Tuesday, April 14, 2009

assistant coaches

Hopefully this is the coaching search wrap-up and in the future I can talk about Tony Bennett exclusively as the head coach actual and not as some guy we just hired who's going to be the head coach.

First, check out the coaching search cliff notes at the ACC Sports Journal, where they give you the rundown of about four weeks' worth of insanity in one easy page.

Next, have a look at the apparent list of assistant coaches. "Apparent" because Ritchie McKay is the only one named officially by the University, but there's no reason not to believe Jeff White here.

There are three names to take a look at. I'm not going to worry about Brad Soucie here because as director of basketball operations, he's really more of a Man Friday to Coach Bennett and literally not allowed to get involved with actual coaching. Besides Bennett, the three guys that will be doing the coaching and recruiting and all that are Ritchie McKay, Ron Sanchez, and Jason Williford. One by one, here's what I think:

Ritchie McKay

McKay hasn't been an assistant coach since 1995 - his extensive head coaching experience is the main asset he brings to this job. Also anyone who can recruit a talent like Seth Curry to come to a school where there's a curfew and a ban on R-rated movies is a plus recruiter in my book. Also he's probably one of the top five reasons Dave Leitao was fired, since at UVA you're not supposed to lose to Liberty. The least he could do to make up for that blemish on our record was to come here to coach, right? Anyway, aside from that, McKay's coaching career is a depressing pyramid of undistinguished tenures at lousy programs. There's a certain symmetry to it, actually, if you look. And none of it's even remotely impressive, to be honest. The one season he had any real success at all - his New Mexico team earning a 12 seed to the tournament - he had Danny Granger, a future first-round pick of the Indiana Pacers, leading the way. Still, McKay's not the head coach. He's the associate head coach. And I figure the man knows a little something about recruiting if he can bring Seth Curry onboard, and the experience of having been a head coach will be a big plus for Bennett.

Ron Sanchez

Sanchez comes to Charlottesville as a package deal with Bennett. His WSU bio is here, for however long it manages to stay before it's taken down, and no, I'm not getting excited over his ties to New York, going to school there and coaching D-III ball doesn't qualify. Eight years ago, Sanchez was an associate head coach at a JUCO; he is now a highly paid ACC assistant. That qualifies as a meteoric rise through the coaching ranks, and that suggests either a highly motivated, Type-A go-getter or a shameless self-promoter, depending on whether or not you were the guy he stepped on to get what he wants. Either way, Bennett has been leaning on Sanchez for some time now in the recruiting domain, and it's going to be that way here too, and that kind of personality is a plus - almost a requirement - in the world of basketball recruiting. Also, according to his bio, he is a killer scheduler of schedules. For what that's worth.

Jason Williford

Did you know Williford played for Jeff Jones at UVA? OK, you probably did. Did you know he played professional ball too? Yup. Not being quite the caliber player the NBA is looking for, Williford headed overseas and played professionally in Iceland(!!) and Korea. Now, let's be honest: Williford's US coaching career, aside from volunteer work and high school, is five years at Boston U. and four at American. Williford was able to use his UVA connections first to land the American job (it being under the coach he played for here) and then to land this one. And that's not a bad thing. First off it's nice to have someone who's got recent connections in a place where UVA absolutely must recruit in order to be viable: the DC area. Second, we finally have someone involved with the program who knows what the program was like when it produced Sweet Sixteen-caliber teams. And third, speaking of the NCAA tournament, Williford has more tournament experience than the whole rest of the staff combined. His three appearances as a player and three appearances as an assistant coach, including a total of 12 games, have got everyone else beat, including Bennett. You can't beat tournament experience.

Lastly, a little bit of a late Easter egg for you. It's not the big big news we've been waiting for but it's close. You won't be able to read this if you're not a Rivals subscriber, but the news will be out sooner rather than later anyway so I don't feel bad about posting it: Jontel Evans reaffirmed his commitment tonight. Evans' reputation as a tough, tough defender makes him something of a more talented version of the players Bennett liked to work with at WSU, so that combined with the fact that he'll be one of only two true PGs on the roster make him a big keep and likely to see time off the bench right away next year. One down, one to go.

EDIT of a happy nature: Easter egg, part two - if you believe Facebook statuses, Spurlock is also staying put, and the '09 class remains intact. Hopefully there'll be confirmation of a more official nature tomorrow, but Spurlock's Facebook postings have actually been reasonably reliable, and he has never come across as the type to mess with people on a mass scale. So: YAY! Tony Bennett has now achieved pretty much everything UVA fans could reasonably demand from him. He's put all the checks in all the right boxes, and no, he can't go back in time and also give himself a national title at Kentucky, so stop it. Focus can now turn 100% to the '09-'10 season and all it entails.

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