Article posted on April 3, 2011

Who are some rising stars among D-I coaches in the just completed winter sports season based on career records and RPI? Let’s start with women’s basketball. While Geno Auriemma and Pat Summit had claimed each of the previous four National Championships, this year’s Texas A&M-Notre Dame final brought an end to that trend with the first title game without a number one seed since 1994. Major programs may still have a stranglehold on the Final Four, but a number of up and coming coaches at non-traditional basketball programs have made relative strides with a great degree of consistency for the past few years.

Kelly Graves’ Gonzaga squad have recorded all six of the school’s tournament wins in each of the past three years, and became the lowest seeded team ever to reach the Elite Eight with three of those victories this past tournament. Likewise, Matt Bollant of Green Bay and Brian Giorgis of Marist have notched multiple tournament victories within the past five years and, along with Graves, Kenny Brooks (James Madison), Jim Jabir (Dayton) and Curt Miller (Bowling Green), have recorded at least two consecutive tournament appearances and four consecutive sub-75 RPI rankings.

This success seems to be trickling its way down to many new coaches taking over other programs that were previously below .500. Some have even transformed teams without winning records in ’08-’09 into NCAA tournament participants in the next two seasons, as did Courtney Banghart (Princeton) and David Six (Hampton). The table on the next page highlights coaches taking over non-powerhouses since the 07-08 season that have significantly and immediately improved their team’s performance.

Several young coaches in the other winter sports are delivering swift success at non-traditional programs. In Men’s Hockey, Jeff Blashill brought a postseason berth in his first year with a Western Michigan unit that had posted three consecutive losing seasons. Finishing 19-13-10 with an RPI of 14, the Broncos qualified for the tournament for the first time since 1996. On the women’s side, Brian Idalski, who took over a 3-31-2 North Dakota program in 2007, finished this past campaign with the Fighting Sioux at 20-13-3 and an RPI of nine. Rick Seeley steered Quinnipiac women’s hockey from a 5-24-5 record before his hiring in 2008 to a very respectable 22-12-3 and RPI of 14 in ’10-‘11. In wrestling, Mark Cody led American University to 14 victories on the mat this past season, more than the combined totals of the previous three seasons. His success brought him coach of the year honors, and on April 11, Mark Cody was introduced as the new head wrestling coach at the University of Oklahoma.