Springmann, Battle top elite group of assistant coaches
by Jeff Goodman
Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for FOXSports.com. He can be reached at GoodmanonFOX@aol.com or check out his blog, Good 'N Plenty.
Updated: May 6, 2008,
Instead of giving our picks for the elite assistants in the country, we opted to go to those in the industry for their take. We wanted to target the guys that instill a level of fear into their colleagues when they stroll into a gym.
We polled head coaches, assistants and others who deal with assistants on a daily basis — and we received a ridiculous amount of responses (more than 450). The best one came from one West Coast head coach, who put Ben Franklin at the top of his list when asked for the top three assistant coaches in the nation.
We break it down in two groups: The Top 20 High-Major (or BCS) assistant coaches and then the Top 10 Mid-Major guys in the country.
And no, I didn't vote.
Top 20 High-Major assistants
1) Russell Springmann, Texas — He has worked his way up after starting at Mardela High near his home in Maryland. Springmann spent two years doing grunt work at Florida for Billy Donovan and then his first three seasons at Texas as an administrative assistant before Rick Barnes made him a full-time assistant seven years ago. He's the guy responsible for getting Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin to Austin.
Key Recruits: Kevin Durant, D.J. Augustin and Damion James.
2) Jeff Battle, Wake Forest — The soft-spoken 46-year-old has been the associate head coach for the Demon Deacons since 2002 and could easily have been tabbed the head coach after Skip Prosser died last summer. Battle, who starred at Marshall in the mid 1980's, was also an assistant at Xavier from 1995-2001 under Prosser.
Key Recruits: David West, James Posey and Jeff Teague.
3) Larry Shyatt, Florida — He was critical to Florida's back-to-back national title run. Shyatt, 57, was previously the head coach at Clemson from 1998-2003 and at Wyoming from 1997-98. He also worked for Rick Barnes as an assistant at Providence and Clemson — and also made stops as an assistant at New Mexico, Utah and Cleveland State.
Key Recruits: Darren Tillis, Eric Williams, Austin Croshere and Greg Buckner.
4) John Groce, Ohio State — The 36-year-old has spent the past eight years under Thad Matta — four at Xavier and the past four at Ohio State. The Indiana native and pride of Taylor University got his first break at N.C. State, where he spent four years (1996-2000) under then-Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek.
Key Recruits: Greg Oden, Mike Conley and B.J. Mullens.
5) Mike Hopkins, Syracuse — The former shooting guard played four years for the Orangemen and has spent the last dozen years as an assistant to his former coach Jim Boeheim. Hopkins, who spent some time playing in the CBA and overseas, will also take the reigns from Boeheim once he retires. He knows the game and relates to young kids incredibly well.
Key Recruits: Demetris Nichols, Hakim Warrick, Jonny Flynn and Paul Harris.
6) Joe Dooley, Kansas — People forget that he was the head coach at East Carolina from 1995-99 and compiled a more than respectable 57-52 record with the Pirates. The 42-year-old was a key reason why the Jayhawks won the national title last season. Dooley is a New Jersey native who has also been an assistant at New Mexico and Wyoming.
Key Recruits: Mario Chalmers, Sasha Kaun and Cole Aldrich.
7) Josh Pastner, Arizona (and now the U of M, ed)— The Texas native always knew he wanted to be a coach and it began as a seldom-used player in the mid 1990s. Pastner, 30, finished his undergraduate degree in 2 ½ years and was the video and recruiting coordinator for Lute Olson in 2001-02 before becoming full-time and one of the most relentless recruiters in the country since 2002.
Key Recruits: Jerryd Bayless, Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill.
8) Steve Forbes, Tennessee — The Iowa native has been with Bruce Pearl and the Vols for the past two seasons after spending two at Texas A&M under Billy Gillispie. Forbes, 43, had a 68-28 mark in three years as the head coach at Barton County Community College and has also been a D-1 assistant at Idaho, Louisiana Tech and Illinois State.
Key Recruits: Scotty Hopson and Antanas Kavaliauskas.
9) Matt Driscoll, Baylor — The 43-year-old spent six years under Larry Shyatt — five at Clemson and one at Wyoming — before hooking up with Scott Drew. In fact, Driscoll was at Valparaiso with Drew for a matter of weeks before heading to Waco and helping orchestrate one of the most impressive turnarounds in recent memory.
