The Mountain West Welcomes Three New Head Coaches For The 2017-18 Season
San Diego State’s Brian Dutcher, New Mexico’s Paul Weir and San Jose State’s Jean Prioleau will patrol the sidelines this year
With Steve Fisher’s retirement, there’s a new leader atop the Mountain West
For the third consecutive offseason, the Mountain West has endured changes among its head coaches.
Common MWC mainstays New Mexico and San Diego State will both usher in new coaches this fall, as well as upstart San Jose State. Former New Mexico State head coach Paul Weir now leads the Lobos after a successful 2016-17 season in Las Cruces. For San Diego State, legend Steve Fisher announced his retirement in April, allowing Brian Dutcher to elevate to his long-awaited head coaching role. After a late resigning by Dave Wojcik, San Jose State has selected Colorado assistant Jean Prioleau to be the new head coach.
With three new faces on the sidelines, the Mountain West coaching ladder has altered quite a bit heading into the 2018 campaign.
The Mountain West basketball coaching rankings are below.
11 – Dave Pilipovich, Air Force
In Pilipovich’s defense, Air Force is one of the most difficult places in college basketball to build a successful program. Any local talent that isn’t interested in the armed forces will likely choose Colorado, Colorado State, or other nearby programs. In turn, the Academy continues to add fantastic young men, but not ones that have competitive basketball in their future. After taking over for Jeff Reynolds in 2012, Pilipovich has gone 72-94 and has yet to record a winning conference record, despite the MWC’s recent struggles.
10 – Jean Prioleau, San Jose State
Despite never being rumored to take the position, San Jose State announced the hiring of Jean Prioleau Friday evening. Prioleau, the former Colorado assistant and associate head coach, will have his first head coaching gig this fall. The longtime assistant coach has spent time with Colorado, TCU, Iowa State, Marquette, Wichita State and Fordham. In 18 seasons, his teams have reached the NCAA Tournament five times and NIT five times. Prioleau has his work cut out for him as he’ll try to help push SJSU back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in over two decades. If Prioleau can build off of Dave Wojcik’s momentum and continue to welcome and retain talent, San Jose State should continue to see improvement.
9 – Tim Duryea, Utah State
For better or worse, Tim Duryea’s seat is probably warmer than most imagine after his second lackluster season in Logan. Duryea’s predecessor, Stew Morrill, punched eight NCAA Tournament bids (four as a WAC member, four as a Big West member) over a 17-year tenure and turned USU into a legitimate mid-major power. Utah State lost do-it-all forward Jalen Moore (16.6 PPG) to graduation this spring, so the climb to the top of the MWC will be even more challenging for Utah State in 2018. Another season around .500 could put Duryea in a very difficult spot for 2019.
8 – Brian Dutcher, San Diego State
I have very little doubt whatsoever that Brian Dutcher can and will be a very, very good coach in this league in the near future. Because he has yet to coach a D-I game at the age of 57, though, there are legitimate concerns as to how soon SDSU can get back to the playing level of Steve Fisher-led teams of the early 2010’s. Dutcher has worked alongside Fisher since 1989, back when the two strolled the Michigan sidelines. If Dutcher can show that he absorbed Fisher’s knowledge and remains active and forceful on the recruiting trails, the Aztecs will continue to make the tournament on a consistent basis.
7 – Allen Edwards, Wyoming
It still feels criminal to have Edwards this low because his rookie season with the Wyoming Cowboys was a major success. Over the course of one offseason, Edwards completely shredded Larry Shyatt’s coaching style, turning the Pokes into a high-energy bunch with a fast-paced, perimeter-oriented offensive attack. Edwards will likely use this approach to wear down teams that aren’t used to playing at the high elevation of Laramie. The CIT champs return most of their nucleus and could play dark horse in the league next season.
