UB’s men’s basketball program is now in the market for a new head coach after former Bulls head coach Jim Whitesell was fired Saturday.
Whitesell’s departure ends an era of Bulls basketball that goes back to Nate Oats’ head coaching days at UB. The Bulls made three NCAA Tournament appearances under Oats.
When Oats left to take the head coaching position at Alabama in 2019, UB Athletic Director Mark Alnutt hired Whitesell, the team’s assistant coach at the time. Whitesell was already aware of UB’s gameplan and adopted Oats’ style of fast-paced, three-point-heavy offenses. Promoting Whitesell to head coach was supposed to create a seamless transition from Oats’ regime and continue its success.
But Whitesell and the Bulls failed to make the NCAA Tournament in the four years since Oats’ departure.
Alnutt confirmed that a national search for the team’s next head coach began immediately following Whitesell’s firing. Here are five names to keep an eye on as UB looks to fill its coaching vacancy:
Reportedly in the mix for the UB job back in 2019, Murray is an up-and-coming young mind in college basketball.
The son of famous actor Bill Murray, Murray has been an assistant coach with the UConn Huskies for the past two years, helping them reach the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons.
Murray is known as an excellent recruiter, primarily from his time as an assistant coach/recruiting coordinator at Louisville, where he helped the Cardinals bring in a top-10 recruiting class in the nation in 2019.
His resume also includes an assistant coaching position at Xavier from 2015-18. In 2018, the Musketeers were one of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
A familiar face here in Buffalo, Hodgson was an assistant coach under Oats at UB, before following him to Alabama in 2019.
Hodgson was another name that was tossed around during the Bulls’ coaching search four years ago, before UB ultimately decided on Whitesell.
A native Western New Yorker, Hodgson was born in Olean, NY before attending Jamestown Community College.
At only 36 years old, a potential reunion with the Bulls would not be surprising.
Hodgson has enjoyed success as an assistant coach with Oats and the Crimson Tide, who recently earned the No. 1 overall seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
But Hodgson doesn’t come without baggage. Brandon Miller, Jaden Bradley and Darius Miles — three players that Hodgson recruited to Alabama — are involved in an ongoing capital murder case. Miles has been charged with the murder of Jamea Jonae Harris, while Miller and Bradley have not faced any charges yet.
While all three are immense talents (Miller is projected by scouts as a potential top-five pick in the 2023 NBA Draft), the character concerns around the Crimson Tide’s program are a major red flag. The recent scandal and negative press surrounding the Alabama basketball program might make the Bulls hesitant on choosing Hodgson as Whitesell’s successor.
An under-the-radar name to keep an eye on, Korn is currently the head coach at Southeast Missouri State.
This season, Korn and the Redhawks finished with a 19-16 (10-8 OVC) record, putting them in a position to sneak into the NCAA Tournament, should they win their First Four game Tuesday night against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
The main reason Korn could be a fit for the Bulls is because he fits the fast-paced style UB has adopted over the past decade. Southeast Missouri State finished the season third in the nation with 76.5 team possessions per game. UB ranked 11th in this metric, with 75.7 possessions.
Currently an associate head coach at Xavier, Cohen is another young assistant coach at a nationally-respected basketball program.
Prior to this season, Cohen was an assistant at Stanford for six seasons where he developed a reputation as a great recruiter. Cohen helped recruit 2021 NBA lottery pick and current Memphis Grizzlies’ forward Ziaire Williams to Stanford back in 2020.
Cohen is also a Buffalo native who grew up minutes from UB and graduated from Williamsville North High School.
Another UB coaching candidate from the 2019 offseason, Hartman has over 25 years of coaching experience under his belt.
An assistant coach for the Florida Gators this season, Hartman has previously earned coaching gigs with UNLV, Oklahoma, Columbia and Rice.
What makes Hartman a potential candidate once again for the Bulls job is his reported interest in becoming a head coach and his ties to the area as another Buffalo native.
Brandon Cochi is an assistant sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com