(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Looking back at the 2018 D1 Rookie Head Coaching Class

By Jack Williams

In 2018, there were several coaches who were hired as new head coaches in division 1 college basketball for the first time ever, just like any other year. Most of them were assistant coaches at one point or another or has simply coached on another level of college basketball, which includes high school, division 2 or division 3 levels. Among some of these new coaches were:

Penny Hardaway (Memphis)

Darian DeVries (Drake)

Michael Fly (Florida Gulf Coast)

Chris Ogden (UT Arlington)

David Cox (Rhode Island)

Justin Lee Hutson (Fresno State)

Travis Andrew Steele (Xavier)

Jeremy Ballard (Florida International)

David Patrick (UC Riverside)

A.W. Hamilton (Eastern Kentucky)

Ashley Howard (La Salle)

Austin Claunch (Nicholls)

Brian "Penny" Collins (Tennessee State)

Carson Cunningham (Incarnate Word)

Dusty May (Florida Atlantic)

Griff Aldrich (Longwood)

Jared Keith Grasso (Bryant) Mark Prosser (Western Carolina)

Mike Morrell (N.C. Ashvillee)

Ron Sanchez (Charlotte)

Shaheen Holloway (Eastern Washington)

Tavaras Hardy (Loyola (MD)

Walter Lee McCarty (Evansville)

Tony Pujol (North Alabama)

But let’s focus on those who are actually doing very well out of this class:

Penny Hardaway (Memphis)

Hands down no one was more successful out of this group than Coach Penny Hardaway. His name is one of the most talked about amongst the recruiting circuit. According to 247sports.com, Memphis has the #1 recruiting class in the nation. Because of Coach Hardaway Memphis is now part of the national talk show circuit. The strength of the team is up there with the liking of Kentucky and Duke.

Penny Hardaway is for real. However, we have to see what he does with the team that he has. Like I said before, building such as big class could be both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because a class as such puts the team in the national spotlight. It could be a curse because if he doesn’t produce with this team he could be fired halfway through his term. A 2nd round finish in the NCAA Tournament or less could be considered a failure. But if this team finishes in the Sweet Sixteen or beyond, Coach Hardaway could be up for the American Athletics Conference coach of the year award in 2019-2020. And if he’s successful at sending several of his players to the NBA that will definitely attract more five (5) star recruits to hi team in the near future.

Memphis finished in the 2nd round of the NIT in 2019.

This 2019-2020 roster is a good roster for Coach Hardaway. He should have point guard Tyler Harris returning from the 2018-2019 season. Harris played in 36 games and started in 15. He should also have Isaiah Maurice who played in 36 games and started in nine (9) returning for another season.

Coach Hardaway has added a very good graduate transfer to his roster in Rayjon Tucker, who was the top scorer on his Little Rock team last season. While in Little Rock he averaged 20.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in his final season. With its top freshmen coming in, this Memphis team is loaded.

Darian DeVries (Drake)

Coach Darian DeVries is another coach out of this class that I’ve discussed several time throughout this year. I love the way this guy recruits. He’s bringing in quality transfers just like Chris Beard did in Little Rock - and the group of transfers that he’s bringing in are a mixture of JUCO transfers, regular division 1 transfers, and graduate transfers, while at the same time adding quality freshmen to help stay old and competitive. I really like this young coach and think that he’s going to go far in this league.

Drake shared the Missouri Valley Conference regular season title with Loyola Chicago last season. Coach DeVries and Drake would have won them both had it not been for the injury of guard Nick Norton. The one good thing about Coach DeVries is that he didn’t inherit a good team like some new head coaches do. He built this team from scratch.

Michael Fly (Florida Gulf Coast)

Coach Michael Fly did pretty well with a team that had lost a lot of players from the 2017-2018 season. Florida Golf Coast finished the season with an overall losing record of 14-18 but the team had a winning conference record of 9-7, finishing 4th in the ASUN. Florida Gulf Coast finished below 2nd place two (2) out of the last six (6) years. Can Michael Fly get Florida Gulf Coast back above 2nd place this season? We shall see.

Coach Fly and Florida Gulf Coast has a pretty tough pre-conference schedule in 2019-2020, which includes games against two (2) teams with up and coming coaches from this class, Dusty May (Florida Atlantic) and Jeremy Ballard (Florida International). Both of these teams played very well last season and should be even better this coming season.

Chris Ogden (UT Arlington)

UT Arlington returns to the top of the Sun Belt with Chris Ogden in charge. In 2017-2018 UT Arlington finished in 4th place in the Sun Belt. But in 2018-2019 the team finished in 2nd place. Coach Ogden was also named the Sun Belt Coach of the Year in 2019. Coach Ogden calmed the tension that was surrounded around UT Arlington due the unexpected firing of UT Arlington’s winningest coach in history, Scott Cross, who’s back in the Sun Belt by the way. He is the new head coach at Troy. Chris Ogden did a wonderful job managing those fears and putting UT Arlington back on top of the Sun Belt. UT Arlington should continue this upward trend in 2019-2020 with the return of to (2) of their top three (3) scorers Brian Warren and David Azore. UT Arlington has lost guard Edric Dennis to TCU but will be alright with Arkansas’ transfer Jordan Phillips, a three (3) star who never got a chance to prove himself at Arkansas due to injury.

David Cox (Rhode Island)

Despite the fact that Rhode Island finished in 8th place in the Atlantic 10 this team was pretty good this past season under new coach David Cox. Rhode Island has a winning overall record of 18-15 and an Atlantic 10 record of 9-9. Not bad. That’s something to build on.

Justin Lee Hutson (Fresno State)

Fresno State improved from the previous year under Coach Justin Hutson. Fresno State finished in 5th place in the Mountain West in 2017-2018. In 2018-2019 that record improved to 3rd place in the Mountain West. Coach Hutson may have problems next season However after the loss of Deshon Taylor and Braxton Huggins, the top two (2) scorers on the team.

Travis Steele (Xavier)

It’s hard to replace a coach like Chris Mack. But Coach Steele did a great job holding his own. He at least kept Xavier competitive in the Big East. Xavier didn’t make it to the NCAA Tournament but they did make it to the NIT. Xavier finished 6th in the Big East last season but ended the season with a winning overall record. Xavier should do much better in 2019-2020 with the return of its top three scorers, Naji Marshall, Paul Scruggs, and Tyrique Jones. They will be joined by a very good recruiting class coming in for the year 2019. We expect Xavier to be very competitive this coming season.

Jeremy Ballard (Florida International)

Coach Ballard is doing a wonderful job at Florida International. This team was not competitive for several years. They had only one win season in the 19 years prior to this season. This is Florida International’s first 20 win season since 1997. If Coach Ballard could get this team back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995, his stock should increase greatly.