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How Are UNC’s Alumni Coaches Faring This Season?

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Checking in with the UNC alumni coaching in D-1 and NOT named Roy Williams

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Boise Practice Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

One of the time-honored traditions of the Roy Williams Era at UNC has been the Master vs. Apprentice Game. Several times since Roy has come to Carolina, he has set up games against either his former pupils or fellow alumni that have recently become head coaches at a new school. Such games of course are a Win-Win for the Carolina family: Should the Tar Heels win, well...they win. Should their opponent win, they will have what will surely be a signature win for their season and a potentially program-building triumph. A win over UNC is something any new coach would hang their hat on.

This year’s visiting pupil was C.B. McGrath, Roy’s longtime assistant both at Kansas and UNC, well-beloved both in Chapel Hill and Lawrence, returning to Chapel Hill as the head coach of UNCW. As is normally the case, UNC came away with a comfortable win. McGrath is one of four UNC alums currently coaching in D-1, all of whom have squared off against Roy and the Heels since taking their jobs.

With the 2018-19 season halfway gone, here’s how the four of them are doing:

Wes Miller - UNC-Greensboro

UNC Greensboro v Gonzaga Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Good news first. The youngest of the four alums also happens to be the longest tenured at his university and the most successful. Miller, who was hired in 2011 at age 28 (making him the youngest D-1 coach in America at the time), has built UNC-Greensboro into a Southern Conference powerhouse over the last few years.

The Spartans finished 27-8 last year, finishing atop the Southern Conference at 15-3 and winning the conference tournament as well. Thus far, they have extended that strong play into the new season. They are currently 17-3 (5-1) and 2nd in the SoCon. They are led by the backcourt play of Francis Alonso and Isaiah Miller. On top of that, on December 29th, Wes became the winningest coach in UNC-Greensboro history. He’s only 35 years old.

King Rice - Monmouth

Citi Hoops Classic - Kentucky v Monmouth Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Now the not-so-good news. Just a couple years ago, King Rice and the Monmouth Hawks made waves as a promising mid-major team with a shot at the NCAA Tournament. They finished first in the MAAC Conference in both 2016 and 2017. Their bench celebrations went viral and had a lot of college basketball fans rooting for them to get some shine in the Big Dance.

Here’s a refresher if you’ve forgotten:

Since that season, however, it’s been a struggle for Rice and the Hawks. They finished the 2018 season 11-20 and this year started off even worse: The Hawks lost their first 12 games and currently sit at 6-14. An interesting caveat: They are 5-2 in conference and tied for second. Either they’ve turned it around in a big way or that’s a REAL bad look for the MAAC.

Jerod Haase - Stanford

Stanford v UCLA Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The one coach on this list who has ever been able to win the Master vs. Apprentice Game (as the head coach at UAB in the 2013-14 season) is now at Palo Alto. Haase and the Cardinal have had a rough go of it so far this season. The departure of Reid Travis to Kentucky during the offseason gave the Cardinal a rotten hand to play in 2019. Stanford has only one senior in the rotation, transfer Dan Sharma, and were expected to regress from their 3rd place finish in the PAC-12 last year.

Haase and Co. are currently 9-9, 2-4 in conference play, after losing the first three games of the PAC-12 schedule. The bright spot of their season thus far has been sophomore forward KZ Okpala, who is averaging 17.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game on 50% shooting and 45% from three. But even that comes with some added bitterness: A frontcourt duo of Travis and Okpala would have been be one of the best in the nation.

C.B. McGrath - UNC-Wilmington

Gonzaga v North Carolina Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The second-year head coach made his trip back to the Dean Dome on December 5th. His squad ultimately fell 97-69 and things didn’t get much better in the following weeks: UNC-W lost all six of their games in the month of December. They are currently 7-13 overall and 3-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association. McGrath will be looking to build on his 11-21 season last year on the back half of this year.

Also an interesting note: UNC-Wilmington suffered back to back losses in November to...Stanford and UNC-Greensboro. Guess we can assume that Haase and Miller got the memo about playing former Tar Heel alumni (and that C.B. definitely had Wes run too many suicides in practice). Here’s hoping C.B. has better luck in Alumni games of the future! ...Except against the Heels, of course.