Moser joins Moore and Dildy in class of youthful Chicago coaches

Bob Knight was just 24 years old when he led the Army Black Knights to an 18-win season and an appearance in the NIT semifinals in 1966 as head coach.

Almost a half century later 34-year-old Brad Stevens and 33-year-old Shaka Smart revived the legend of the young gun head coach, leading their teams to the NCAA Final Four with only six years of Division-I coaching experience between them. Then there's the success of Arizona's Sean Miller and Marquette's Buzz Williams, young coaches who both made it to at least the Sweet Sixteen.

It would be easy to assume that a new era of younger coaches is taking the stage and changing the mid-major basketball scene, especially with the fresh class of new hires in the Chicago area: Northern Illinois' Mark Montgomery (40), Loyola's Porter Moser (42), UIC's Howard Moore (38) and Chicago State's Tracy Dildy (42).

So I hit the spreadsheets with some research, only to be surprised by the parity of my results.

I profiled the ages and years of D-I coaching experience of 132 NCAA Division-I head coaches including all six "high-major" conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac-10, SEC) and six randomly chosen mid-major conferences (Horizon, MAC, MVC, Sun Belt, CAA, MWC). My data included all newly hired coaches (i.e. Haith at Missouri, Moser at Loyola, Senderoff at Kent State, etc.).

StatSheet has already shown that the average age of head coaches is increasing yearly with life expectancy and that the ages of the NCAA's youngest head coaches has also increased yearly since 2005.

Of course, this data conflicts with the increasing visibility of youthful head coaches around the league.

Are older coached just not performing as well in their old age? Coach K (64), Jim Calhoun (68) and Horizon League favorite Homer Drew (66) would more than tenably dispute that theory.

So here's what I found:

  • Among the 132 coaches profiled, the average age is 49.1 years, while the average "mid-major" coach is 48.4 years old, and the average "high-major" coach is 49.6 years old. Those numbers are pretty close.
  • The average head coach has 11.8 years of D-I coaching experience. However, "high-major" coaches average 14.0 years in D-I ball, while "mid-major" coaches average 9.3 years. This suggests that the more experienced "mid-major" coaches get promoted to "high-major" jobs. John Beilein is a good example of that.
  • Even with Porter Moser, the Horizon League ranks second (45.4 years) behind the Missouri Valley Conference (43.1) for most youthful conferences. Jerry Slocum (59), Homer Drew (66) and Gary Waters (59) are holding the Horizon back.
  • At the end of the first season for three rookie Horizon League coaches (Moore, Wardle, Donlon), the HL ranks second (7.7), again behind the MVC (6.0), for least experienced coaches. 
  • The ACC is composed of old coaches with a lot of experience. The average head coach in this conference is 53.3 years old with 17.4 years of experience.
  • Green Bay's Brian Wardle was the youngest in my study after he took Tod Kowalczyk's former team to a 14-18 (8-10 HL) finish in his first head coaching season.
  • Valparaiso's own Joe Paterno, Homer Drew, leads all but one "mid-major" coach in years of D-I coaching experience with 22 years at the helm. Jim Larranaga, currently of George Mason and formerly of Bowling Green gets that distinction with 25 years of service.

Based on this data, neither the Horizon League nor the new Chicago area coaches are especially young. Rather, it's their lack of experience that keeps them in "mid-major" spots (Homer Drew and others like him are the exception here). 

Chicago offers a perfect cross-section of this phenomenon. With 23 years of D-I experience, Oliver Purnell and Bill Carmody, with his 15 years are exemplar "high-major" coaches. Porter Moser boasts seven (at UALR and Illinois State), Howard Moore one and Tracy Dildy has a single year under his belt. 

The basketball scene has undergone some major springtime construction in Chicago over the past two years (I had to work that pun in somewhere), but it's just business as usual in college basketball.

Leave a comment