Halftime Sports

Don’t cry because it happened, smile because it’s over (hopefully): full length

March 3, 2023

If Patrick Ewing leaves, who will be the next Georgetown men's basketball coach? Graham Krewinghaus

Welcome to the most hope Georgetown basketball has had in years! Come on down, take a seat. I’m assuming if you’re reading this that Ewing has either officially resigned or been relieved of his duties as the Georgetown men’s basketball head coach. If he hasn’t yet, I’m sorry, but sit down anyways, and we can just pretend for a moment that our dreams are going to come true. Better days are (hopefully) on the way, so in the meantime, let’s break down what my hotboard for the next head coach. 

A preface:

Obviously, the coaches on this list aren’t the only coaches that should be considered. It would be foolish not to put feelers out for coaches like Wake Forest’s Steve Forbes, Kansas State’s Jerome Tang, NC State’s Kevin Keatts, Virginia Tech’s Mike Young, and other big name coaches who could be either looking to move on from their current school or are at a current compensation level which Georgetown should be able to match or exceed. The reason they are not included here, however, is because this list contains more attainable targets for the Hoyas. The ones mentioned above are considered long shots. One cannot overstate how important the next hire is for our Georgetown men’s basketball team. Put frankly, the program cannot handle another botched coaching hire, or else it’ll risk sinking into basketball purgatory –  or worse yet, wherever DePaul is. Okay, that was harsh. Maybe not DePaul levels of stink, but also not too far off from that.

For this reason, it simply makes the most sense for Georgetown to hire a coach with head coaching experience, preferably high-major head coaching experience, and maybe, just maybe, some established DMV connections.

Even coming off of a 0-20 conference record with a head coach on his way out, Georgetown was still able to assemble a roster with tournament level talent. Adding someone for their DMV connections could jumpstart recruiting, as could bringing in a coach with experience and a solid grasp of how to run a program. Just look down the road at Kevin Willard and his 2023 recruiting class. Despite never being a strong recruiter and not having much experience in the area, Willard’s coaching chops has allowed UMD to be a major factor in local recruiting. Degioia and company could also add a young up and coming assistant with deep local ties, like George Washington’s Brendan Straughn, to the next staff.)

So, without further adieu…let’s look at some coaches.

Tier 1: Four-Point Plays

  1. TJ Otzelberger, Iowa State

Age: 45

Record with current team: 39-25 (.609)

Career record: 226-138 (.611)

Current salary: $2 million 

Who better to try and turn this thing around than the man responsible for arguably the largest single season turnaround in modern NCAA history? Otzelberger took over an ISU team that went 2-22 overall and 0-18 in conference under former coach Steve Prohm and led them to a 22-13 record (plus an appearance in the Sweet Sixteen) in his very first season in Ames, Iowa. He was able to do this because of his skill navigating the transfer portal and making the most of the talent he already had when he arrived.  

Otzelberger’s ability to generate quick turnarounds bring in the exact type of experience that Georgetown needs from its next head coach. He has also shown the top notch ceiling fans hope for as well. Building off of that 22-13 record last year, Otzelberger has taken things to a new level this season. He brought his Cyclones to a record of 15-5, including 6-2 in the toughest conference in the nation, and achieved top 20 rankings in virtually all advanced metrics. Off the hardwood, Otzelberger and staff have already started to lure in top players through the high school ranks, making moves towards levels of raw talent that ISU has never been able to recruit before. Depending on how the final recruiting rankings fall, Otzelberger will have brought in at least one, and maybe even two, five-stars to his program. At only 45 years of age, he has potentially two-plus decades of career runway ahead of him, and with a salary of only two million at a school that has never been particularly swimming in athletics funding, Georgetown should be able to swoop in and thoroughly outbid the Iowa State athletic department for Otzelberger’s services. That advantage, however, is not the whole story, which brings us to the major reasons that an Otzelberger-Hoya marriage may prove too good to be true.

