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The Rebel Walk Ole Miss Men’s Basketball Hot Board

The Rebel Walk Ole Miss Men’s Basketball Hot Board

OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss and head men’s basketball coach Kermit Davis mutually parted ways Friday. Under Davis, the Rebels finish 74-79 overall, including going 10-18 overall this year and 2-13 in SEC play. Overall, Davis’ conference record at Ole Miss ends at 32-55.

But now it’s time to start looking ahead to who would be the best fit to take over the program.

With an immediate search beginning for a replacement, we’ve put together our “hot board” of candidates we feel Ole Miss should consider. 

The Guys Named Chris

Chris Holtmann – Ohio State (51)

Rumors swirled last year that Holtmann would be interested in the Ole Miss job if it were to open. The Ohio State coach has a buyout set at $2.5 million if he were to leave prior to June 30th. Not counting this season, Holtmann has made the NCAA tournament in seven of the last eight seasons during his stops at both Ohio State and Butler. To note, the one season he didn’t was the COVID-shortened year.

Fans may not get excited over the hire due to the recency bias with the struggles of this team. It will be interesting to see if A) Ohio State makes a move, or B) Ole Miss tries to get in contact with him.

As far as success goes, Holtmann would be near the top of the coaching list. Recruiting has been a strong suit, with three of his classes coming in the top-15 nationally, including this years class with three players inside the top-50.

Overall, Holtmann owns a .595 win record to date (Feb. 24, 2023) with that number being above 60% at both Butler and Ohio State. If you’re looking for a candidate who checks a lot of boxes and has coached at a high level, Holtmann is your guy. He’s a top 25 coach in the NCAA. Don’t overthink it.

Career Record: 232-157

Accolades: 2018 Jim Phelan COTY Award, 2013 Big South COTY,  2017 Big East COTY, 2018 Big Ten COTY

Chris Beard – Formerly The University of Texas (50)

Beard is one of the more polarizing names on the market this year. Rumors are all over the place when it comes to him; however, that being sasid, Beard is one of if not the best coaches on the open market at almost any level of basketball. He has experience coaching at the junior college, Division II, low major and high major levels of Division I. His ability to maximize players’ abilities on the court is one of his major attributes.

In one year at Little Rock, Beard marked a 13-win improvement from the prior year with his team going 30-5 and making the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Post Little Rock, Beard returned to the state of Texas where in year two he had Texas Tech in the elite eight and followed that up with a NCAA Championship game appearance. Beard then went for his dream job at the University of Texas where his team was playing well and recruiting even better.

Beard was dismissed from the University of Texas this year after being arrested on third-degree domestic violence charges in mid December. A Texas prosecutor moved to dismiss the case after the victim’s wishes to not prosecute.

“After a careful and thorough review of the evidence, recent public statements, and considering Ms. Trew’s wishes, our office has determined that the felony offense cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza.

Overall, Beard is one of the top coaches in all of basketball and was set to enter his prime. Now, Beard will be looking for a new opportunity. Ole Miss could be an opportunity for him as sources believe he is interested in the Ole Miss job. Keith Carter (as well as other athletic directors with openings) will have to dive into a deep vetting process regarding Beard.

Career Record: 171-73

Accolades: 2019 AP National COTY, 2019 CBS Sports COTY, 2x Big XII COTY (2018 & 2019), 2016 Sun Belt COTY

Mid-Major Candidates

Dusty May – Florida Atlantic (47)

Let’s talk connections for a minute. As many may know, Dusty May was an assistant under Mike White. The connection between Mike White and Keith Carter is well known as the two are former teammates and good friends. One of Dusty May’s assistant coaches at FAU is former Ole Miss star Todd Abernathy. The connection to Ole Miss is there.

In the past, Dusty has spent time under the legendary Bobby Knight, Mike Davis, and Kerry Rupp as well. Since getting his opportunity, he has set up a positive culture in Boca Raton. He is in position to potentially take FAU back to the NCAA Tournament which would be the team’s second birth of all time, with the first coming in 2002.

The Owls have clinched their fourth winning season in five years under May. Prior to his tenure, the Owls only had four winning seasons since joining the Atlantic Sun in the 2001-2002 season.

This season FAU has reached new heights, as May has led the team to a 25-3 record and its first-ever spot in the AP poll. The team plays a very selfless style of ball and has a top-35 scoring offense. The two leading scorers have combined to start a total of 15 games on the season. Their center Vladislav Goldin is one of the more impressive mid-major big men in the NCAA.

Overall, May is fun, knows how to build things the right way, and is having one very impressive season. With his connections and FAU’s success, it’s easy to see why his name is mentioned in so many different circles.

Career record: 91-59

Accolades: Only FAU coach to lead team to four consecutive winning seasons.

Ryan Odom – Utah State (48)

The head man of the former University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) program that will forever be known as the first 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 seed. Odom has since moved on from the Retrievers to head out west to take over the Utah State program, post Craig Smith. In a short two years there, Odom has constructed a balanced roster and adapted his scheme to fit that style.

