Pipeline to success

ASSOCIATED PRESS Monte Ross , a former assistant at Saint Joseph's, is having success at Delaware.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Monte Ross , a former assistant at Saint Joseph's, is having success at Delaware.
Posted: February 27, 2014

THERE ARE 13 former Big 5 assistants having varying levels of success as head coaches around the country. If you want to add Jay Wright, Phil Martelli, Fran Dunphy and Jerome Allen to the list, it would be 17 as the head coaches at Villanova, Saint Joseph's, Temple and Penn were also Big 5 assistants at one point.

Here are the assistants, school by school, with the first school listed for John Gallagher (La Salle, Penn) and Matt Langel (Penn, Temple) who were assistants at two Big 5 schools. Gallagher played at St. Joe's, before going to become an assistant at the two schools. Langel, of course, played at Penn. Nobody has a Big 5 resume like Dunphy, who played at La Salle, was an assistant at La Salle and Penn, as well as the head coach at Penn before going to Temple to succeed John Chaney.

VILLANOVA

Paul Hewitt (George Mason). Hewitt, who coached Georgia Tech to the 2004 national championship game, is 9-17 and 2-10 in the Atlantic 10. His team has played an incredible 16 games decided by six points or less, with a 5-11 record.

Patrick Chambers (Penn State). Chambers, the top assistant on Villanova's 2009 Final Four team, has his best team so far in State College. The Nittany Lions, 13-14, 4-10 Big Ten, have been in most games and are the first PSU team to win at Ohio State and Indiana in the same season.

Joe Jones (Boston University). Has the Terriers 20-9, 13-3 in the Patriot. With Philly guys all over the lineup, BU is positioned to win the conference tournament in its first season in the league.

Paul Cormier (Dartmouth). The Big Green is 9-15, 2-8 Ivy. If anybody has ever won at Dartmouth, I have no memory of it.

PENN

Fran McCaffery (Iowa). The Hawkeyes have gotten better in each of McCaffery's four seasons. This is the breakthrough at 19-8, 8-6 Big Ten. They are deep, talented and experienced. Their losses have come by a combined 34 points and all against Top 25 opponents. With the right draw, this team could win multiple NCAA Tournament games.

Mike Martin (Brown). In just his second season at his alma mater, Martin, who did such a great job working with Jerome Allen at Penn, has his team at 14-10, 6-4 Ivy. One of the brightest offensive minds in the sport and a tireless recruiter, Martin may even be able to challenge Harvard one day.

Steve Donahue (Boston College). The Eagles are just 7-20, 3-11 ACC, but they did beat then-unbeaten Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, the upset of the season. The Eagles are 3-7 in games that went to the wire. Donahue got all the time he needed to make Cornell an Ivy power. He obviously needs some more time at BC, but he has proved that with time, he can develop a winning program.

Matt Langel (Colgate). The Raiders have 13 single-digit losses in a 10-17, 4-12 Patriot season. What those results say is that the team is not that far away from becoming a factor.

Fran O'Hanlon (Lafayette). After a brutal start (1-7 in games decided by five points or less), one of the sport's best teachers has righted the ship with six wins in the last seven games for a team that is 10-17, 6-10 Patriot.

LA SALLE

John Gallagher (Hartford). The Hawks are 14-15, 8-6 America East and will probably have to get by both of the conference's top teams (Vermont, Stony Brook) in the tournament to get the school's first NCAA bid.

Joe Mihalich (Hofstra). After a very successful run at Niagara, Mihalich left for a rebuilding project on Long Island. The team is just 8-21, 4-10 CAA this season, but with some significant transfers from Niagara should make a big move forward next season.

SAINT JOSEPH'S

Monte Ross (Delaware). With Jarvis Threatt off suspension, the Blue Hens (20-9, 12-2 CAA) are the team to beat in the conference tournament with its four-guard offense and scoring threats everywhere.

Matt Brady (James Madison). Won the CAA Tournament last season in an upset (and then an NCAA game), but an even longer shot (11-17, 6-8 CAA) this time.

Big 5 players who also were assistants

That list would include Dunphy (La Salle), Gallagher (St. Joe's), Mihalich (La Salle), McCaffery (Penn), O'Hanlon (Villanova) Langel (Penn) and Allen (Penn).

Head coaches who also played in Big 5/Drexel

Bruiser Flint (played at St. Joe's, coaches at Drexel). The Dragons are 15-12, 7-7 CAA and would have a minimum of 20 wins without all the injuries.

Jeff Neubauer (played at La Salle, coaches at Eastern Kentucky). After his team won 25 games last season, Neubauer has the Colonels at 19-9, 9-5 in the Ohio Valley this season.

Andy Toole (played at Penn, coaches at Robert Morris). Has his team atop the Northeast Conference at 18-11, 13-1.

Kevin Baggett (played at St. Joe's, coaches at Rider). The Broncs are 13-14, 9-9 in the MAAC.

Bashir Mason (played at Drexel, coaches at Wagner). Having another solid season at 16-11, 10-4 NEC.

The city NCAA story

Villanova has been in the field since it came back from the Bahamas with that trophy. The Wildcats still look like a solid No. 2 seed, with second- and third-round games in Buffalo and potential regional games at Madison Square Garden.

Love the mix of players. Veterans James Bell, Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston play like veterans. There is no moment too big for any of them. And very big moments are coming very soon.

I like this team's heart as much as its talent. My concern would be all those close games. They have won them all, but, with Syracuse being the latest example, you play enough of them, you will lose one. If that does catch up to the 'Cats, hopefully it will be later in the tournament and not sooner.

If Selection Sunday had been last Sunday, I think St. Joe's would have been in the field. But much can still happen and change that equation. If I am the Hawks, I am rooting against major conference tournament upsets and trying to win as many games as possible.

When SJU did not play as well as had been expected last season, Phil Martelli pointed to the numbers. The numbers, especially shooting percentages, were down for just about every key player from the previous season.

This season, the numbers are up across the board. SJU lost Tay Jones, the third-leading scorer in school history and shot-blocking savant C.J. Aiken, but got much better.

The three seniors, Langston Galloway, Halil Kanacevic and Ronald Roberts, are having All-Big 5 seasons. Point guard Chris Wilson is a stabilizer and freshman wing DeAndre Bembry is a difference maker.

Penn is not going to win the Ivy. Temple, La Salle and Drexel must win their respective conference tournaments to get to the NCAA. I can't imagine Temple running the American gantlet. La Salle simply is not playing well enough. Drexel is just tough enough to have a chance.

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