The two main barriers to making this dream a reality are Otzelberger’s emotional and fiscal attachments to Iowa State. On the personal side, while Otzelberger may be a native of Wisconsin, his ties to ISU run deep. His wife, Alison Lacey, is a former Cyclone star on the hardwood, and being a midwest native, Otzelberger likely hasfamily in the general area. Otzelberger is not an alum in credentials, but he is about as attached to ISU as one can be, so Georgetown might have to do more than just slightly top whatever ISU can offer. On the fiscal side, Otzelberger sports a pretty significant buyout, which could prove to be too expensive considering the massive heap of money Georgetown will be paying to buy out Ewing’s contract..

  1. Ed Cooley, Providence

Age: 53

Record with current team: 236-147 (.616) 

Career record: 328-216 (.603)

Current salary: $2.2 million

  1. Chris Mack, The Unemployment Line

Age: 53

Years of Head Coaching Experience: 13 years (9* years)

Record With Current Team: 0-0 (in the words of Lavar Ball, “Undefeated, nevva lost!”)

Career Record: 278-133 (.676)

Current Salary: $0.00

The next two names on this list probably should be discussed in tandem, so let’s jump in. With Cooley and Mack, you have two coaches who have proven a whole lot in terms of winning games in the Big East regular season. Each has their own set of questions they still have to answer, though. 

Both Mack and Cooley have posted above 60 percent win percentages at Big East schools –  Xavier and Providence respectively – and would assuredly give Georgetown a strong chance of righting the ship and quickly getting the program back into the tournament. Both have been extensively linked to the soon-to-be opening on the Hilltop for quite some time by many people who know the game well. Both have made the Big Dance at least five times while coaching in the conference, with Mack reaching five tournaments in five Big East years (plus three additional while the Musketeers were still in the A-10 Conference). Cooley’s Friars have reached six in eleven years. Both are attainable candidates, albeit for different reasons: Mack because of his current employment status (none), and Cooley for his outspoken idolization of Big John Thompson and his Georgetown teams. Unfortunately, there are questions about whether or not each would be the next Georgetown coach given the chance. Despite his long history of success at Xavier, Mack had a sour end at Louisville and may not be ready to return to high-major coaching quite yet. For Cooley, his seemingly lifetime job security at a good but not great program in Providence could prove too large a barrier to overcome.  

*Does not include the 4 years Mack was at Xavier before they moved to the BIG EAST

  1. Micah Shrewsberry, Penn State

Age: 46

Record with current team: 32-29 (.525)

Career record: 32-29 (.525)

Current salary: estimated $2-3 million

First off, if Georgetown wises up and seriously considers Shrews, I called it first. Not Brian Hamilton of the Athletic. It was me. A text message from me to my editor on Nov 23, 2022 reads, “Shrewsberry only makes like 2 million a year at Penn State, make the move. We [Georgetown] can top that.” So ha, Brian, this was my take first. Anyways…

In only his second year at Penn State, which is also only his second year as a head coach anywhere, Micah Shrewsberry has nearly completed an impressive turnaround of the oft-down-trodden Nittany Lions program, getting them firmly in the conversation to earn an at-large bid in March Madness. While many may know of Penn State as a strong football program, they are without a doubt a basketball-second university. They struggle to get fans in the stands at that, even when they are sporting a good team like this season. Shrewsberry not only has proven to be a great X’s and O’s mind in the huddle, but has also shown how strong of a talent developer he can be in just two short years as head coach. In addition, Shrewsberry has also proven himself to be a transfer portal wizard, bringing in experienced players with untapped ceilings who can stick around for more than one year (see Jalen Pickett, aka the best player in the country you’ve probably never heard of). Finally—and this is coming from a nearly lifelong fan of PSU rival Michigan State University—it’s just impossible to not love the guy and how he runs a program. I can also say for certain that this sentiment is held around the Big Ten. It often gets overlooked, but this Georgetown program needs someone who can bring across the board improvements on the court, in the classroom, and beyond. Shrewsberry can step in on day one and fix many of those things.

