As is the normal process when a new Head Coach comes into power at a school, the San Diego Toreros coaching staff will have a very different look for the 2015-16 season. Just one member of Bill Grier’s staff remains, and that is not one of the primary Assistant Coaches. So besides Director of Basketball Operations Ryan Harbour, a former USD player who played under Grier, the Toreros will have a new group of suits on the bench this upcoming season. Let’s take a deeper look at the new hires.
Lamont Smith, Head Coach: We went in-depth on the hire of Smith back when he was hired in April. It’s a risky hire, but also has some good qualities. The obvious downside is that he’s a rookie Head Coach, so you can’t predict how things will go. There are multiple upsides however. He has good WCC experience from time spent helping build the program at Saint Mary’s. He played at San Diego, so he has experience with the school. And being a former player often helps a coach be more in touch with the feelings of his players, which helps in both recruiting and coaching. As we will discuss below, he’s made up for a lack of experience as a HC by making some smart hires for assistants, which is a great sign of his decision making abilities.
Russell Springmann, Assistant Coach: This was a really shrewd hire by Smith. With Rick Barnes being let go at Texas, some really talented assistants were on the market. Smith swooped in and grabbed Springmann, a veteran of the Longhorns. He’s an excellent recruiter who was a big part of building the perennial NCAA Tournament participant that is Texas. Most notably, he’s credited as being the one to lure NBA superstar Kevin Durant to Austin. Realistically, a small program like USD shouldn’t be able to get assistants this good, so it’s a great pickup. And it’s paid immediate dividends as the Toreros have added three Texas players in short order after his hiring. They all probably have ties to Springmann, and if even one guy pans out this is already a home run hire.
Sam Scholl, Assistant Coach: Smith is using his USD contacts from his playing days to bring in Scholl, a former teammate of Smith back when they were in college. But he is no slouch who is just using an old college buddy to get a job. Scholl is a veteran WCC coach who has spent seven seasons coaching at USD under Brad Holland, and is coming from Santa Clara where he spent eight seasons with the Broncos. Scholl has been with the Broncos during much of their success including their CBI and CIT Tournament wins a few seasons ago. In Scholl, we get another coach who has direct USD experience and extensive WCC coaching experience. He and Smith should be on the same page from day one and work well together.
Chris Gerlufsen, Assistant Coach: This hire on paper looks less connected than the other hires. Gerlufsen is an East Coast guy who played college ball in Virginia and has coached at the Citadel and Hartford. So unlike Smith and Scholl, he comes with very little experience directly related to the WCC and the West Coast. But a little blurb in his official bio gives a big hint into why Smith made this hire:
"Accountable for tapping into the Texas pipeline over the last few years, Gerlufsen has attracted several quality basketball players to Hartford from the Lone Star State."
Like Springmann, Gerlufsen has worked hard to recruit in Texas. This has always been a fertile ground for players, and Smith knows it. It also doesn’t hurt that Gerlufsen has East Coast connections, which allows the current staff to cover the entire country with connections spanning across both coasts. But Smith clearly wants some ownership of Texas, and Gerlufsen helps with that.
There is a very clear strategy to what Smith has done building his staff. There are very close ties to the WCC and West Coast from some guys, and ties to Texas and East Coast with others. He has cast a wide net, and can target players across the country. This is a positive sign for a program that was built heavily on under the radar guys and international prospects under Grier. Smith looks like he won’t be afraid to go after really good players, and brought in guys with the experience and connections to do that. While the initial reaction to this move was concern about a lack of experience with Smith as a head coach, he has built a strong unit that should be able to bring in the quality of players needed to do well. And as icing on the cake, they’re are all guys who are younger and should be able to relate well to players going through what they once did as players.