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Vanderbilt Basketball Coaching Search: King Rice

As Vanderbilt conducts its search for a new head men's basketball coach to replace Kevin Stallings, we'll have some profiles of the candidates that come up. Today, we will look at a couple of candidates that are assumed to be at the top of the list.

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King Rice, Head Coach, Monmouth Hawks

Career Record: 79-85 (5 years), no NCAA Tournament appearances, one conference title

Accomplishments: Was named MAAC Coach of the Year in 2015-16 after improving the Hawks from 18-15 to 28-8 and winning the MAAC regular season title; the Hawks also jumped from 182 to 92 in KenPom.  It's not a stretch to suggest that 2015-16 might have been Monmouth's best ever at the Division I level: prior to this year, Monmouth's best season according to KenPom (which goes back to 2002) was #162 in 2005-06, and Monmouth's 5.22 SRS rating was markedly better than its previous high of -1.00 in 1996-97.

Before He Was A Head Coach: Rice played at North Carolina from 1987-91 under Dean Smith.  After earning his degree, he embarked on a long career as an assistant, first for a year under Jerry Green at Oregon before joining Kevin Stallings' first coaching staff at Illinois State, remaining there for Stallings' entire six-year tenure with the Redbirds.  He was then an assistant under Tim Welsh at Providence for two years, coached the Bahamas national team for four years, and spent a year as a volunteer assistant at North Carolina before five years as an assistant under Stallings again at Vanderbilt.

Ties to Vanderbilt: Was an assistant under Stallings from 2006-11.

Stylistic Tendencies: While you would think Rice, having served as an assistant under Stallings for a total of eleven years, would play a style similar to his mentor, the results from his five years at Monmouth tell a different story.  The Hawks play fast, ranking 16th in Division I in tempo in 2015-16 (after ranking 44th, 29th, and 85th in his first three years), and their main calling card on defense has been forcing turnovers -- while Monmouth ranked 60th in Division I in turnover percentage in 2015-16, that was actually the lowest number the Hawks have posted since Rice has been there.  His teams don't generally take a ton of three-pointers, but that could be a reflection of personnel as much as anything: this year's team ranked #191 in Division I in three-point attempt percentage, but that's the highest figure his teams have posted and might reflect the fact that his team this year was easily the best shooting team he's had at Monmouth.

Would he come here? We really don't know.  It's hard to imagine he wouldn't listen to Vanderbilt -- after all, he did spend a good portion of his career at the school -- but he's a New York native and might want to stay in the Northeast.  It's also not exactly great timing: this year's Monmouth team only had one senior who played significant minutes, so odds are that he will have a good team next year as well.  That means that he won't be in a hurry to take the first opportunity to move up, because his career prospects presumably can only go up.

Thoughts: At first glance, Rice is an uninspiring hire: he has a sub-.500 career record, and hiring him smacks of overvaluing his connections to Vanderbilt and a single good year.  Upon closer inspection, though, his resume looks a bit better: in the five years prior to him coming aboard, Monmouth's record was 48-105, and moving from the Northeast Conference (a bottom-level Division I conference) to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (a mid-major league) after his second year may have masked the improvement to some degree.  As a minority coach with Vanderbilt connections, Rice would seem to be one of David Williams' top candidates for the job.

My general thought is that Rice would be a decent but not great hire; he's different enough from Stallings, both in terms of personality and coaching style, that he wouldn't be Stallings 2.0 (unlike, say, Dan Muller), but his age (47) and his resume don't point to a ton of upside either.