Bucky Gleason: Are A-10 coaching changes to Bona's benefit? - The Buffalo News
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Bucky Gleason: Are A-10 coaching changes to Bona's benefit?

On the day North Carolina State fired its basketball coach, Archie Miller's name soared up the list of candidates to replace him. He was a natural choice as a former point guard and assistant coach for the Wolfpack, and his coaching record at Dayton made him a hot commodity.

N.C. State was a big-time school from a power conference, but for Miller that didn’t equate to being an upgrade. It's difficult to sustain success at N.C. State, as previous coach Mark Gottfried found while trying to win recruiting wars in a region that also included Duke and North Carolina.

Add other Atlantic Coast Conference opponents such as Notre Dame, Louisville, Virginia, Florida State and Syracuse, among others, and winning becomes exponentially more difficult. And that's how an attractive job from a distance can become unsightly upon further review.

Miller put himself in an enviable position at Dayton, where he had a 139-63 record and reached the NCAA Tournament four times in seven seasons. He pocketed nearly $2 million per season in the Atlantic 10 conference, giving him security he wanted and leverage he needed for a job that was too good to pass up.

Dayton reportedly offered him more than $3 million per season before he signed a seven-year deal worth around $30 million with Indiana. His departure from the A-10 into the Big Ten contributed to a coaching vacuum that also included Will Wade leaving Virginia Commonwealth after two seasons for LSU.

In college basketball, one move can turn the entire industry into a game of musical chairs. It will be interesting to see how things take shape when coaches convene this weekend in Phoenix during the Final Four. The trickle-down effect already has stretched across the country and back and could be felt in, of all places, Lackawanna.

How so?

Lackawanna native and St. Francis High alumnus Kevin Kuwik, a top assistant at Dayton under Miller for the past six seasons, has emerged as a strong candidate to replace his boss. Kuwik has been coaching college basketball since he was a student assistant at Notre Dame, where served in ROTC and was senior class president.

Kuwik, 42, is no dummy. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and a PhD in leading people. He was an assistant coach serving in the Indiana National Guard when he was summoned for duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He spent 15 months in Iraq and returned to coaching with a bronze star.

He appears to have support of local fans who believe hiring him would create a seamless transition for Dayton given his experience. He spent a year as director of basketball operations at Butler under Brad Stevens and eight years at Ohio before joining Miller as an assistant coach at Ohio State under Thad Matta.

Kuwik's future depends on Dayton. Does it desire continuity or a splash that comes with a higher-profile candidate who either was successful at lower levels or failed in higher ones? Dayton would be wise to follow examples of other mid-major programs that figured out how to keep winning while changing coaches.

Xavier built a strong program under Miller's brother, Sean, and Butler did the same under Stevens before replacing them with top assistants. It allowed them to conduct business as usual and retain recruits. The same approach would serve Dayton well based on Kuwik's recruiting ability and knowledge of the program.

VCU also has a history of hiring from within. Wade served as an assistant under Shaka Smart. Wade's replacement, Mike Rhodes, served five years as an assistant to Smart before coaching at Rice the last three seasons. Dayton and VCU, who finished 1-2 in the A-10 last season, have been Big Dance regulars.

The A-10 is a coaching gold mine, in part because they don't recruit McDonald's All-Americans who view college as a pit stop toward the NBA. They're also lacking in can't-miss 7-footers because the power conferences gobble most. It forces them to build programs and coach a team game, thinking years in advance.

Recent coaching changes have led to a transformation of sorts that impacted other conferences, in one case temporarily. Massachusetts fired Derek Kellogg and lured Pat Kelsey away from Winthrop before Kelsey backed out a half-hour before he was set to be introduced. Kelsey had been an assistant at Xavier under Chris Mack, who was promoted to replace Sean Miller. UMass' coaching search continues.

George Washington retained Maurice Joseph, who worked under Mike Lonergan and replaced him on an interim basis when Lonergan was fired in September. Duquesne reached into the Mid-American Conference for Keith Dambrot, who coached LeBron James in high school before going to Akron. He's now making $1 million a year.

With rising salaries come greater expectations.

And that leads me to St. Bonaventure, which should benefit from the shakeup in the Atlantic 10. The Bonnies figured to challenge next season no matter what happened with Miller and Wade. There had been talk star point guard Jaylen Adams, frustrated with not playing in the NCAAs, would attempt to graduate this summer and transfer.

Adams will not earn enough credits to graduate before next season. Anyway, he would be wise to return to Bona, where he's the centerpiece and leader, under the current conditions. The Bonnies have an elite coach for the right price in Mark Schmidt, who makes about $800,000. He would have been gone three years ago if Boston College had made the right decision.

Schmidt looked like a natural choice, after all. He played for Boston College from 1981-85 during the glory days of the Big East. Thank goodness for him, BC overlooked his ability and hired Jim Christian. Last season under Christian, the Eagles finished last in the ACC, one spot behind North Carolina State.

Upon further review, a dream job didn't look so good. Just ask Mark Gottfried.

 

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