Grading Every 2024 High-Major Men’s College Basketball Coaching Hire

From John Calipari’s move to Arkansas to Dusty May at Michigan, 14 jobs were filled this cycle. Here are the winners and losers.
Calipari might have made the biggest move in the coaching carousel this offseason.
Calipari might have made the biggest move in the coaching carousel this offseason. / Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
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The 2024 men’s basketball coaching carousel produced some all-time chaos. 

Industry insiders had pegged this year’s cycle as a potentially wild one, but I’m not sure anyone would have predicted things playing out quite like they did. Only in college basketball can a rather innocuous move like SMU surprisingly firing Rob Lanier after two years set off a chain of events that ended in the Kentucky job being open. In all, 14 high-major jobs changed hands this cycle (assuming we’re done for the offseason). 


Who won and lost this year’s carousel? Sports Illustrated graded every high-major hire. 

Arkansas Razorbacks: John Calipari 

After reportedly getting rebuffed early by Chris Beard and Jerome Tang, Arkansas ended up reeling in perhaps the biggest fish in college coaching in Calipari, who parachuted out of Kentucky after a disastrous NCAA tournament loss to the Oakland Golden Grizzlies. On one hand, it’s quite the power move by the Razorbacks and billionaire booster John Tyson, who was instrumental in getting the deal done. No coach is more feared on the recruiting trail than Calipari, and the longtime UK coach has a national title and several Final Fours to his name. But the results of the last five seasons are checkered with disappointment, with no trips out of the NCAA tournament’s first weekend and a disastrous 9–16 mark in the 2020–21 season. Can Cal get his mojo back in Fayetteville and take the program to heights not seen since Nolan Richardson, or will the stubborn tendencies that plagued the back end of his Kentucky tenure rear their ugly head at his new job? 

Grade: A 

BYU Cougars: Kevin Young

In general, I tend not to like hiring coaches from the NBA ranks into college. Young is the exception. He was on the cusp of becoming an NBA head coach before taking this job, and one source who has spent time around Young called Young the brightest offensive mind he has ever met. Plus, BYU’s pool of candidates is much smaller than any other program because of the school’s ties to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The other options here were mostly college assistants with no experience. Landing Young was a big win for the Cougars in their Big 12 infancy. 

Grade: A-

Young leaves the NBA to take over at the BYU coach.
Young leaves the NBA to take over at the BYU coach. / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

DePaul Blue Demons: Chris Holtmann

Whoever was taking this job was taking it in essentially an impossible position, inheriting the weight of decades of futility capped by a miserable three-win season in 2023–24. Landing a proven high-major coach in Holtmann, who did admirable work with the Butler Bulldogs and won early with the Ohio State Buckeyes before fading late in his tenure, has to be considered a positive move. Holtmann, if nothing else, brings a level of competence that the program hasn’t had in awhile, and the investment it took from DePaul to land a coach of his stature is a good sign for the future. We’ll see if he can turn things around, but it’s hard to argue with the outcome of this search if you’re a Blue Demon supporter. 

Grade: A-

Kentucky Wildcats: Mark Pope

Kentucky swung big at the likes of Dan Hurley and Scott Drew after Calipari’s surprise departure to Arkansas, but in the end landed on Pope, a Kentucky alum who had been doing strong work at BYU. The sell here: Kentucky is hiring a guy who understands as well as anyone what makes Kentucky basketball special, and there are few who’d question Pope’s coaching chops (especially offensively). Still, it’s a massive step up in weight class to go from grinding at BYU to recruiting the type of talent required at Kentucky, and Pope having never won an NCAA tournament game as a head coach is also a concern

Grade: C+  

Pope is announced as Kentucky’s new men’s basketball coach.
Pope is announced as Kentucky’s new men’s basketball coach. / Clare Grant/Courier Journal / USA TODAY

Louisville Cardinals: Pat Kelsey 

Personality-wise, Louisville couldn’t have dialed up a better replacement for Kenny Payne. Kelsey is everything Payne wasn’t, a high-energy proven head coach who’ll grind in recruiting and has a winning pedigree from his time at the Winthrop Eagles and Charleston Cougars. Kelsey will reengage the Louisville fan base that fell into apathy in Payne’s two years as head coach, and he’s already made some big swings in the recruiting trail that could set the tone for his tenure. That said, Louisville’s claim to having one of the best jobs in the sport does fall flat when its eventual hire has never won an NCAA tournament game nor built an at-large team. 

Grade: B- 

Michigan Wolverines: Dusty May 

The Wolverines won the May sweepstakes this offseason after he was pursued by virtually every high-major vacancy. This season was a tad disappointing, but May taking the FAU Owls to an at-large bid is still a ridiculously impressive feat in a vacuum. Add that to the miracle Final Four run he led the Owls on a year ago, and May’s spot atop most athletic directors’ hot lists was well earned. Can he live up to that hype at Michigan? He has built a strong staff early on that features former Oklahoma State Cowboys coach Mike Boynton.  

