BSU Hoops: Breaking Down The Finalists

Since our last update (sorry, it’s been a while), there hasn’t been much movement on the BSU coaching search aside from the fact that South Dakota State assistant Austin Hansen removed himself from the running this past weekend.

That leaves three candidates: Illinois-Chicago’s Al Biancalana, Washington State’s Jeff Hironaka and Central College’s Mike Boschee.

Not sure exactly why Hansen decided to take his name out of the hat; the Sioux Falls Argus Leader said it just wasn’t the right fit for him.

I’ve been able to glean a little bit of information on some of the other candidates and it looks like all three have different approaches to the game, which is nice to see.

Hironaka, who coached Seattle Pacific University for seven successful seasons before going to Washington State, is a master strategist who used the Princeton offense to full effect at Seattle Pacific, according to this story from the Spokane Spokseman-Review. He took SPU to the final four in 2006.

The Los Angeles Japanese Daily News also wrote a nice feature story on him when he took the WSU job in 2009. At the time he was the highest-ranking Japanese-American coach in D-I basketball.

Hironaka told Lakeland TV that he puts a high premium on shot selection – which makes sense considering his history with the Princeton offense. That might fit in well with the Beavers, who last year were the No. 30 team in the nation for field goal shooting (47.9) and the No. 19 3-point shooting team in the nation (38.8).

The Spokseman-Review reported May 17 that Hironaka was “reassigned” to more of a consulting role. This meant he couldn’t recruit off-campus or give on-court instruction. Another report said that Hironaka wasn’t being demoted, but Bone just needed another recruiter.

This move seemed unpopular with Washington State fans. CougCenter, a Washington State blog, called him “the best damn coach on the staff.” If he’s that well loved as an assistant I have a feeling he’ll be very popular among Beaver fans.

The one knock on him, according to my reading, is that he’s not an outstanding recruiter. That, I suppose, is more subjective. And it’s certainly a lot different at the D-I level than it is at the D-II level. You’re not looking for Blue Chips when you’re in the NSIC, you’re looking for guys that fit your program.

I guess it might also be an issue that he’s not a Midwest guy, but that doesn’t really matter – former BSU head coach Matt Bowen had four players on the roster from Arizona in 2011-12. If you get guys to come, it doesn’t matter where they’re from.

If Hironaka is the ultimate college X’s and O’s guy, then UIC assistant Al Biancalana must not be too far behind, especially at the high school. He’s been an assistant at the college level – aside from being the top assistant at UIC, he was also an assistant at Bradley – but has 17 years of experience at the high school level. He won a state championship in California and is well-respected on the Illinois high school circut.

When Biancalana took the UIC job last year, the Chicago Sun-Times wrote a blog and a little feature on his move. ESPN Chicago also covered the move, so it’s clear that he’s a well-respected coach, especially when it comes to the X’s and O’s.

I suppose the fact that he’s never been a head coach at the college level might be a problem, but he does have D-I experience. Bradley has a strong basketball tradition and, even though it’s not in a “power conference,” the Missouri Valley is always tough. Bradley made the Sweet 16 in 2006, a year after Biancalana departed for the high school level. You’ve gotta think that he helped recruit a bunch of those guys.

The final candidate, Mike Boschee, is a little harder to pin down.

That’s possibly because Central College, in Pella, Iowa, is an Division-III school and doesn’t get as much coverage as D-I Washington State, or even high school basketball in hoops-crazy Illinois. (I covered high school basketball in Illinois, and I can confirm that it’s legit. Think the Minnesota high school hockey tournament. That kind of fervor.)

Boschee has been at Central since 2003 and has turned the program around in much the same way Bowen did for BSU. The Dutch hadn’t had a winning season in ages before Boschee arrived and in the past five years he’s turned them into a contender. They won the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 2009-10 and made the Division III tournament for the first time in 15 years.

I’m not sure what else there is to say about Boschee, most of the information I was able to glean about him comes from his official Central College bio.

But he appears to know the small-college system well (although Central as a liberal arts school is much different from BSU, there are still some similarities). He’s also got Minnesota connections: He was an assistant at Gustavus Adolphus from 1993-2003.

Obviously, I don’t have any inside knowledge on the interview process. And I’m new to the beat and not as familiar with the BSU team as someone who had been here longer.

But if I had to take a (very wild) guess, I would rank Hironaka as the top candidate, just due to his experience and coaching skill. He’s a known commodity in the college coaching world, and has significant success at the D-II level. The other two guys don’t seem to have as much experience at that level.

But – and this is very important – that’s pure speculation on my part*

*Which is something I enjoy, and plan on doing on this blog from time to time. Please bear with me as I learn my way around BSU. One of these days, my opinion will actually have some weight behind it and I won’t just be a guy saying things.

BSU athletic director Rick Goeb said he’d ideally like to have an announcement on the new coach sometime this week. I’m hoping it does come soon, because I’m excited to see the direction the school wants to take the program.