Current Xavier coach Chris Mack
Power conference schools needing a coach every year wait and watch for that coach to take their small school far in the tournament. Hoping to be able to hire the next great name in coaching. It is a story as old as time. Before Bruce Pearl was breaking rules and giving Tennessee their schools best run in history, he was taking UW-Milwaukee to their schools only sweet sixteen. Don Munson grabbed the hearts of America by leading Gonzaga to the regional finals in 1999 and then left Spokane for Minnesota. Butler’s current hot name coach Brad Stevens received his opportunity because the man before him, Todd Lickliter left for Iowa.
It seems to happen every year. Last year it was Cornell coach Steve Donahue who parlayed his success to a job at Boston College. This year coaches Donnie Tyndall (Morehead State) and Chris Mooney (Richmond) will get phone calls from different power conference schools who are in need of a new leader. It has always been a crap shoot in the past. For every Bruce Pearl or Anthony Grant though you might get a Don Munson or Todd Lickliter.
There seems over the last decade or so an exception to the rule. A school that has been batting Ted Williams like numbers when it comes to sending their coaches to a power conference. That school is Xavier. Since 1986 the Xavier Musketeers have had five different head coaches (including current head coach Chris Mack) and the four of those men who have moved on have all done so with great success.
In 1995 Xavier coach Pete Gillen left the school for a job with Providence. Starting the current trend. Gillen would spend four years at Providence, going 125-72 while leading the Friars to the regional final. Losing in overtime to eventual national champion Arizona.
Skip Prosser would take over for Gillen and after 7 years at the helm there, compiling a 213-148 before moving on to Wake Forest. Prosser passed away unexpectedly in 2007 but before then he helped bring the Demon Deacons back to their winning ways. Winning over 21 games in his first four seasons there.
Following Prosser and Gillen for the Musketeers would be Thad Matta. He would spend just 3 seasons, going to the NCAA tournament in all three, including a regional final loss. Matta would take the job at Ohio State where he took over a program facing sanctions and in a short time has built the Buckeyes into one of the premiere teams in college basketball.
Sean Miller would be the next in line to have success at Xavier and beyond. In Miller’s 5 years replacing Matta, taking them to four tournament appearances. Including a second round, sweet sixteen, and regional final appearances. In Miller’s second season at Arizona this year he has returned the Wildcats to the regional finals after knocking off #1 seed Duke in convincing fashion.
So kids what is the lesson we have learned today? If you are looking for a coach maybe consider current Xavier coach Chris Mack. Was an overtime loss in the sweet sixteen to Kansas State last year from reaching the regional finals and this year (only his second season) won 24 games before falling in the first round.
Now other schools may have mild success in producing coaches. Virgina Commonwealth recently produced Jeff Capel and Anthony Grant, while current head coach Shaka Smart may be moving on after this tournament. Not the Rams of VCU or any other school can match though the nearly two decade success of Xavier. Maybe one day one of their great coaches will stay but unfortunately for them that is the price you pay for being a “stepping stone” program.