The group has put together one of the best team three-point shooting percentages in recent memory. In late January an analytics graphic showed Utah State as the only team in the P6 + KenPom Top 50 who shot >20 3PA per game and made more than 40% total. They are sitting directly at 40% at the current moment. The Aggies currently have five guys averaging over double figures in an offense that is in the top 40 in scoring.

Odom, who also coached at Charlotte for one season, is calm, cool and collected on the sideline, rarely raising his voice and doing so only to call out plays. He’s been around the game since he was a child as his father was longtime Wake Forest coach Dave Odom. His overall win percentage is .607.

This year’s Utah State team is 22-7 and on the bubble in a very talented Mountain West conference. He doesn’t have any ties to Ole Miss or the SEC region as a whole, but his ability to move around and find success offer intrigue. Odom will be up for many jobs.

Career record: 145-94

Accolades: 2018 Hugh Durham Award Winner (Mid-Major COTY), 2021 America East Coach of the Year

Grant McCasland – North Texas (46)

Baylor assistants have success. There are three of them on this list. Scott Drew has pretty much set the standard in program building and that is seen in those who have served under him. As an individual, McCasland just wins every where he goes.

Serving as the coach of North Texas since 2017, he also has stops as a head coach at Arkansas State, Midwestern State (DII), and Midland College (JUCO). As a head coach, McCasland has a JUCO national title, two Division II elite eight appearances, and an NCAA Tournament birth with North Texas (Round of 32).

In seven seasons as a head coach at the Division I level, McCasland has had only one season where his teams didn’t win 20 games or more. That season they won 18. The Mean Green are on their way to back-to-back 25-win seasons in a solid CUSA conference under McCasland.

Fans might not love his style as it’s defensive heavy. However, if he wins will they even care? A Grant McCasland team plays at a slow pace, wears down the shot clock, and puts heavy intensity into defense for all forty minutes.

This year the Mean Green have only had one game where they’ve given up 70+ points where it didn’t go to overtime (two more including OT). The “no-middle” defense has done wonders at Baylor and at North Texas. It may remind folks of Kermit with low scoring, but it isn’t the same. The pace is slow, but let me assure you the offense is efficient. The 2019-2020 offense ranked in the 94th percentile nationally and the 2020-2021 unit ranked in the 77th.

Overall, McCasland is a coach who really gets guys to commit to his culture. His ability to replace players and sustain momentum in his tenure has to be one of the biggest pluses to his resume. The style won’t be attractive to some, but his ability to maximize talent can lead to wins for a program that may not have the most resources in the league.

Career Record: 147-76

Accolades:  2020 CUSA Coach of the Year

Low-Major Candidates

Pat Kelsey – College of Charleston (47)

If you don’t know, Pat Kelsey is energy. A lot of the Ole Miss fan base wants an “exciting” hire and think that translates to only “big-name” candidates. But Pat Kelsey could easily put this to rest. The College of Charleston coach routinely goes around campus, building engagement with the student body. He also does pull-ups on the rim during practice. His brand of engagement comes from his time learning under Coach Skip Prosser.

This year’s CofC team is currently 26-3 and was ranked in the AP Poll for the first time since 2002-2003. CofC’s offense is one of the best scoring offenses in the country, ranking in the top-15 nationally.

Kelsey has ignited the fanbase and has delivered with impressive results and has done one of the best mid-major recruiting jobs (outside of Gonzaga). The CofC recruiting class for 2023 is ranked in the top-50 nationally and features one player inside the top-100, as well as one inside the top-200.

Prior to his tenure at CofC, Kelsey served as the coach for nine seasons at Winthrop. There he led the Eagles to four Big South regular-season conference championships and three tournament championships with two NCAA tournament births (one COVID non-tourney championship).

It’s important to note that the opportunity for a bigger job may be enticing, but Kelsey has been selective in the past. He initially took the UMass job in 2017 before ultimately deciding to return to Winthrop only a short time later.

Career Record: 230-113

Accolades: Top-Five Winningest Coach in the Big South, 2021 Big South Coach of the Year, 3x Big South Tournament Champion, 4x Big South Regular Season Champion

Amir Abdur-Rahim – Kennesaw State (41)

Quietly, Abdur-Rahim has performed one of the greatest turnarounds in the last decade after inheriting a Kennesaw State program that is one of the toughest jobs in the country. The program hasn’t registered a winning season since joining the Division I ranks.

In his first year at the helm, Kennesaw State only managed to win one game. Every year since, however, the team has shown improvement. In year four, the Owls have not only clinched their first winning season, but they have shattered expectations on their way to the top of the Atlantic Sun. Abdur-Rahim has the Owls scoring the most points per game since joining Division I at 75.8 per game.

Amir is the brother of G-League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Most recently, Abdur-Rahim was an assistant under Tom Cream at the University of Georgia. He also spent time under Billy Kennedy whom he played for at Southeastern Louisiana. He may still be a job or so away, but what he’s done at Kennesaw State deserves recognition as he is a rising star in the coaching realm.