Key Recruits: N/A (Baylor staff recruits players as a team).
10) Robert Burke, Georgetown — The Maryland native came with John Thompson III to Georgetown after four years at Princeton and has been instrumental in re-building the Hoyas. The 42-year-old started as an assistant at Maryland-Baltimore County (1988-94) and also had three-year stints at Loyola Marymount and under Paul Hewitt at Siena. He spearheaded the recruitment of the consensus No. 1 freshman in the country next season, talented forward Greg Monroe.
Key Recruits: Greg Monroe and Jonathan Wallace.
11) Tom Herrion, Pittsburgh — Herrion jumped on Jamie Dixon's staff prior to last season and was recently promoted to associate head coach. He was previously the head coach at the College of Charleston for four years and averaged 20 wins per season in his tenure. The 40-year-old also worked for Pete Gillen for eight years at Virginia and Providence.
Key Recruits: Roger Mason Jr., John Linehan and J.R. Reynolds.
Ohio State's John Groce has become one of the top assistants in the country after spending the past eight seasons under head coach Thad Matta. (Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)
12) Donnie Daniels, UCLA — The 53-year-old has spent the past five years with the Bruins and has been integral in the three consecutive Final Four appearances. Daniels was previously the head coach at Cal State Fullerton for three seasons and also worked under Rick Majerus at Utah from 1990-2000 — including the 1998 campaign when the Utes lost in the national title game.
Key Recruits: Andre Miller, Keith Van Horn, Cedric Ceballos and Bruce Bowen.
13) Brett Gunning, Villanova — The 35-year-old got his start as a team manager under Rollie Massimino at �Nova before following Massimino to UNLV — where he worked alongside Jay Wright. Gunning spent seven years under Wright at Hofstra and is currently the associate head coach at Villanova.
Key Recruits: Scotty Reynolds, Corey Fisher, Dante Cunningham and Shane Clark.
14) Scott Duncan, UCLA — One of the most experienced assistants on this list, the 52-year-old Ohio native spent last season under Ben Howland after the previous seven at Oregon. Duncan has also worked for Larry Shyatt at Wyoming and Clemson and also made stops at Washington State and New Mexico.
Key Recruits: Luc Longley, Will Solomon and Aaron Brooks.
15) Stan Jones, Florida State — The 48-year-old has spent the past half-dozen seasons as Leonard Hamilton's associate head coach. Jones was also on Hamilton's staff at Miami for five seasons and for one year in the NBA with the Washington Wizards. He also worked at Mississippi State.
Key Recruits: John Salmons, Darius Rice and Al Thornton.
16) Mark Montgomery, Michigan State — The former Spartan player has returned to his alma mater and was promoted by Tom Izzo to associate head coach a year ago. Montgomery, 38, played four years overseas after graduating and then spent four seasons as an assistant at Central Michigan before returning to East Lansing.
Key Recruits: Shannon Brown, Maurice Ager, Drew Neitzel, Kalin Lucas and Chris Allen.
17) Dwayne Stephens, Michigan State — Stephens, 36, enjoyed a similar path as his colleague, Mark Montgomery. He played for Tom Izzo from 1989-93, played overseas and then spent a couple years at the mid-major level (Oakland University) before returning to his alma mater. Stephens also worked for four seasons under Tom Crean at Marquette in-between his Oakland State and coming back to East Lansing.
Key Recruits: Dwyane Wade, Steve Novak, Travis Diener, Delvon Roe and Raymar Morgan.
18) Bob Cantu, USC — The 34-year-old spent four seasons under Henry Bibby and the past three working for Tim Floyd at USC. He's a California native who spearheaded the recruitment of O.J. Mayo and Davon Jefferson. Cantu was a high school coach in California before working as an administrative assistant at Cal Poly and three years (1997-99) at Cuesta College.
Key Recruits: O.J. Mayo, Davon Jefferson, Nick Young, Gabe Pruitt and Robert Swift.
19) Paul Lusk, Purdue — The 36-year-old has been on Matt Painter's staff at Purdue for five years and also spent a year with Painter at his alma mater, Southern Illinois. Lusk played for the Salukis for three years and was also the head coach at D-III Dubuque in Iowa.