The only concerns with this one are that lack of head coaching experience, a lack of connection to the DMV, and the fact that we really haven’t been able to get a feel of how strong a recruiter he is. Addressing his less-than-stellar coaching record, I would recommend anyone skeptical of it truly consider the job Shrewsberry walked into, the roster at the time, and give him so much credit for turning this PSU roster around in such short order.

Make no mistake about it though, Shrewsberry is a rising star,hence his direct path from assistant to high-major head coach whether it is Georgetown or another quality Power-6 program, someone is going to be helping this man get the hell out of not-so-Happy Valley very, very soon. 

Tier 2: Deep Threes

While many of these other tiers have coaches who are alike in things like age or experience, this tier is different. From Anthony Grant’s calm (perhaps bland) demeanor and X’s and O’s knowledge, to Holtmann’s recruiting prowess, to Kyle Smith’s “Nerdball,” this is a tier where you get a little of everything, each with its own unique style and flavor.  

This is a set of coaches who could come in and immediately raise the floor of Georgetown significantly, while still leaving open the possibility for a high ceiling.For one reason or another, though, they cannot quite be considered a home run at this time. 

  1. Kyle Smith, Washington State

Age: 53

Record with current team: 68-59 (.534)

Career record: 232-181 (.561)

Current salary: $1.5 million

Honestly, this would be a fun hire. Ushering in a new era of Georgetown men’s basketball by bringing Kyle Smith’s “Nerdball” to the Hilltop would be entertaining. For all but the two people out there who have actually stepped foot in Pullman, Washington (my sincerest apologies to you both for having to experience that) you probably have never heard the term “Nerdball” before, so allow me to explain. 

Kyle Smith runs his basketball programs with a strong analytic mind; his ability to extract and evaluate data points from his players during practices and games give him an argument to be considered one of the bright data-driven minds in the sport. His scheme, dubbed by many as “Nerdball,” is based on using player data on things like shooting, defending, hustle, technique and more to determine ideal rotations and playing time. His sophisticated approach to managing rotations and X’s and O’s abilities is a far cry from what Georgetown fans have had to suffer through the past six years. This has allowed Smith to find great success at some of the most difficult places to win in at the Division I level (WSU, USF, and Columbia). He set Columbia’s record for wins in a season, became the first coach at USF to win 20 games in three consecutive season since the program’s reestablishment in 1985, and posted the first winning conference record for Wazzu since now-Virginia head coach Tony Bennett led the Cougars to one 14 years before (Kenpom ranks Wazzu as the third worst program overall since 1997 in the Power-6, ahead of only Depaul and Oregon State). He even has his own section on the WSU basketball Wikipedia page titled, “The Kyle Smith Turnaround.” At 53 years old, Smith still has enough career ahead of him to build Georgetown back up with his defense-first style of basketball (how refreshing). Even coaching aside, after years and years of a nepotistic approach to running the men’s basketball program, Smith and the meritocracy of “Nerdball” could be the cultural reset the program desperately needs. It might be time to bring the Maryland native home.

The question with this one is notable, but not a deal breaker. While “Nerdball” has been able to take root and flourish at Smith’s previous stops at Columbia and San Francisco, it is fair to question how well Smith’s playing-time meritocracy will transfer to the nation’s capital, particularly considering the type of playtime promises that other schools tend to give to top flight DMV prospects. 

*In the print version of this piece, published several days before this one, Smith was originally sixth. After officially becoming just the second coach in the shot-clock-era to have back-to-back winning conference records at Wazzu (Bennett being the other one), I felt he deserved a bump.

  1. Chris Holtmann, Ohio State

Age: 51

Record with current team: 120-73 (.622)

Career record: 234-158 (.597)

Current salary: $3.08 million

Let’s start with the next coach on my list, current OSU head man Chris Holtmann. Think of this pick as a Shaka Smart angle, as both he and Holtmann are coaches who have had success everywhere they’ve been. Holtmann has, as of this writing, made seven straight NCAA tournaments but could be looking for a reset in a new environment. If you want someone who is going to come in and immediately recruit the elite high school talent needed to rebuild Georgetown from the ground up, Holtmann is probably the single best recruiter on this whole list. While his OSU team is struggling this year, due to his long track record of success, it would be very worthwhile to at least look into bringing Holtmann aboard.

