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Coaching Search Profile: John Brannen

To make heads explode, let’s talk about the guy who’s won the Horizon League the last two years.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Northern Kentucky vs Texas Tech Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

John Brannen

Age: 45

Current job: Head coach, Northern Kentucky (since 2015)

Previous jobs: Assistant coach at Alabama, VCU, St. Bonaventure, Eastern Kentucky, and Charleston

Career head coaching record: 81-51 (.614)

NCAA Tournament appearances: 2

NCAA Tournament record: 0-2

Another name that’s been mentioned into Vanderbilt’s currently vacant head coaching position is John Brannen. The head coach at Northern Kentucky for the last four years, Brannen started his career with a 9-21 record in his first season, but his teams have won 72 games over the last three years. In that same period, they’ve gone 40-14 in the Horizon League, won or shared the last two regular season titles, and made two NCAA Tournament appearances. All this at a program that just joined Division I.

In terms of coaching trees, Brannen played for Billy Donovan at Marshall and worked under former Donovan assistant Anthony Grant at both VCU and Alabama. He became familiar with the SEC in the last stop (which included a two-game stint as interim head coach during Alabama’s NIT run in 2015.) Let’s analyze!

Why he’d be a good fit: His overall record is unimpressive, but that’s mostly because of a 9-21 debut season — since then he’s 72-30. Familiarity with the SEC is nice, and Northern Kentucky this year ranked 28th in effective field goal percentage. That’s good. And don’t forget, this is all at a school that just recently joined Division I; in fact, his first NCAA Tournament appearance was in Northern Kentucky’s first year of eligibility after moving up from Division II.

Why it wouldn’t work: It’s not necessarily that it wouldn’t work — but “coach who’s had success in the Horizon League” sounds an awful lot like the guy we just got rid of.

Overall thoughts: I honestly don’t know enough about Brannen to have any strong opinions. What I do know is that there’s a tendency for athletic directors to go in a different direction when they’ve just fired a coach, and hiring a guy who on paper sounds a lot like the previous coach usually isn’t done. Brannen has had a nice run at Northern Kentucky, but his success hasn’t been overwhelming, and the floor here seems really low even if you can project a little more upside than you can with somebody like Johnny Dawkins. Brannen was briefly mentioned on Friday, but something tells me this won’t be the hire.