College basketball's 2022 coaching carousel spun into overdrive when six of the SEC's 14 jobs changed hands. Otherwise, Butler, Kansas State, Louisville, Maryland, Seton Hall, Villanova, Xavier were among the other notable schools to undergo coaching changes. Not to be forgotten, Duke has a new coach for the first time since the 1980-81 season as well. The Blue Devils made their succession plan from Mike Krzyzewski to Jon Scheyer known well in advance, but it still goes down as a coaching change that occurred in the 2022 offseason.
Collectively, the group of first-year coaches has big shoes to fill after last year's crop of newbies shined bright. Tommy Lloyd led Arizona to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and Hubert Davis coached North Carolina to the national title game in just two examples of the success enjoyed by first-year coaches last season. In the end, though, it was Houston coach Kelvin Sampson who was named Coach of the Year by CBS Sports, while Providence coach Ed Cooley took home the Naismith Coach of the Year honor. Both men are veterans at their schools who fended off the crop of first-year coaches for postseason hardware.
The 2022-23 Coach of the Year race is shaping up in similar fashion as a handful of first-year coaches have made excellent cases two months into the season for why they should be in the running for Coach of the Year. But lurking in the race are an impressive group of veterans like Sampson, UConn's Dan Hurley and Purdue's Matt Painter.
For this week's edition of the Dribble Handoff, our writers are debating who the midseason coach of the year should be in college basketball.
Matt Painter, Purdue
Purdue lost Monday night at home to Rutgers, so the timing on this isn't perfect. But my midseason coach of the year would still be Painter, whose Boilermakers are 13-1 with wins over Gonzaga, Duke, Marquette and West Virginia -- and the lone loss coming by a single point -- despite the fact that they were unranked in the preseason in both the Associated Press Top 25 poll and the Coaches poll.
That's a super-strong start to the season.
What makes Painter's accomplishments even more impressive is that he's doing this while starting two freshman guards, neither of whom was ranked in the top 90 of the Class of 2022, according to 247Sports. Fletcher Loyer was 95th. Braden Smith was 196th. Prospects rated that way are typically role players in the Big Ten as freshmen, at best. But Loyer and Smith are actually second and third in scoring for the Boilermakers, which speaks to Painter's ability to identify undervalued talent, enroll it and develop it.
Where the season goes from here, it's impossible to know for sure. But there's no denying that Painter has, 14 games through a 31-game schedule, positioned himself to win what would be his second national COY award and maybe guide his alma mater to the Final Four for the first time since 1980. -- Gary Parrish
Richard Pitino, New Mexico
When we were making our picks for this, I was waffling between Painter and Pitino, so I'm glad we've got Painter recognized here, even if Purdue got got Monday by Rutgers. On that note, we're running this a few hours before New Mexico has to play a second straight road game, three days removed from its last one, a one-point win at Wyoming. So we'll see if college hoops can keep an undefeated team in its ranks for another 24 hours. Even if the Lobos lose, I'd still have Pitino as my COY pick at this point, with about 40% of the games having been played on the regular season schedule.
It's not just that Pitino is overseeing the last unbeaten team, though that is a factor. It's that he's revived a proud program and done so after going 13-19 last season. That's right: It took UNM until March 5 to win its 13th game last year. This season, the Lobos passed that by Dec. 31. Four wins have come away from home, and although the only Quad 1 victory on the dossier to this point is a nice one (at Saint Mary's), UNM will have more opportunities in the next two months of Mountain West play.
The school was in the midst of one of its worst droughts in program history. The Pitino hire in 2021 had some people shrugging their shoulders. He'd been fired at Minnesota and it was hard to tell if this would be a successful experiment for a place that needed to get back to relevancy. Here we are, and he's managed to do it thanks to the play of Jamal Mashburn Jr., Morris Udeze and Jaelen House. Lobos haven't won 20 games since 2014, the last time they made the NCAA Tournament. Both those droughts will end in 2023. -- Matt Norlander
Dan Hurley, UConn
What Hurley has done this season at UConn is so magical and special that even a magician may be a smidge envious. UConn was unranked in the preseason and an afterthought among considered contenders in the Big East. They've proven that wrong with a bullet and in a hurry to start the year, though, opening 14-1 and pushing to as high as No. 2 in the rankings before its first loss of the season this past weekend to Xavier.
Hurley deserves the nod not just because UConn has been a surprise contender - but also because of the way in which it has emerged as one. It brandishes an in-your-face style that can score with any team in the country - it has won 13 of its games by double figures - but also like its fiery coach takes pride in completely disrupting the game with prideful defense. This team has an edge that embodies its coach and has the goods to go from unranked to title winner because of it. -- Kyle Boone
Dennis Gates, Missouri
Gates inherited a program coming off a 12-21 season and has already matched last season's win total. The Tigers have a proud history but last won an NCAA Tournament in 2010, and Gates has immediately instilled confidence that the Tigers will be nationally relevant under his watch. The first month of the schedule was light and highlighted by a road win over Wichita State. But with wins over Illinois and Kentucky in their last two games, the Tigers have shown just how improved they truly are.
Gates deserves a ton of the credit for how he overhauled the roster. He brought leading scorer D'Moi Hodge with him from Cleveland State and has helped Missouri's leading returning scorer Kobe Brown turn into a star. Otherwise, this roster is highlighted by a collection of transfers from all over the place who have come together to form a quality basketball team.
What has made Gates such a breath of fresh air is the Tigers' offensive prowess under his watch. They rank No. 3 nationally in points per game at 88.8 after ranking 309th last season with just 65.5 points per game. Watching Missouri basketball is finally fun again. The Tigers have a long road ahead in the SEC, and they did get smacked at home by Kansas on Dec. 10. But this team looks capable of reaching the NCAA Tournament, and if Mizzou goes dancing, Gates will be in the running for all sorts of postseason hardware. -- David Cobb