  1. Anthony Grant, Dayton

Age: 56

Record with current team: 121-62 (.661)  

Career record: 314-172 (.646)

Current salary: $1.83 million

If Grant were five years younger, he might have found himself in the homerun tier. At the end of the day, though, he has limited time left before retirement, and therefore would be limited in his ability to make a positive impact on the long-term future of the program. Make no mistake, though: under Grant, the Hoyas could be making a real run at the NCAA tournament as soon as year two, which would be a major win for the program on its own. It would also allow Georgetown to be in a position to poach a big name the next time they need to hunt for a coach. Additionally, Grant recently boasted a national top-10 finish in Kenpom: his team was fourth in the 2019-20 season before the tournament was canceled. The only question here is whether or not Grant is willing to leave Dayton, a position with strong job security, to try and rebuild another program at this stage in his career.


Tier 3: Mid-Range Twos 

This is the most interesting tier of coaches. It’s a collection of those who have rising star potential, but do not come with the safe floor that head coaches often do when they have high-major experience to evaluate them off of.  

  1. Grant McCasland, North Texas

Age: 46

Years of Head Coaching Experience: 9 years (0 years)

Record With Current Team: 128-64 (.667) 

Career Record: 148-76 (.661)

Current Salary: $0.8 million

  1. Dusty May, FAU

Age: 44

Years of Head Coaching Experience: 5 years (0 years)

Record With Current Team: 93-59 (.612)

Career Record: 93-59 (.612)

Current Salary: $0.4 million

  1. Ryan Odom, Utah State

Age: 48

Years of Head Coaching Experience: 9 years (0 years)

Record With Current Team:  41-23 (.641)

Career Record: 146-94 (.608)

Current Salary: $0.8 million

(Bonus) 11. Takayo Siddle, UNC Willmington

Age: 36 

Years of Head Coaching Experience: 3 years (0 years)

Record With Current Team: 56-28 (.667)

Career Record: 56-28 (.667)

Current Salary: $0.3 million

McCasland is someone who has been discussed nationally as a young mid-major coach who is due for a high-major job. Maybe it’s down the road in Austin at UT, but it’s more likely it’ll be elsewhere. McCasland’s North Texas teams are notorious for their suffocating defense and very slow tempo, and so far it’s been more than just a winning combination. McCasland has led the Mean Green to two C-USA regular season titles in the last three years, so there’s an argument to be made that he deserves to be much higher on this list.

If winning at one of the toughest jobs among mid-majors is what you’re looking for, look no further than Dusty May. In Florida Atlantic’s first 25 years as a program, the Owls had only five winning seasons, with no individual coach posting more than one of those. In the next five years, with May at the helm, they had five winning seasons and a program record for wins in a season reached this year after only 24 games at 22-2. In short, the guy can coach.

As for Odom, you may be familiar with him not in name, but as the coach of the UMBC team that became the first 16-seed to take down a 1-seed in March Madness (the overall top seed as well, Virginia in 2018). He’s not a one trick pony, though: Odom has been a consistent mover-upper in the coaching ranks for some time now. Sooner or later–and I’d bet on sooner–someone is going to give him a shot at a high-major gig.

Siddle is a name that has not generated much traction in the news outside of the Hoya Twitterverse, but he too is someone who has generated buzz as a coach on the rise and has racked up the wins to back it up. He’s incredibly young—36—for a job of Georgetown’s magnitude, but you can’t really control that when you need to make a hire.If a complete upside play is what you want, then Siddle, whose Seahawks made a 20-win improvement from year-one to year-two of his tenure, is more than just a viable candidate.