6 – Paul Weir, New Mexico
It’s a slight miracle that ex-New Mexico State coach Paul Weir even ended up in Albuquerque. After athletic director Paul Krebs seemed to have narrowed his search to East Tennessee’s Steve Forbes, UT Arlington’s Scott Cross and San Antonio Spurs assistant James Borrego, Weir came out of nowhere to snag the UNM job. Weir was elevated to head coach last season after serving under Marvin Menzies since 2007. He guided NMSU to a 28-win season and had a halftime lead over third-seeded Baylor in the round of 64. The main concern with hiring Weir is the risk of awarding a coach for one successful season with an inherited roster. Before Marvin Menzies left for the UNLV job, he built consistently elite mid-major New Mexico State rosters, which Weir then took over last year. Similarly, in 2014, former UNM coach Craig Neal was given a meaty extension after his first 34 games by essentially meeting expectations with Steve Alford’s inherited roster. New Mexico is taking the same gamble with the hiring of Weir, but will hope for drastically different results.
5 – Marvin Menzies, UNLV
Marvin Menzies enters his sophomore season in Vegas with his most loaded roster to date. The Rebels went just 11-21 a year ago, which was by far the worst winning percentage in program history and just the fourth time ever that UNLV finished below .500. But with last season in the rear view mirror, Menzies welcomes the country’s #16 recruiting class. Consensus five-star center Brandon McCoy is the big name, but the nation’s top JUCO player Shakur Juiston and 95th-ranked JUCO player Anthony Smith, along with Milwaukee transfer Jordan Johnson, headline a laundry list of noteworthy incomers. UNLV will be much better in 2018, and it’s thanks to Menzies’ ability to bring talent to Vegas. Now, he must turn talent into victories.
4 – Rodney Terry, Fresno State
Fresno State’s front man Rodney Terry has quietly turned the Bulldogs into a consistent Mountain West contender since becoming the FSU head coach in 2012. Two seasons ago, Terry led the team to its first tournament appearance since 2001, while Fresno State was still a member of the WAC. The athletic department seems content with the work Terry has done in his short time with the program, prompting Terry with a contract extension in December that will keep him signed with Fresno State through 2021. Expect the Bulldogs to remain towards the top of mountain while Terry is still in charge.
3 – Larry Eustachy, Colorado State
Now the most experienced head coach in the Mountain West, Larry Eustachy enters his sixth season in Fort Collins after again having fallen just short of a half-dozen NCAA Tournament appearances. CSU is expected to take a step backwards in ’18 after losing stars Gian Clavell and Emmanuel Omogbo to graduation. Even so, Eustachy averages just under 20 wins per season over his 26-year career, so the Rams should at least remain competitive. Known for his intense and sometimes intimidating coaching style, Eustachy has always tried to maximize his players’ potential. He’ll look for his first conference title since 2000 (then with Iowa State) this upcoming season.
2 – Leon Rice, Boise State
Without offending Bronco fans, it’s fair to say basketball was irrelevant in Boise prior to the hiring of Leon Rice. BSU has since enjoyed six 20+ win seasons in the past seven years to go along with two tournament appearances and, most importantly, has helped remove Boise State basketball from the football program’s shadow. BSU is no longer known solely as a “football school,” and a significant part of that equation is due to Leon Rice. By Sports Reference’s SRS metric, Rice has guided the Broncos to four of the program’s six highest-rated teams in school history. And he’s only been in Boise for seven years.
1 – Eric Musselman, Nevada
With legend Steve Fisher basking in retirement, Nevada’s third-year man Eric Musselman assumes the role as the Mountain West’s top coach. In the span of two seasons, Musselman has taken over a nine-win team and propelled the Wolf Pack to a CBI championship and the Mountain West’s regular season and conference tournament titles. More importantly, Musselman has been dedicated to bringing the nation’s top talent to Reno. Nevada is now referred to as “Transfer U” among some college basketball circles, due to Musselman’s addition of 14 transfers since he was named head coach back in March of 2015. With Musselman’s abundance of basketball knowledge and experience at both the professional and collegiate levels, there’s no reason why Nevada can’t be a consistent force in the Mountain West for years to come.