The hiring of Turner Battle was a mild surprise among the coaching ranks because of his lack of college experience. But hiring a former player is common in college basketball.
Mike Hopkins played professionally overseas before Jim Boeheim gave him his first coaching job at Syracuse. Now he's in line to replace the Hall of Fame coach when he retires. Miles Simon broke in the same way at Arizona shortly after his playing career ended. Same thing with Johnny Dawkins at Duke.
Besides, if Battle wanted the job Witherspoon HAD to hire him. It's called loyalty. Go back to the 2003-04 season when UB was struggling at 5-9 and Witherspoon's job was in serious jeopardy. It was Battle who led the Bulls to 11 wins over their next 15 games and a 17-12 record. Witherspoon was rewarded with a contract extension. The next year, Battle was the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year after leading UB to a 23-10 record and was a buzzer beater away from advancing to the NCAA tournament. Since the Bulls moved back to Division I in 1991-92, no one has had a bigger impact on UB basketball than Turner Battle.
Simon gave Lute Olson his first national championship in 1997 so when Simon wanted to break into coaching two years ago, how could Olson say no? Mike Krzyzewski was just another coach and Duke a middling program until he signed Dawkins in 1981 as his first McDonald's All-American. The rest, as we know, is history. Dawkins worked with Coach K for only a year before he was named associate head coach in 1998.
In many ways, Turner Battle is Witherspoon's Johnny Dawkins. Witherspoon just returned the favor.
-- Rodney McKissic