Honorable Mentions (alphabetical): Mike Brey (ND, for now), Mark Byington (JMU), Darian Devries (Drake), Kim English (George Mason), Ron Hunter (Tulane), Terry Johnson (Purdue Assistant), James Jones (Yale), Mike Jones (VT Assistant), Robert Jones (Norfolk State), Pat Kelsey (CofC), Ritchie McKay (Liberty), Richard Pitino (UNM), Mike Rhoades (VCU), Bob Richey (Furman), Jason Williford (Virginia Assistant), Kimani Young (UConn Assistant)

Looking at these honorable mentions, a few stick out right off the top as ones that should be addressed, namely Mike Brey, Mike Jones, and Robert Jones. Many other people have them on their top lists. Brey does check a lot of the boxes that the administration will timely be looking for in geographic fit, track record of winning, and personality; however, for me, Brey is just too far past his prime to be considered for this job. If he wasn’t, Notre Dame would not be parting ways with him after the season. As for Mike Jones, in a perfect world I really would like to have him up above with guys like Odom and McCasland, as he would really energize the fanbase and immediately bring Georgetown to the forefront of DMV recruiting with his Dematha high school connections. At the end of the day, though,Georgetown cannot afford to miss with this hire, and taking a first time college head coach is a serious risk. Of the three of them, Robert Jones is the one I could find myself getting the most onboard with. The MEAC machine Robert Jones has built at Norfolk St. has been nothing short of an impressive feat, but the MEAC is also one of Division I’s worst leagues. A jump to the BIG EAST would be a massive undertaking, and as such, Jones is a little riskier of a hire than a guy like McCasland.

Among the rest, Kelsey’s a winner, but there are serious questions about whether or not his abrasive personality is a good fit on the Hilltop. Johnson, Williford, and Young are all bright young minds that will get shots at the top sooner or later, but similar to Jones, there is just too much risk involved in gambling on a first time head coach, even after watching guys like Shrewsberry and Tang pan out in the last couple of years. McKay, Hunter, Rhoades, Richey and Byington would probably be in the top-17 on this list (along with Robert Jones) if it extended that far, and all would be fine hires in my book.For the sake of my editors’ sanity, though (sorry, Jo and Henry), I’m keeping the length of this writeup down to 11. Finally, James Jones and Richard  Pitino (Rick’s son) are fine coaches who I’m sure will be considered for the position, but frankly feel a little underwhelming.

Why we shouldn’t be rolling with Rick (Pitino):

Hear me out: I know a lot of people in and around the Hilltop have been campaigning for the former national championship winning coach, but if you’re Georgetown, there are a couple big reasons why you shouldn’t make a move here. The NCAA doesn’t take down banners for nothing. If you don’t believe me, search “Rick Pitino Scandal” on your nearest internet connected device and you’ll see my point. If we’re going to hire someone who’s been blackballed in college hoops, we should at least go for someone who we can argue is a *little* less morally repulsive like Mr. “Strong-Ass Offer” himself, Will Wade.

Another argument  I have seen for Pitino is that the best and only option on the market, or that there’s a dearth of quality candidates. That is simply not true, and it feels like you see fans of teams who have moved on from their coach complain about it every year. UMD fans were complaining about just that last year with guys like current Missouri coach Dennis Gates and current Kansas State coach Jerome Tang on the table. Gates in particular had his flaws as a candidate, but he was and is still a quality coach. Gates had only been a head coach at the Division I level for three seasons and had a 56% winning percentage at Cleveland State. Now of course record isn’t everything, as it was clear at the time Gates had the demeanor and the “it” factor to potentially be really good at the high-major level, but at the same time, every single coach listed above (minus maybe Siddle) has a stronger resume as a head coach now than Gates did then. Beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder, so if you are telling yourself that we need to settle for Pitino because there aren’t any good up-and-coming coaches out there worthy of coaching on the Hilltop, open your eyes and consider other options with an open mind.

At the end of the day, there are many quality options for the next head coach of Georgetown basketball. Let’s not fret anymore, at least not until we inevitably hire Tommy Amaker. In conclusion: clear eyes, full hearts, a good new coach, can’t lose?

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There’s only one choice: Pitino. Period.

A Hoya Sportswriter

This generations’ greatest manifesto.