Usually it takes a couple years to say a coach 'has his own team.' To speak nothing of upperclassmen, freshman recruiting by the previous boss right before the transition will stick around, and depending on the scholarship distribution, that could be a big inheritance.
Hurley, entering his second year, has managed that transition as quickly as you could expect, capitalizing on a 2013 recruiting class of one - impact freshman Shannon Evans - and a number of transfers who were able to contribute instant minutes. Less than 18 months after Hurley's hire, only three Bulls remain who played under Reggie Witherspoon.
With the help of that large senior class in 2013-14, Hurley coached UB to its first-ever outright MAC East title before the team fell in its first game at the MAC tournament. This year Hurley faces a season without UB all-time leading scorer Javon McCrea, but also will see upwards of 75% of UB's minutes played by his guys, an abnormally high number for a second-year coach. On one hand, a reason to expect a dropoff, while on the other, a reason to see that dropoff mitigated.
Hurley of course, has a well-known backstory before getting to UB. His father and high school coach, Bobby Hurley, Sr., is a renowned coach in his own right. Bobby Jr's next coach is also relatively well-known, and guided the star point guard to All-American recognition in 1993 before Hurley was drafted into the NBA.
After an injury-shortened playing career and some time away from the game, Hurley started coaching as an assistant to his brother, Dan, at Wagner and then at two years at Rhode Island before being hired away by Danny White.
Coach Watkins starts his second season with Bulls, where he works primarily with the post players. Prior to Buffalo he was on staff at North Carolina State for eight years, where he gained experience with high-level recruiting: seven McDonald's All-Americans came to NC State during Watkins' tenure and the Wolfpack boasted top-15 recruiting classes in five of his eight seasons.
As a player, Watkins helped NC State to the NCAA tournament in four consecutive years after a strong prep career in the Washington, DC area, which culminated in Maryland Player of the Year honors. With connections to both the Carolinas and DC, Watkins is a strategic member of staff for recruiting purposes in addition to his coaching ability.
We'll start with the boilerplate: Nate Oats starts his second season at UB after being drawn to Buffalo from the Michigan high school circuit, where he capped his 11th season as head coach at Romulus High with a a 27-1 record, a state title, and Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, and BCAM Coach of the Year honors.
2013 was not a magic season for Oats, who built a powerhouse at Romulus. Under his leadership the team won seven straight conference championships, advanced to the Michigan Final Four five times, and was thrice ranked nationally.
Away from the boilerplate, Nate Oats is Bobby Hurley's ace in the hole when it comes to recruiting. I call it the #NateOatsPipeline. In 2013-14 former Romulus player Justin Moss transferred to Buffalo and made an impact. This year the Romulus contingent grows by two as Christian Pino and Raheem Johnson have transferred into the program.
The #NateOatsPipeline doesn't end there, however. Do some digging on UB's recruiting, and you'll find that Oats is accompanying Hurley all over the Great Lakes to seal the deal on recruits. Mory Diane is from Detroit, so that's not difficult to see, but Oats was also instrumental in getting Milwaukee-area prep star Lamonte Bearden to Buffalo, as well as Chicago shooter Bobby Frasco. In next year's class, Oats was the lead man on both Nate Navigato and Nick Perkins, from Chicago and Detroit, respectively.
Ben Wood is an assistant coach at Buffalo for the first time, but has been working under Hurley for some time. Formerly the Director of Basketball Operations, at both Buffalo and Rhode Island, Wood came to Hurley's staff after a number of years at UConn, where he attended school, earning degrees in 2007 and 2009 while serving in a number of roles in the basketball program. During his time in Storrs the Huskies advanced to the Elite Eight thrice, the Final Four twice, and of course won the National Championship in 2011.
I am very happy for Coach Wood that he's gotten out of Storrs.
That's it for my season preview. If you missed any of the posts, catch up by following the links below:
The Bulls start the regular season with a home date against South Dakota State a week from today in Alumni Arena. Theoretically the game is scheduled for 7:00 PM, but will likely start later, 30-40 minutes after the women's game ends.