Earlier this week we shared Media Day downloads about new Rams mentor Archie Miller from coaches around the league including Dayton’s Anthony Grant and UMass’ Frank Martin.
Sitting down for one-on-one conversations with head coaches from all 15 programs – welcome Loyola Chicago – and talking about their squads along with macro level issues in the college game (i.e. NIL, transfer portal and immediate eligibility) was a great opportunity to learn.
Each offered unique perspective and affect which got me to thinking, “What word sums up how I perceive each of these guys in this moment?”
First, a friendly reminder that in the preseason everyone is in a good mood. These talks would go differently in January! With that out of the way, here’s my perception of each (shared sequentially via the Preseason Poll order of finish):
ANTHONY GRANT, DAYTON – Composed. Grant has it going at Dayton and returns a terrific blend of burgeoning young talent that has many predicting a conference crown and deeper NCAA run. He’ll look to transfer his anchored approach to his players on-floor performance.
TRAVIS FORD, SAINT LOUIS – Enthusiastic. Ford knows he has a heck of a collection of veteran winners, particularly in the backcourt. Saint Louis is my pick to win the league for this reason. We can’t blame Ford for wanting play to start yesterday.
MIKE RHOADES, VCU – Direct. There’s a clear division between VCU at No. 3 preseason and the next program, vote-wise. Not as much noise is being made about Rhoades’ crew as the others, and there’s a quiet confidence about him signaling perhaps he/they prefer it that way.
DREW VALENTINE, LOYOLA CHICAGO – Self-assured. Valentine may be the youngest head coach in Division I, but his polish and behavior belies it. There’s a resolute assuredness to the way he communicates, he’s an Izzo tree guy, and bridges Millennial to Gen Z connection with his players. It’s easy to see why the Ramblers brass loves him.
— Loyola Men’s Basketball (@RamblersMBB) October 13, 2022
KIM ENGLISH, GEORGE MASON – Ready. English is a smart cookie, he learned from his team’s lack of depth a year ago and has attacked the deficiency, positioning his program for success. I like Mason’s upside this year. I’m sure he does too. Having the leading returning scorer in the league (Josh Oduro, 17.7ppg) also doesn’t hurt.
MATT MCKILLOP, DAVIDSON – Thoughtful. In his first ever Media Day as a head coach, McKillop is a genuine, contemplative ‘Cat. He’s measured in the way he communicates, in a good way, and is another bright, young, addition to the Atlantic 10 coaching contingent. Looking forward to seeing him assume the reins.
CHRIS MOONEY, RICHMOND – Venerable. Mooney is the longest tenured coach at a school in the Atlantic 10, entering his 18th year at Richmond. It’s my 15th covering the league. We’re getting old. But Mooney is a willing recipient of the torch and speaks with a stewardly tone of being “that guy.” Hey, not bad for the league to have a Princeton grad in the role.
FRANK MARTIN, UMASS – Invigorated. From his kinetic presence on social media to chatting with him face-to-face, Martin is fired up. He’s genuinely amped about his new role – and we even discussed his affinity for wrestling legend Arn Anderson. In the shadow of Boston pro sports, he immediately brings awareness to UMass and now sets sights on generating wins to follow.
ARCHIE MILLER, RHODE ISLAND – Focused. Archie is a driven coach and prepares for this newest challenge in Kingston possessing his customary focus, now blended with greater perspective from time away from the sidelines. You get the feeling he’s carrying around a blueprint in his pocket that he’s damn confident about.
MARK SCHMIDT, ST. BONAVENTURE – Unfazed. No program was more profoundly impacted by the new NCAA landscape than the Bonnies, losing four standouts. Schmidt just keeps trucking along. I have no idea what Mark would be doing if not coaching basketball. Luckily, we don’t have to find out. If the Bonnies finish near .500, they should emblazon his face on banknotes in Cattaraugus County… a la King Charles III fashion.
KEITH URGO, FORDHAM – Energetic. Love Urgo’s genuine passion for the position he’s in. He’s quick to flip frame of reference to one set on strength, for example, speaking ambitiously about Fordham capitalizing on its location in the nation’s No. 1 DMA to leverage the new NIL landscape. It’s winner’s thinking in the Bronx.
— Atlantic 10 MBB (@A10MBB) October 14, 2022
CHRIS CAPUTO, GEORGE WASHINGTON – Hungry. Caputo, a New York native, was happy to be back in familiar surroundings while relishing the opportunity of leading the Colonials in another world class city. His attentiveness to the defensive end will play well in Foggy Bottom.
BILLY LANGE, SAINT JOSEPH’S – Committed. Lange and his staff have shown incremental gains after taking over a program with only three scholarship players a few years back. He understands the institution’s DNA and is committed to building the program in a way that aligns with its mission.
FRAN DUNPHY, LA SALLE – Appreciative. Not many envisioned Fran Dunphy patrolling the sidelines of any program this year – including Fran Dunphy. The uber respected leader and tactician returns to coach his alma mater, appreciative of the opportunity to point the Explorers in the right direction.
KEITH DAMBROT, DUQUESNE – Refreshed. Dambrot endured a season like no other last year personally and professionally as Duquesne never found traction. He’s comfortable in his own skin, communicates in an unvarnished way, and with some front court help on the way looks forward to teaching this new collection of Dukes.
No (or not much) sleep til Brooklyn! @A10MBB
— Chris DiSano (@CDiSano44) October 13, 2022
Chris DiSano, is an Atlantic 10 analyst and writer. He has served as the host of A-10 Live! at Men’s Basketball Media Day and founded the former College Chalktalk. DiSano, who was named NBC Sports top Atlantic 10 basketball follow on Twitter for five straight years, can be found on Twitter at @CDiSano44