Last winter during his search for who would replace Gary Andersen as the next head football coach at Utah State, Aggies athletic director John Hartwell made it abundantly clear during a press conference that he was looking for an offensive-minded candidate.
Hartwell then delivered on that vision in hiring Blake Anderson, whose Arkansas State teams were consistently among the best in the entire country in throwing the ball and scoring points during his tenure.
On Monday, Hartwell held a press conference similar to that last winter as he is now searching for a new men’s basketball coach to replace Craig Smith, who left for the University of Utah.
Hartwell wasn’t nearly as blunt when asked what he is looking for in a candidate as he was in the winter, with the most specific trait being “high energy is really important for us, especially following Craig.”
That being said, if Hartwell were to focus on finding a more offensive-minded leader, here are some current sitting head coaches he could target.
Paul Mills, Oral Roberts
Mills is certainly primed to be a hot name for open head coaching positions after leading the Golden Eagles to two upsets as a 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament and coming up two points shy of another in the Sweet 16.
If Utah State wants offense, though, Hartwell should at least try to inquire about Mills, as Oral Roberts finished tied for 10th in the country in points per game this season and 10th by itself last season. The Golden Eagles finished second in both 3-pointers attempted and 3-pointers made.
Someone has to hire Paul Mills after this Oral Roberts run. Just look at what this dude is running on offense. It’s fun, it’s modern, it’s exciting. Understands how to play into his best players’ hands. His team has been better every year at ORU since he’s been there, too.— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) March 22, 2021
Scott Nagy, Wright State
Unlike Mills, who has only been a head coach since 2017, Nagy has been around a long time, as he was the head coach at South Dakota State for 21 seasons before taking over at Wright State in 2016.
Over the past two seasons, Nagy has also led a top 10 offense nationally, as Wright State finished ninth in the country in points per game this season and tied for sixth last season. To boot (and perhaps more importantly), the Raiders have finished first or tied for first in the Horizon League in each of the past three seasons.
Matt Langel, Colgate
Another coach of a team with the nickname Raiders, Langel led a Colgate team this season that finished second in the country in points per game, sandwiched between Final Four teams Gonzaga and Baylor. The Raiders made the NCAA Tournament as a 14 seed and hung tough with an Arkansas squad that made it to the Elite 8 before losing to Baylor on Monday night.
Colgate’s trademark was its 3-point shooting, as it finished the regular season tied for third in the country in 3-point percentage, making exactly 40% of its shots from distance.
A.W. Hamilton, Eastern Kentucky
In Hamilton’s third season at the helm of the Eastern Kentucky program, the Colonels finished in a tie for 10th with Oral Roberts in points per game. Hamilton has established a high-pressure style of play on both ends of the floor, which he has branded the “Most Exciting 40 Minutes in Sports.”
In three seasons under the 40-year-old Hamilton, Eastern Kentucky has gone from 13 to 16 to 22 wins.
Todd Simon, Southern Utah
For whatever reason, there often seems to be an importance among fans in Utah to target coaches who have familiarity with the state. Simon could qualify as a candidate who meets that desire while also bringing an exciting brand of basketball, as SUU finished fourth in the country in points per game this season.
The 40-year-old Simon has also built SUU up from a six-win team his first season in Cedar City four years ago to a 19-win squad this season that won the Big Sky Conference regular-season championship.