Key Recruits: Robbie Hummel, Scott Martin, Chris Kramer.
20-a) Dedrique Taylor, Arizona State — The 34-year-old California native has spent the past two years on Herb Sendek's staff after two seasons at Nevada. Taylor was also an assistant at Portland State (2002-04), Loyola Marymount and UC Davis — in addition to a two-year playing stint overseas.
Key Recruits: Will Funn and Blake Walker.
20-b) Rodney Terry, Texas — The former Lone Star state high school coach has been with Rick Barnes at Texas for the past six years after spending four under Jerry Wainwright at UNC-Wilmington. Terry, 40, was also an assistant at Baylor from 1996-98.
Key Recruits: Justin Mason, Dexter Pittman, Mike Williams.
Top Mid-Major assistants
1) Pat Skerry, Rhode Island — The 38-year-old has spent the past three seasons at Rhode Island after two seasons at the College of Charleston and three at William & Mary. Skerry was also the head coach at Curry College from 1996-98 and played at Tufts.
Key Recruits: Adam Hess, Josh Jackson, Keith Cothran and Jamal Wilson.
2) Matt Matheny, Davidson — The 1993 Davidson grad and former Wildcat basketball and football captain has been on Bob McKillop's staff since 1993. He actually went to Germany to play a summer of American football after graduating before McKillop offered him a job as an assistant coach.
Key Recruits: Stephen Curry and Brendan Winters.
3) Matt Graves, Butler — The 33-year-old former shooting guard helped lead the Bulldogs to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances as a player and has been on the staff for the past seven seasons — five as a full-time assistant. Previously, he was an assistant high school coach at North Central and Ben Davis High.
Key Recruits: A.J. Graves and Matt Howard.
4) Geoff Arnold, Drexel — A former standout guard at Saint Joseph's, the 43-year-old has been the top assistant under Bruiser Flint for the past seven seasons and is currently the associate head coach. Arnold also spent five years as an assistant at UMass and four years at St. Joe's.
Key Recruits: Rashid Bey, Kitwana Rhymer, Bashir Mason and Chaz Crawford.
5) Casey Alexander, Belmont — The former Belmont standout has been on the staff under Rick Byrd for the past 13 seasons and has been the associate head coach since 2002. Alexander is a Tennessee native who works with the team's perimeter players and has been integral in the program's success.
Key Recruits: Justin Hare and Brian Collins.
6) Matt McMahon, Appalachian State — The 30-year-old has been the associate head coach for the past four years and has been on the Mountaineers staff for the past eight seasons. McMahon was a two-year starter at Appalachian and was an administrative grad assistant for Buzz Peterson for one season before landing a gig at his alma mater in 2002.
Key Recruits: D.J. Thompson, Chris McFarland and Jeremy Clayton.
7) David Carter, Nevada — The 41-year-old California native played at Saint Mary's and has been a key reason why the Wolf Pack have been so successful in his nine years on the staff. He's a terrific evaluator who has played a part in the recruitment of guys like Kirk Snyder, Ramon Sessions and JaVale McGee.
Key Recruits: N/A (Nevada staff recruits players as a team).
8) Chad Dollar, Arkansas State — The well-traveled 36-year-old followed John Brady to Arkansas State after a one-year stint at LSU last season. Dollar was previously at Murray State for one year, four at Georgia Southern and also spent time at Eastern Kentucky, Western Carolina, Southern Mississippi and Gardner-Webb.
Key Recruits: Jarvis Hayes and Elton Nesbitt.
9) Bill Donlon, Wright State — The 31-year-old played for Brad Brownell at UNC-Wilmington and has spent the past two years at Wright State as Brownell's associate head coach. Donlon played in Germany and then had coaching stints at American and St. Peter's before hooking on with Brownell.
Key Recruits: Vaughn Duggins and T.J. Carter.
10) Jeff Rafferty, Delaware — The 32-year-old is a rising star in the business. He's been at Delaware for the past two seasons after spending a pair under Bill Herrion at New Hampshire. Previously, he was critical to UMass-Lowell's success in his four years as the top aide.
Key Recruits: Alvin Abreu, Tryone Conley, Radar Onguetou and Stacey Moragne.