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June 14, 2011

Fox: Most intriguing assistant hires

With all but two exceptions, the head-coaching changes for the 2011-12 basketball season are finished. A handful of assistant positions still need to be filled, but the bulk of coaching staffs have been assembled, too.

While coaches receive most of the attention, assistants are critical pieces of a program as well. Some assistants are ace recruiters or master tacticians. This offseason, several top recruiters have changed teams and some former coaches have become assistants -- either voluntarily or involuntarily.

Here is our look at some of the most intriguing assistant hires this offseason.

Stacey Augmon, Justin Hutson and Heath Schroyer, UNLV
The buzz: Former BYU assistant Dave Rice is a first-time head coach, and he assembled an interesting staff. His first hire was Hutson, who was an assistant at league rival San Diego State last season; Hutson was the main recruiter on Kawhi Leonard. Schroyer also has Mountain West experience, as coach at Wyoming for the past four seasons; he also was a head coach at Portland State. Rice is a former UNLV player and wants to return the Runnin' Rebels to their glory years. He'll try to do that with Augmon, who was on the 1990 national title team and an All-American in 1991. Augmon spent the past four years as an assistant for player development with the Denver Nuggets.
Jeff Capel, Duke
The buzz: After leading Oklahoma to the Elite Eight in 2009, Capel saw Blake Griffin leave early for the NBA and then started losing games. OU was 17-36 in the past two seasons, which led to Capel getting let go. Capel, a former Duke guard, led VCU to its first NCAA tournament in nine seasons in 2004 before landing at Oklahoma. With Capel -- a 1997 grad -- on the bench, Mike Krzyzewski has three of his former players from the 1990s on his staff. Chris Collins graduated in 1996 and Steve Wojciechowski in 1998. All three are former guards.
Glynn Cyprien, Texas A&M
The buzz: Billy Kennedy's first hire at Texas A&M was a fellow New Orleans native. Cyprien is known as a recruiter and has spent the past 15 seasons bouncing around the country as an assistant at UNLV, Oklahoma State, New Mexico State, Arkansas, Kentucky and Memphis. At his last job, at Memphis under Josh Pastner, Cyprien helped land the nation's No. 2 signing class. Memphis signed three top-20 prospects in 2010 (Will Barton, Jelan Kendrick and Joe Jackson).
Chad Dollar, Georgia Tech
The buzz: New Yellow Jackets coach Brian Gregory has Midwest roots and no experience coaching in the Southeast. He hopes to be able to overcome that recruiting shortcoming with the addition of Dollar, who was an assistant at Wichita State last season. Dollar graduated from Atlanta's Douglass High; still, he hasn't coached in the state of Georgia since a stint at Georgia Southern in 2006.
Dane Fife, Michigan State
The buzz: Tom Izzo recruited Fife out of Clarkston (Mich.) High in 1998 but wasn't able to land him until now. Fife became a Division I head coach at 25 when he took over at IPFW in 2005. Fife wasn't in danger of losing his job at the Summit League program, but he elected to leave IPFW for an assistant's job anyway. IPFW went 18-12 last season, its best record since joining Division I in 2002-03. Fife, though, has Big Ten roots as the league's co-defensive player of the year for Indiana's national runner-up team in 2002.
Dalonte Hill, Maryland
The buzz: In Gary Williams' later years with the Terps, the coach showed little interest in getting involved in the oft-seamy summer-league side of the recruiting process. Consequently, few elite prospects from the Washington, D.C., area landed at Maryland. The Terps' new staff under Mark Turgeon likely won't have a similar reluctance. Hill was hired off the staff at Kansas State, and before heading to Manhattan, Hill coached the D.C. Assault AAU team that produced, among others, Michael Beasley, Rodney McGruder and Wally Judge. Hill reportedly was the nation's highest-paid assistant at Kansas State ($423,750), but he's not expected to make that much at Maryland.
Andre LaFleur, Providence
The buzz: Former Connecticut guard Kemba Walker credited LaFleur with helping in his development with the Huskies. LaFleur was a prominent assistant at Connecticut, but Providence may provide him a better steppingstone. LaFleur will be new coach Ed Cooley's top assistant. Cooley already has called LaFleur head-coaching material, and if the Friars improve in the next few seasons, LaFleur could move on.
Billy Lange, Villanova
