might be too far to leap in one move. But Indiana Wesleyan head coach Greg Tonagel is a Valpo alum who was a two-time captain and played in four NCAA Tournaments under Homer Drew. He has been great at IWU, becoming head coach in 2005 at just 24 years old after spending one season as DBO at his alma mater. The Wildcats have won three NAIA D-II National Championships under Tonagel and he was named NCOY in each of those seasons (2014, 2016, 2018). He may be more in line for a staff position under a different Valpo hire, but he needs to at least be on the list of candidates.
- Tom Crean – former Georgia, Indiana, Marquette head coach
- Another former head coach who needs the right opportunity to get his career back on track, Tom Crean is obviously familiar with the state after his nine-year tenure at Indiana. While IU fans may have been split on his coaching abilities but Crean is widely regarded as a great talent evaluator and recruiter. The Valpo program has tradition, history and a dedicated fan base, but the stakes are much lower there – Georgia seemed like a good idea, as a football school, but Crean’s tenure there was not great. A chance to coach in the Midwest again without the pressure of a name brand program seems like a great fit.
- Cuonzo Martin – former Mizzou, Cal, Tennessee, Missouri State head coach
- There are plenty more former high-major coaches that we could call out, but Cuonzo makes sense due to his ties the area. The Illinois-native played and coached at Purdue just an hour and a half south of Valpo. He’s been the head coach at four different D-I schools, most recently at Missouri, and has MVC experience having spent three seasons at Missouri State. Cuonzo also has experience in March, going to four NCAA Tournaments, four NITs and winning the CIT back in 2010. Martin is a great recruiter and underrated coach, and the job he did at Cal looks more and more amazing every week (maybe they will try to get him back?).