If you didn't notice, and I sure hope you did, the UB Basketball season officially kicked off with Bulls Madness last night. It was a chance to meet the Men's and Women's teams, and especially the newcomers who were featured heavily in the slam dunk contest.
Perhaps you've been on the fence about getting season tickets. I'd highly recommend getting on that, because folks in Alumni last night were reporting that there were only handfuls of seats left in the lower sideline sections. There's a lot to be written and said about the changes in the Athletic Department since Danny White took over, but more tickets being sold is undeniably a good thing.
With all that said, we move on from Bulls Madness to the season preview. Both the Men's and Women's teams kick off the 2013-2014 season on Friday, November 8th. Today we unveil Part One of Bull Run's Season Preview, focusing on the coaches for both teams.
What can we say about Bobby Hurley in Buffalo that hasn't already been said? His hire has been covered by every sports outlet, and his Duke connection means that industry hotshots like Coach K and Jay Bilas have provided nice soundbites and quotes for the UB press machine.
In terms of accomplishments over reputation, while Hurley doesn't have head coaching experience, he has experienced at Duke top flight competition and knows what it takes for a player to get to the next level, and he also has a successful turnaround under his belt from his time as the Assistant Coach at Wagner, where he and his brother guided Wagner to a 25-6 record in only their second season.
Steve Spurrier just said this morning that the key to being good was "getting good recruits," and I think you'll see that Hurley has trusted his own knowledge after years of learning from his father and Coach K and assembled his staff with an emphasis on recruiting. I always loved Kwitchoff's work with the big men, and while I think we can all agree that John Boyer and Jarod Oldham would have been very different players without Turner Battle, there was never too much of a feeling that UB's former coach had a go-to closer in the recruiting department.
Watkins comes to Buffalo after spending 8 years at NC State immediately after his playing career with the Wolfpack ended in 2005. Between those 12 years in Carolina and a high school career in the Washington, DC area, Watkins offers a strong connection to two recruiting hotbeds. During his time at NC State, the Wolfpack signed 7 McDonald's All-Americans and had 5 top-fifteen recruiting classes.
Not too much to say about Harrield, except that he comes from Bobby Sr.'s staff at St. Anthony's and has coached the Sports U Elite Basketball Club in New Jersey to the upper echelon of AAU ball in the Northeast. I always look askance at AAU programs, because it's a racket through and through, but having a coach who knows the circuit can always help, because few standouts play only for their high school anymore. If you want a look at a current Harrield-coached big man to get a feel for UB's post play in the future, check out Kyle Anderson at UCLA.
So we've got the big name who's learned from some of the greatest coaches in the game, the college guy with connections to the better recruiting areas in the Southeast, and a Mid-Atlantic AAU guy. What more could we want? Oh, a wildly successful high school coach from the Midwest? Check.
Nate Oats comes to Buffalo after 11 seasons at Romulus High School in Michigan. Last season, Romulus finished 27-1, winning a Michigan state title. They have been ranked in the National Top 25 three times in the last four seasons, so it's clear that Oats can coach. On top of that, his recruiting chops have already paid off for the Bulls in the form of JUCO transfer Justin Moss.
On the flip side, while Hurley has compiled his assistants with an eye on program recruiting, Women's Coach Felisha Legette-Jack has almost the complete opposite qualities in her staff.
Coach Jack starts her second year at Buffalo with a ton of momentum, as the Bulls finished 8-8 in the MAC after a 2-11 nonconference slate. Coach Jack is not the type of coach you usually see in Mid-Major-dom, as she has coached successfully at Indiana, with three seasons of 18+ wins, after leading Hofstra to some of the best years in its history. Jack has experience as an assistant at Michigan State and her alma mater, Syracuse. She also has worked with USA basketball. She has served as the recruiting coordinator at both Syracuse and Michigan State before becoming a head coach.
Ashley Zuber & Kourtney Brown
With her experience in recruiting, Coach Jack can afford to focus differently when building her staff, and to teach the current crop of players, who better than one of the best distributors and best low post players in UB history? Neither have much experience as coaches, but Ashley Zuber joins the staff after finishing her Ph.D. in Physical Therapy, while Kourtney Brown is on the sidelines for the second year after playing in Spain.
Zuber holds the single season and single game assist records for UB, and Kourtney Brown was MAC Player of the Year and an Honorable Mention All-American her senior year. By bringing in the two former standouts, Coach Jack puts both her guards and post players in good hands, and might attract more bodies to Alumni, as well.
Coach Johnson brings some recruiting experience from Binghamton, where she brought in two straight America East Rookies of the Year. That's about all I have to say on that. Two paragraphs ago I was talking about how Jack's recruiting background allows her to bring in younger assistants with fewer connections, but she can't do it all herself. Johnson has the experience as Recruiting Coordinator and the ability to close on recruits who will make an impact, and she will balance Zuber and Brown's inexperience on the recruiting side.