January 2, 2011 in Sports

First year brings mixed results

Central Florida, Iowa State winning under new coaches
Luke Meredith Associated Press
By the numbers

56: First-year Division I men’s basketball coaches

310-353: Combined record of those coaches this season through Tuesday

13-0: Record of No. 19 Central Florida Knights, coached by new head man Donnie Jones

AMES, Iowa – Iowa State began the season with a coach who’d never coached before and few players anyone outside of Ames had heard of.

If only every struggling program was as lucky as the Cyclones.

New coach Fred Hoiberg has pushed all the right buttons in leading his team to a 12-2 start after every one of his peers picked Iowa State to finish last in the Big 12.

The Cyclones might still wind up in the conference basement, but Hoiberg looks like the rare coach whose transition to a new gig has been seamless – so far.

“I’ve enjoyed it. I’m loving what I’m doing,” said Hoiberg, who left a cushy job in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ front office for his alma mater after Greg McDermott jumped to Creighton. “Anytime you have a group of guys that buys into what you’re trying to teach them and go out and play the right way and play unselfishly … it’s a fun group to be a part of.”

Most of Hoiberg’s rookie peers aren’t having nearly as much fun.

The 56 Division I coaches in their first season with their current school are a combined 310-353 through games played Tuesday, according to STATS LLC.

Wake Forest’s Jeff Bzdelik (6-7), DePaul’s Oliver Purnell (6-7) and Oregon’s Dana Altman (7-5) are mired in the early stages of rebuilding efforts. Auburn’s Tony Barbee has his hands full trying to fix the Tigers (5-7), and Alan Major is in a similar boat with Charlotte (6-6).

There have been some early successes, such as Hoiberg, Boston College’s Steve Donahue (10-3) and Central Florida’s Donnie Jones, who’s led the Golden Knights to a 13-0 start and a No. 19 ranking.

But many new coaches face a harsh reality.

New Iowa coach Fran McCaffery jumped from Siena to take over a team that slipped from the middle of the Big Ten pack to a doormat in three seasons under the fired Todd Lickliter. Iowa (7-6) enters Big Ten play with the worst record in the conference.

Wake Forest beat Iowa in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge but has dropped games to the likes of North Carolina-Wilmington and Presbyterian. DePaul got a nice boost when Purnell left Clemson to tackle its rebuilding effort, but started 1-4.

Oregon, which is set to move into the sparkling new Matthew Knight Arena, finished nonconference play with a home loss against Idaho.

Hoiberg, Donahue and Jones have made a difficult task look easy.

Donahue inherited a veteran group that had underachieved under Al Skinner. The Eagles have already knocked off Texas A&M, Cal and Maryland, and look like they’ll be a factor in the ACC.

The Knights have taken off under Jones, beating instate rivals South Florida, Florida and Miami to move into the rankings for the first time.

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