Career Record: 42-73

Accolades: 2023 Atlantic Sun Regular Season Champions

Bucky McMillan – Samford (39)

The former Birmingham high school coach has made waves in his adjustment to the college game. “Bucky Ball” is more than just a phrase, but rather the most fun way to describe Samford basketball.

McMillan is on his second straight 20+ win season at Samford. The Bulldogs haven’t had back-to-back twenty win seasons since the 1998-2000 seasons. Currently, the Bulldogs sit atop the Southern conference and are seeking their first NCAA tournament appearance since the 2000 tournament.

Many will question how well Bucky could transition from coaching largely in the Birmingham area to a potential P6 job. For me, I see the transition of him going from high school to college smoothly as a huge plus.

A lot of his principles and schemes have translated well to the next level. Pairing that transition with a solid recruiting effort in both the high school and portal ranks makes him an intriguing option. Samford landed a former top-100 recruit in Wesley Cadet Jr. (he has since transferred to play for a relative) and McMillian has maximized the skillset of transfers Ques Glover (Florida), Bubba Parham (Ga Tech), and Jermaine Marshall (Akron).

Would Ole Miss being willing to see the potential of a guy who recently was in the high school ranks? Would he be able to assemble a staff that is able to compete with other SEC programs?

Career Record: 48-33

Accolades: SoCon Media Coach of the Year (2022)

Bob Richey – Furman (39)

Richey has done a great job at continuing the success of the Furman program. A young up-and-comer in the coaching realm, Richey has been in control of Furman for the past six seasons after taking over for Niko Medved.

The Paladins have reached 20+ wins in five of the six seasons of Richey’s tenure. The highlight under his tenure has been the 2018-2019 season where Furman reached the NIT and found themselves ranked in the AP Poll.

Fans of offense will love Richey’s teams as the 2022-2023 group ranks in the 98th percentile in points per possession at 1.023. This largely stems from Richey’s cut based offense. This team is highly intelligent on the court and routinely utilizes different Princeton-esque elements and multiple options that make it tough to defend. The team has a current record of 23-7 and 14-2 in the Southern conference.

Richey was under consideration for the South Carolina job last cycle. The fans should be rooting for this offensive mind if you are ready for a complete change of pace.

The big blemish from the resume is the lack of postseason play. The Paladins have finished in 2nd or 3rd in every season under Richey but have yet to crack into 1st. It is tougher to make the tourney in a one-bid league, but is that enough to keep him from being considered? Richey also has been in the Carolinas for his whole coaching tenure. Will that affect any decision he makes? He did grow up in New Orleans.

Career Record: 134-53

Accolades: 2019 NIT Tournament

Paul Mills – Oral Roberts (50)

The second Baylor assistant on this list comes in now. Mills was in Waco from 2003-2017 under Scott Drew. He helped with the rise of the Baylor program, starting as a director of basketball operations all the way up to assistant coach.

Mills’ time at Oral Roberts has seen consistent growth and this current team is the best of his tenure. Most famously, however, he is known for his 2020-2021 team that made a run to the Sweet Sixteen featuring highly productive guard Max Abmas and forward Kevin Obanor (now at Tx Tech).

This year’s team still has Abmas around but has gotten a large impact from a pair of SEC transfers in Issac McBride and Conor Vanover.

Oral Roberts is 26-4 and 17-0 in Summit League play on the season. They rank in the 99th percentile offensively due to the modern high pick and roll offense that spaces the floor. Having scoring threat Abmas out stretches the defense and Vanover’s pop ability helps with any drop coverage. The group sets screens well beyond the three point line; whereas, most may do it 5-8 feet closer to the basket.

Fans of the NBA game would love it and it’s more than just a base pick and roll as they also know how to move off ball and distract help tags.

Prior to his time at Baylor and Oral Roberts, Mills also spent a year on Rice’s staff from 2002-2003. He also spent time as a high school coach at both Fort Bend Christian Academy and North Belt Christian.

Career Record: 102-83

Accolades: NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen (2021)

Stay tuned to The Rebel Walk as we keep you updated on the search for a new men’s basketball coach at Ole Miss. 

TJ Oxley

TJ Oxley

TJ Oxley is the Vice President of Operations and the Director of Community Relations for The Rebel Walk. He is also the Director of Basketball Content and Senior Basketball Writer. He has over five years of experience providing in-depth analysis of college basketball through multiple platforms. A former MBA graduate of Ole Miss, TJ started with The Rebel Walk in 2019.

About The Author

TJ Oxley

TJ Oxley is the Vice President of Operations and the Director of Community Relations for The Rebel Walk. He is also the Director of Basketball Content and Senior Basketball Writer. He has over five years of experience providing in-depth analysis of college basketball through multiple platforms. A former MBA graduate of Ole Miss, TJ started with The Rebel Walk in 2019.

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