Grade: A 

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel presents a jersey to May during his introduction.
Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel presents a jersey to May during his introduction. / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Ohio State Buckeyes: Jake Diebler

Diebler did a nice job on an interim basis late in the season, rejuvenating the Buckeyes with wins over the Purdue Boilermakers and Michigan State Spartans after a miserable start to Big Ten play. He’s also well-connected to the program and to the state, an Ohio native whose brother played for the Buckeyes. Still, bestowing this massive job on a 37-year-old with no other head coaching experience who has been on two straight fired staffs (Holtmann at Ohio State, Bryce Drew at Vanderbilt Commodores) is nothing short of a massive gamble. Early recruiting wins are a promising sign, but this is very much in the wait-and-see category. 

Grade: D

Oklahoma State Cowboys: Steve Lutz 

Lutz is 3-for-3 in reaching the NCAA tournament as a head coach, going dancing in both years with the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders before taking the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers to the tournament in his first season in 2023–24. That earned him a massive promotion into the Big 12, where he’ll be tasked with rebuilding Oklahoma State. He’s certainly a coach on the rise, but does he even get a sniff at this job without an upset run through the Conference USA tournament after going just 8–8 in league play? 

Grade: B- 

SMU Mustangs: Andy Enfield

SMU wanted a proven name before its move to the ACC and got one in Enfield, who raised the floor at the USC Trojans with three straight NCAA tournament berths before this year. While Enfield had a penchant to underperform relative to his talent level with the Trojans, he won more consistently there than any coach in the program’s recent history. He just may not be the right guy to inject excitement into the SMU program right now. 

Grade: B

Enfield joins SMU before its move to the ACC.
Enfield joins SMU before its move to the ACC. / Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Stanford Cardinal: Kyle Smith 

The Stanford job is an absolutely brutal one in this day and age given the academic limitations at play (especially in the transfer portal), so landing Smith was a big win. Smith has won at hard jobs his entire career, flipping the Columbia Lions and San Francisco Dons into winners before, most remarkably, taking the Washington State Cougars to the NCAA tournament this season. He’s off to a good start by retaining star big man Maxime Raynaud, who was testing the transfer waters before Smith’s hiring. 

Grade: A 

USC Trojans: Eric Musselman

This last season was a disaster, but what Musselman built in five years at Arkansas shouldn’t be overlooked. He took the program back to the NCAA tournament’s second weekend for the first time in two decades, then did it three years in a row, including a pair of Elite Eights. He has proven he can recruit elite talent both out of high school and the transfer portal and has usually found a way to maximize the talent on his roster come March. This hire should bring some energy to a program that had gotten a bit stale under Enfield. 

Grade: A

Musselman rebuilt Arkansas and now has a chance to bring some new energy to USC.
Musselman rebuilt Arkansas and now has a chance to bring some new energy to USC. / Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Vanderbilt Commodores: Mark Byington

Fresh off 32 wins and a first-round NCAA tournament victory over the Wisconsin Badgers, Byington is off to Vanderbilt, where he’ll attempt to pick up the pieces from the Jerry Stackhouse era. This past season was his breakthrough, but Byington has long been one of the better program-builders in mid-major basketball, so there’s a lot to like here. Navigating Vanderbilt’s strict academic standards may be a challenge, but Byington has what it takes to get the Commodores back to the NCAA tournament. 

Grade: B 

Washington Huskies: Danny Sprinkle 

What Sprinkle accomplished in 2023–24 with the Utah State Aggies was one of the more impressive coaching jobs anywhere in college basketball. Despite not inheriting a single point scored from a year ago, Sprinkle coached the Aggies to a Mountain West regular-season championship and a first-round NCAA tournament win. He has proven he can rebuild programs with the best of them and now gets the resources of a high-level program at his disposal. 

Grade: B+

West Virginia Mountaineers: Darian DeVries

Six 20-win seasons in six years with the Drake Bulldogs earned DeVries a crack at a high-major job. The former Creighton Bluejays assistant coach did a phenomenal job building a consistent MVC power, with his work this past season after graduating several key cogs perhaps the most impressive yet. Plus, he comes attached to his son, Tucker, who has won MVC Player of the Year each of the past two seasons and should be a good building block in Morgantown. 

Grade: B+


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Kevin Sweeney

KEVIN SWEENEY

Kevin Sweeney is a staff writer at Sports Illustrated covering college basketball and the NBA Draft, and is an analyst for The Field of 68. A graduate of Northwestern, Kevin is a voter for the Naismith Trophy and is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA).