- Scott Powers, Reporter
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Last year, Chicago State, DePaul and Illinois-Chicago made coaching changes. Chicago State and UIC snagged two up-and-coming assistants with local ties, and DePaul went for an experienced head coach known for rebuilding programs.
Who will Bradley, Loyola and Northern Illinois hire this year?
Here are a number of candidates for all three positions:
Fairfield head coach Ed Cooley
Resume: Cooley is in his fourth season as Fairfield’s head coach, and he has turned the program around. The Stags were 23-11 last season and 24-7 this season. Fairfield won the regular-season MAAC title with a 15-3 record this year, but was upset in the conference tournament. His recent success is in large part due to recruiting two Chicago-area players. Sophomores Derek Needham (De La Salle) and Colin Nickerson (Waukegan) are among Fairfield’s best players. Before taking over at Fairfield, Cooley was an assistant at Boston Collegefor nine seasons.
Who should look at him: With his success as a head coach and recruiting the Chicago area, he’s a viable candidate for Bradley, Loyola and Northern Illinois. The question may be whether Cooley is ready to leave Fairfield yet. He has a lot of talent returning next season and will be a probable NCAA tournament team.
Wisconsin associate head coach Greg Gard
Resume: Gard is Bo Ryan’s right-hand man. Gard has been at Wisconsin the last 10 seasons under Ryan and also was an assistant for him at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Gard is the Badgers recruiting coordinator and has ties with high school and club coaches throughout the Midwest.
Who should look at him: Howard Moore left Wisconsin last year and was hired by UIC. It could be Gard’s turn to leave the nest. He’s been around long enough in the Big Ten that Bradley, Loyola and Northern Illinois should all give him at least a look. Northern Illinois hired its football coach from Wisconsin. Could it do the same with its basketball one?
Gonzaga assistant coach Ray Giacoletti
Resume: Giacoletti has been an assistant at Gonzaga for four seasons. He interviewed for Bradley’s opening in 2002, but wasn’t hired. He has head coaching experience with Utah, Eastern Washington and North Dakota State. He coached Eastern Washington to the NCAA tournament in 2004 and Utah to the Sweet 16 in 2005. He resigned from Utah in 2007 after back-to-back losing season.
Who should look at him: Bradley could give him another chance. He’s originally from the area and has had success as a head coach and assistant. He did struggle in his last two year at Utah, but he’s been on a winning staff for the last four years and his NCAA tournament experience speaks for itself.
Butler associate head coach Matthew Graves
Resume: Graves has been on Butler’s staff for the last decade. He began as the team’s basketball operations coordinator, was promoted to assistant coach and now is the associate head coach. He’s worked with former Butler coach Todd Lickliter and current coach Brad Stevens. He’s knows the game and has been key to the Bulldogs’ continued success.
Who should look at him: He could be a good fit at Bradley. Butler hasn’t had a whole lot of recruiting success in the Chicago area, and that could hurt his chances at Loyola and Northern Illinois. Both those programs need to do a better job getting players from the area if they’re going to improve.
Northwestern assistant coach Tavaras Hardy
Resume: A former Northwestern player, Hardy is in his fifth season as an assistant at his alma mater. Hardy has established himself as one of the Chicago-area’s top recruiters. It has been through his ties with area high school and club coaches Northwestern has received commitments from current starters Drew Crawford and John Shurna. He’s also expanded his recruiting relationships and was influential in plucking freshman guard JerShon Cobb from Georgia and incoming freshman Tre Demps from Texas.
Who should look at him: Hardy would help Northern Illinois with its Chicago-area recruiting woes, but he’s a better fit at Loyola. Rather than bring in another recycled head coach, Loyola could make the smart move like UIC did with Howard Moore and hire someone who will rejuvenate the program. Like Moore, Hardy is a Chicago-area native, he’s played in the area, he’s coached in the area and he’s recruited in the area. Hardy has paid his dues as an assistant and has proven himself worthy of a head-coaching spot. Couple Hardy with an assistant with Public League ties, possibly Simeon’s Robert Smith, and a few experienced coaches, and the Ramblers could be rolling.
Illinois assistant coach Jerrance Howard
Resume: A former Illinois player, Howard is in his fourth year as an Illini assistant. Howard has quickly built a reputation as Chicago’s premier recruiter. He’s been the catalyst behind Illinois scoring nationally-ranked recruiting classes the last three years. He was key in Illinois keeping the commitment of McDonald’s All-American recruit Jereme Richmond. Howard, who is 30, knows how to relate to kids and has a bubbly personality about him that’s helped create relationships. He attracted interest from Kentucky the past few years to join its staff.
Who should look at him: Being a Peoria native, Howard is a perfect fit for Bradley. He’d certainly be one of the youngest coaches in the country, but there’s no doubt he could reignite the Braves’ program with his energy and recruiting. In talking to him, it’s easy to see he’s more than just a recruiter, but he would likely have to surround himself with some experienced and knowledgeable assistants at Bradley. With his Chicago-area recruiting specialty, he’d also be someone for Loyola and Northern Illinois to talk to.
Former Butler and Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter
Resume: Lickliter was one of the nation’s more successful mid-major coaches at Butler before jumping to Iowa, where he was fired after three seasons. Lickliter was 131-51 in his six seasons at Butler. He also coached the Bulldogs to two Sweet 16 appearances and was named the Division I Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches in 2007.
Who should look at him: Bradley, Loyola and Northern Illinois should at least gauge his interest. He may have failed at Iowa, but he’s had success at the mid-major level and is a name people know.
Purdue associate head coach Paul Lusk
Resume: Lusk has been on Purdue’s staff for seven seasons and is ready to make the job to the head position. He was under Gene Keady for one season at Purdue and the last six years under Matt Painter. He also was an assistant under Painter at Southern Illinois and played for Southern Illinois. He was the head coach at Division III Dubuque during the 2002-2003 season before leaving to coach at Southern Illinois.
Who should look at him: Lusk would have been the perfect match for Southern Illinois if the Salukis hadn’t retained Chris Lowery for at least one more year. There’s no guarantee Lowery will turn the program back around, and Lusk may take his chances and wait for it. He could also attractive Bradley, Loyola and Northern Illinois with his experience and longtime in-state ties.
Michigan State associate head coach Mark Montgomery
Resume: Montgomery has been on Tom Izzo’s staff for 10 seasons. He’s been a key recruiter for Michigan State and has worked predominately with the perimeter players. Montgomery has been up for other head jobs, including UIC last year, but hasn’t been hired yet.
Who should look at him: With his Michigan State background under Izzo, Bradley, Loyola and Northern Illinois would be all smart to interview him. He has the potential to be a successful head coach.
Clemson associate head coach Rick Ray
Resume: Ray is in his first season at Clemson after four years as an assistant at Purdue. He also was an assistant at Northern Illinois for two seasons and Indiana State. He’s well known as a top recruiter.
Who should look at him: Ray’s tie to Northern Illinois and the Midwest should get him at least an interview with the Huskies if he’s interested.
Nebraska assistant coach Tracy Webster
Resume: Webster is only in his first year at Nebraska, but he’s been around for a while now. He was at DePaul previously and was the Blue Demons interim head coach when Jerry Wainwright was fired last year. He’s also been an assistant at Illinois, Kentucky and Purdue. He’s considered one of the Chicago area’s top recruiters and has ties with a lot of area coaches.
Who should look at him: Webster could improve Loyola’s and Northern Illinois’ recruiting in the Chicago area instantaneously. He was only the head coach at DePaul for a short time, but he now does have some coaching experience at the highest level.