Jan. 28, 2005
A number of coaches have done a tremendous job this season in their first year at their respective schools. They're providing so much enthusiasm and energy that their programs are starting to roll. They won't be threats for the national championship right away, and they might not get into the NCAA Tournament, but they're leading their teams in the right direction.
When opponents face these teams, they must prepare mentally, physically and emotionally. The spirit of these coaches and their teams can make them dangerous underdogs. Leadership skills and the ability to motivate and inspire are vital parts of the coaching package. These coaches know how to make their players excited about wearing their school's uniform.
Let's look at some of these coaches in their first year at a new school...
While Georgetown was picked to finish near the bottom of the Big East, John Thompson III has done a nice job. The Hoyas (13-5, 5-2 Big East) have scored Big East road wins at Pittsburgh and at Villanova. Georgetown also knocked off Clemson.
The win over the Panthers came in Thompson's first Big East game, and Pittsburgh was virtually unbeatable at home. There's no doubt the future is bright for Thompson, the former Princeton coach. Georgetown should make some big noise in the future, since Thompson has known nothing but winning ever since he was a toddler and his Hall of Fame dad was successful with the Hoyas.
Down at Texas A&M (13-4, 2-4 Big 12), it was Struggle City last year as the Aggies didn't win a Big 12 game, finishing 7-21 overall. But Billy Gillespie has stepped in and instilled a different spirit. He has a magnificent personality and he excites kids to play.
A&M scored a big surprise by knocking off Texas by 11 points while giving Kansas a scare in Lawrence (yes, the Aggies were beaten by Texas Tech and coach Bob Knight). Gillespie has done an amazing job exciting the people on the Texas A&M campus. The Aggies are no longer a pushover, and they're on their way to their first winning season since 1994.
Frank Haith has done a remarkable job at Miami (13-5, 4-3 ACC). Little was expected in the school's first season of ACC play, but the Hurricanes won three of their first four league games, including an 11-point win at Virginia. Robert Hite and Guillermo Diaz have been a solid 1-2 punch for Miami. A former Texas assistant, Haith has seen his team earn wins over Florida and Massachusetts in nonconference play.
Norm Roberts has done a good job revitalizing St. John's (7-9, 1-5 Big East). Don't look at the record, just think about the talent he has to work with. It's below-average talent at best compared to what will come in the future. Roberts' kids challenged Notre Dame in South Bend, losing by one point on a Chris Thomas 3-pointer. The Red Storm had Madison Square Garden rocking and rolling when they won the Holiday Festival by blowing out a ranked NC State squad 63-45.
Roberts also got a breakthrough win over Pitt at Madison Square Garden. You have to lace up your sneakers and play hard against St. John's. Roberts has already turned this once-proud program back around. It will only get better and better.
Leadership skills and the ability to motivate and inspire are vital parts of the coaching package.
Houston (12-8, 3-3 C-USA) was struggling, going 17-38 in the two seasons before Tom Penders came aboard. The former coach at Texas, Rhode Island, George Washington, Fordham and Columbia knows how to win. He has worked this team hard, and fans are getting interested in Cougar basketball again. Just look at the 70-67 upset of Louisville! Penders knows how to build a winner.
Out in the WAC, UTEP's Doc Saddler and Nevada's Mark Fox have their teams tied for first place in the conference standings. Ray Giacoletti has done a solid job replacing Rick Majerus at Utah. Keep an eye on Air Force's Chris Mooney, who replaced Joe Scott. And Scott's new team, Princeton, figures to challenge for Ivy League honors.
These new coaches on campus have made an impact already, baby!
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.