While doing research on head coach candidates for the University of Denver men’s basketball team, there are a number of promising assistant coaches in the collegiate ranks but, based on recent experience, Denver would be unlikely to select a candidate without direct head coaching experience. While many of the highly respected DI assistant coaches are well-known for their recruiting skills, they may not possess in-game coaching skills. Finally, most Power-5 assistants make well over DU’s salary guidelines, so we focused on successful NCAA D2 coaches.
Our prospect list focuses on minority coaches as DU has signed a Diversity Pledge to include minority candidates in their search. And, there are plenty of highly-accomplished coaches on this list:
LONNIE BLOW JR. – VIRGINIA STATE (D2)
Lonnie Blow has won and been a part of championship teams everywhere he has been, including the 2010, 2016, 2019, and 2020 CIAA (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association) Championships, 2011 Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Championship at Old Dominion University; 2010 CIAA Championship at Saint Augustine’s (N.C.) University; 2006 MEAC Championship at Hampton (Va.) University; and the 2000 Virginia High School League (VHSL) State Championship at Norfolk (Va.) Granby HS. He is the only coach in CIAA history to win a championship at two different schools. In 9 seasons as a head coach, he has compiled a 196-67 (.745) overall record. He has won a total of 12 different Coach of the Year awards. Blow is third all-time in scoring at Virginia Wesleyan as a player and was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the school in 2009.
STAN GOUARD – SOUTHERN INDIANA (D2) [2020-2021 11-4]
Gouard became the head coach at Southern Indiana after restoring the University of Indianapolis back to national prominence. In 12 seasons at the helm of the program, Gouard compiled a 228-117 (.661) overall record. That success has included six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances from 2010-2016, multiple All-America honors, a No. 1 ranking from his Division II peers (2014-15 season) and 2013-14 Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) Coach of the Year honors. Gouard was named National Association of Basketball Coaches Midwest Region Coach of the Year following the 2019-20 campaign. The 2019-20 season was perhaps his best, as the team went 24-9 and earned a No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. His twelve-year stint with Greyhounds was also highlighted by knocking off the University of Tennessee on the road and a trip to the NCAA DII Sweet Sixteen in 2014-15. Gouard won a national championship as a player at Southern Indiana in 1995 under Bruce Pearl and also earned two NABC Division II National Player of the Year awards.
DAMIEN BLAIR – WEST CHESTER (Pa.) UNIVERSITY (D2) [2020-2021 20-10]
A twelve-year head coach, Blair owns a 224-122 (.647) overall record with four NCAA Tournament appearances in the last seven years and six 20-win seasons at his alma mater. The program has never finished below third place in the conference standings in nine of his twelve seasons on the sidelines. Blair has become the second-winningest coach in program history along the way. It’s not the only mark that he has set with the program though. Blair graduated as the second all-time leading scorer in program history. Blair came to West Chester after a successful stint as a high school coach. He compiled a 173-78 (.689) record during his tenure.
FRED WATSON – MILES (Ala.) COLLEGE (D2) [2020-2021 10-1]
Watson has been a consistent fixture in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) the past 18 seasons. Watson has had winning seasons for the past 17 consecutive years, ten 20-win campaigns, six SIAC Regular Season titles and seven SIAC Tournament championships. He owns a 365-163 (.691) overall record during that time. Additionally, Watson has been named SIAC Coach of the Year seven times, his teams have earned eleven NCAA South Region Tournament berths and one Sweet 16 Appearance. Known as a relentless recruiter that quickly instills a winning culture, it will be interesting to see Watson’s career continue to blossom. He has shown that he is capable of taking just a 7-win program in the year prior to his arrival to their first-ever NCAA Division II Tournament in his first year after taking the job in 2018 after 16 seasons at Benedict (S.C.) College. He has gone 45-13 in his first two years at the helm after the program went 15-41 in the two years prior to his arrival.
CINCO BOONE – ANGELO (Tex.) STATE (D2) [2020-2021 8-10]
A solid 101-47 (.682) in five seasons. Boone was an assistant under Brad Underwood at Stephen F. Austin University, a Division I school in Texas. He was also an assistant under Chris Beard at Angelo State & McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. During the 2019-20 campaign, Boone led the Rams to their second straight 20-win season, finishing with a record of 20-8 overall. Angelo State finished the 2018-19 season in third place in the Lone Star standings with a record of 21-9 overall. In the 2016-17 season, the team went 15-11 in the regular season. Angelo State earned a 25-7 overall record in Boone’s first season and advanced to the NCAA South Central Regional final.
Longshots but worth entertaining:
TRENT JOHNSON (D1)
Johnson is currently an assistant coach at the University of California- Berkeley. Johnson had previously been the head coach at Texas Christian University, Louisiana State University, Stanford University, and the University of Nevada. His career DI mark is 276-264 with high-profile programs. His biggest success was at Stanford, where he was 80-48 in four years and made three NCAA tournaments and one NIT. At age 64, does he have the energy to engineer a turnaround?
BECKY HAMMON (NBA)
There is no direct college head coaching experience but she is highly qualified. A three-time All-American basketball player for the Colorado State Rams, who also played in the 2020 Olympics for Russia, Hammon went on to play for the San Antonio Stars and New York Liberty (WNBA) and for several other teams outside the United States. Hammon was hired by the San Antonio Spurs as an assistant coach in 2014. She became the second female assistant coach and the first female full-time assistant coach in NBA history. Hammon served as the team’s Summer League head coach in 2015; she is the first woman to be a head coach in that league. On December 30, 2020, Hammon became the first female acting head coach in NBA history after Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich was ejected during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Hammon had long expressed aspirations of becoming a head coach after her playing career ended. Was rumored to be a top candidate for CSU’s men’s basketball head coach position. Is she overqualified for the DU position and would she even leave the Spurs for DU? Probably not, but it’s worth a call.
Whoever Denver ultimately selects, they will need to recruit quickly with Sam Hines, Jr., Robert Jones, Taelyr Gatlin, and Jase Townsend in the transfer portal. Denver may have more than six slots to fill in short order.
*D2 coaching profiles from Silver Waves Media