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July 20, 2011
The Best of Youth
D-I's Youngest Coaches

by John Gasaway


Forget about old codgers like Butler's Brad Stevens (born October 22, 1976), or VCU's Shaka Smart (April 8, 1977). If you're looking for extreme youth in the coaching profession, Stevens and Smart are already too seasoned to qualify.

No, the ten youngest head coaches in Division I were all born between May 27, 1977 (John Gallagher, Hartford), and September 11, 1980 (Andrew Toole, Robert Morris). It's as if mid-major athletic directors everywhere are all working from the same script. Being young isn't a bad thing, certainly, but even with Stevens and Smart reaching the Final Four there's such a thing as being too young. And these days "too young to be hired as a head coach" is pretty clearly defined as anything under 29 or so.

So who are these young guns? Thanks to the work provided to me by two indefatigable researchers, Nic Reiner-Parra and Corey Schmidt, we can say that the following up-and-comers appear to be the ten youngest head coaches in Division I:

10. John Gallagher, Hartford (34 years old)
Key number: 4
Gallager went 11-20 last year in his first season as head coach, a record that included a slightly more respectable 7-9 mark in America East play. The bad news is that Hartford team featured four seniors in the starting lineup, meaning the Hawks are facing a rebuilding year in 2011-12. The good news is this particular rebuilding team has an excellent chance of improving in at least one area. Last year as Gallagher looked on helplessly, Hartford shot just 57 percent at the line in conference play.

9. Steve Masiello, Manhattan (33)
Key number: 50 (percent)
After serving as an assistant at Louisville for six seasons, Masiello was named the Jaspers' new head coach on April 12. The White Plains, New York, native is following a well-marked path. Five of the head coaches in the ten-team MAAC have served at one time or another as an assistant coach in the Big East. Even Masiello's predecessor at Manhattan, Barry Rohrssen, was an assistant at Pitt when he took over the Jaspers in 2006. The MAAC is a net importer of Big East assistants.

8. Josh Pastner, Memphis (33)
Key number: 0.97
At the tender age of 33 Pastner's already entering his third season as head coach of the Tigers, having compiled a 49-20 record. Ordinarily a .710 winning percentage over your first two seasons would be cause for celebration for a young coach, but when your predecessor won 92 percent of his games over his final two years at Memphis it's safe to say you're stepping into some very large shoes. One difference between the two eras has been visible on offense. Last year the Tigers recorded just 0.97 points per possession against C-USA opponents. Watch for that number to improve markedly in 2012.

7. Jason James, Tennessee-Martin (33)
Key number: 5
Last year the Skyhawks suffered through a 6-12 campaign in Ohio Valley play in James's second season as head coach, but better days may be in the offing in Martin. With a rotation that leaned heavily on five freshmen in 2010-11, UTM was even younger, relatively speaking, than its coach. At least now the rotation will lean heavily on five sophomores.

6. Matt Langel, Colgate (33)
Key number: 8
It's been eight long years since the Raiders finished above .500 in the Patriot League, so rookie head coach Langel shouldn't be unduly burdened by high expectations. That being said, things may be looking up at last in Hamilton, NY. With the exception of now departed senior guard Joe Hoban, Colgate returns pretty much everyone from last year's 7-23 team. Langel served for seven seasons as an assistant under Fran Dunphy, first at Penn and then at Temple.

5. Tony Jasick, IPFW (33)
Key number: 34
The Mastodons have a tradition of going young with their head coaching hires. Dane Fife, now an assistant at Michigan State, was just 25 when he took the helm at IPFW in 2005. Compared to his predecessor Jasick has had to pay some serious dues, serving as an assistant under Fife for the past six seasons. Now the challenge facing Jasick -- and eight other Summit League coaches -- is to give Oakland some competition for a change. The Grizzlies are 34-2 in conference play the past two years.

4. Archie Miller, Dayton (32)
Key number: 6
While UD has lost both its featured scorer (senior Chris Wright) and a freshman starter (Juwan Staten, who transferred to West Virginia), don't weep for their rookie head coach just yet. The Flyers' two-point shooting last year was so awful (under 44 percent in A-10 play) that chances are fair they'll score points more efficiently in 2012. As for Miller, his new gig marks the sixth stop in what's already been a whirlwind career. Dayton's new head coach has been an assistant at Western Kentucky, NC State, Arizona State, Ohio State, and, lastly, Arizona, where he served under his brother Sean. Archie Miller is a Larry Brown in the making.

3. Brian Wardle, Green Bay (31)
Key number: 11
Last season the Phoenix gave their rookie head coach a road win over a very good Valparaiso team on January 23. At that time Green Bay was 5-4 in the Horizon League and looking rather respectable. After that game, however, Wardle's team lost eight of their last 11, often in agonizing fashion. (The only win that Illinois-Chicago recorded over their last nine games was against the Phoenix on February 10 -- in overtime.) On a per-possession basis the Green Bay team that went 8-10 in the Horizon last year didn't look so very different than the group that went 11-7 in 2010. If Wardle gets a few bounces to go his way this season Green Bay can look better even if their performance stays pretty much the same.

2. Jason Capel, Appalachian State (31)
Key number: 240
Capel went 16-15 in his rookie season last year, which may not sound terribly impressive but half of those wins came after February 1 as the Mountaineers finished very strong. That finish bodes well for a team that should feature five seniors in its rotation in 2011-12. At the time of his hiring in April of 2010 Capel was indeed the youngest head coach in Division I. Then a couple weeks later another mid-major went out and hired someone 240 days younger than Capel....

1. Andrew Toole, Robert Morris (30)
Key number: 1
Last year the youngest head coach in Division I came within one possession of taking his team to the NCAA tournament. The Colonials lost 85-82 in overtime to Long Island in the Northeast Conference title game, as LIU's Jamal Olasewere torched Andrew Toole's team for 31 points. This season RMU figures to make a run at their third NCAA bid in four seasons, though they'll have to do it without shooting guard Karon Abraham. On May 9 Toole suspended Abraham for the entire 2011-12 season. Still, even without Abraham the Colonials will return the bulk of last year's rotation. It's entirely possible that the sport's youngest head coach will be performing on its biggest stage come March.

A version of this article originally appeared at ESPN Insider Insider.

John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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