The buzz: Lange is another coach who voluntarily left his post for an assistant's job at a more prominent program. Lange was 92-115 in seven seasons at Navy, but opted to return to Villanova, where he was director of basketball operations for Jay Wright's first four seasons in Philadelphia. He returns as Wright's associate head coach.
Rob Lanier, Texas
The buzz: Like Lange, Lanier will be reunited with a previous employer. He was an assistant for Rick Barnes' early teams at Texas, playing a key role in recruiting point guard T.J. Ford. He left for the coaching job at Siena but lasted only four years before returning to the assistant ranks. He served on staffs at Virginia and Florida before he decided to return to the Longhorns to replace Rodney Terry, who was hired as coach at Fresno State.
Bobby Lutz, North Carolina State
The buzz: Lutz is back in the state of North Carolina after a long run at Charlotte, where he won 218 games with five NCAA tournament appearances in 12 seasons. New Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried is bolstering his Carolina credentials by adding Lutz and two of Lutz's former Charlotte assistants, Orlando Early and Rob Moxley. Lutz was an assistant at Iowa State last season.
Ernie Nestor, Missouri
The buzz: Skepticism greeted the hire of Frank Haith at Missouri, but at least he'll have some experience on his bench. Nestor has been involved in coaching at the college level since 1976 and is a former head coach at George Mason and Elon. Nestor and Haith first got to know each other as assistants for Dave Odom at Wake Forest in the late '90s. This is Nestor's first coaching job since he was fired at Elon after the 2008-09 season. Since then, he has been a scout for the New Jersey Nets and director of basketball operations at Penn State.
Joe Pasternack, Arizona
The buzz: Pasternack grew up in New Orleans, but the University of New Orleans' transition to a lower level made staying as coach of the Privateers a difficult proposition. Facing a budget crisis, New Orleans withdrew from the Sun Belt last season and will reclassify to Division II (originally, the school planned to reclassify to Division III). Pasternack held his own, going 54-60 in four seasons despite the turmoil. Pasternack's career had been on the fast track. He was a former student manager for Bob Knight at Indiana before he was elevated from video coordinator to full-time assistant at California at age 24 in 2001. He remained on the staff at Berkeley until Ben Braun was fired in 2007.
John Pelphrey and Norm Roberts, Florida
The buzz: Billy Donovan's bench has been a feeder system for head coaches in recent years. Anthony Grant, Shaka Smart, Donnie Jones and Pelphrey earned their first head-coaching jobs after serving as Florida assistants. This offseason, Donovan had to replace his entire staff with Larry Shyatt becoming coach at Wyoming, Lanier leaving for Texas and Richard Pitino moving to Louisville to be an assistant for his dad. Pelphrey struggled as coach at Arkansas, but helped Donovan build the UF program. Roberts went 81-101 in six seasons at St. John's before he was replaced by Steve Lavin.
Richard Pitino, Louisville
The buzz: Rick Pitino's son returned to Louisville after a year at Florida. The younger Pitino's next move, though, is subject to speculation. Richard Pitino has been mentioned for the head-coaching job at Boston University, one of two coaching vacancies and the first stop in his dad's head-coaching career. Louisville AD Tom Jurich denied Donovan's speculation that Richard Pitino eventually would succeed his father at Louisville.
Patrick Sellers, Hofstra
The buzz: Sellers ends his one-year exile from college basketball as he joins the staff at Hofstra. A former staffer at Connecticut, Sellers initially was accused of lying during the NCAA investigation into the Huskies' recruiting practices. He resigned during the probe but was cleared in the NCAA's final report. He spent last year coaching in China.
Damon Stoudamire, Memphis
The buzz: Josh Pastner still is looking for one more assistant, but he filled one of his vacancies with Stoudamire, who already knows the way to FedEx Forum thanks to his assistant's job with the Memphis Grizzlies. Pastner insists Stoudamire won't be focused on just one aspect of the team, but it wouldn't hurt to let him work with guards Will Barton, Antonio Barton, Chris Crawford, Joe Jackson and Charles Carmouche. Stoudamire was a star guard for Arizona's Final Four team in 1994 before being named the NBA's Rookie of the Year for the 1995-96 season (Yahoo! Sports writer Jason King has more on Stoudamire).

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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