The new Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Alabama State is a familiar name to many who love basketball. Mo Williams, 2016 NBA Champion has been hired to head the Hornets’ program after spending two years as an assistant at Cal State Northridge under Mark Gottfried.
I am always intrigued by these low-major schools hiring philosophies. In this instance, Williams replaces Lewis Jackson who brought his Alma Mater to two NCAA Tournaments and one NIT appearance in his 15 years in charge. He put together back-to-back 20 wins seasons, but never eclipsed that mark after, compiling a 207-262 record overall and 154-116 in the SWAC.
We’ve seen smaller schools look to make a big splash before by hiring former NBA players like Donyell Marshall at Central Connecticut State or Damon Stoudamire at Pacific, although he spent 8 years as an assistant coach at various programs and Pacific is in a strong conference (the WCC).
Typically, we see these programs as rehab stints for fallen coaches from the Power 6 or even mid-major ranks. Fellow SWAC member Texas Southern is a perfect example of that with Mike Davis, who is now at Detroit, and current head coach Johnny Jones. You know, the guy who recruited and coached Ben Simmons and Antonio Blakeney to a 19-14 record and no postseason.
I love the hire from the Alabama State perspective. It never hurts to get a known name into your program. Especially a guy that is clearly hungry for success like Mo Williams is. The Athletic did an awesome piece asking coaching from every conference what the best job was and as you’ll see, Alabama State was considered 3rd best in a very tough league from multiple vantage points.
For those who aren’t aware, the SWAC is one of the toughest conferences in the country for many reasons. One of the big ones is funding. These teams are the ones you see that have to travel thousands of miles every non-conference schedule playing big name teams and usually getting crushed by them. They play these “buy games” to help fund whatever the university needs.
Another is geographic location. These schools are in the heart of SEC Country. It is hard to get high quality talent when you’ve got so many different competitors at varying levels around you. Sure, Alabama State isn’t competing with Alabama for recruits, but even moving down the totem pole, the Hornets aren’t even typically competing with UAB for talent.
All that said, there is plenty for Williams to work with so I am intrigued to see how he attacks the opportunity. It is risky from his perspective because failing at this level could pretty well end his young coaching career already.