UPDATE: Kevin Keatts has reportedly agreed to terms with North Carolina State to become their next head coach.
Kevin Keatts began his coaching career as an assistant at Southwest Michigan College for the 1996-97 season. Keatts then went to the prep level when he was hired as an assistant at Hargrave Military Academy, and became the head coach at Hargrave in 1999. In 2001, Keatts went to Marshall to be an assistant under Greg White, before going back to Hargrave in 2003. After having huge amounts of success at Hargrave (Keatts was 262-17 with 2 national championships) Keatts decided to go back to the college level in 2011 when he became an assistant coach at Louisville under Rick Pitino. At Louisville, Keatts also took the role of being Pitino’s lead recruiter. Keatts got his first college head coaching job at UNC-Wilmington.
At Wilmington, Keatts has turned around a program that had 6 20 loss seasons in the 8 years leading up to Keatts’ hiring. In his first three years, Wilmington has won atleast a share of the CAA regular season all three years, and have won back-to-back CAA tournaments. In the 2016 round of 64, Wilmington led Duke in the second half before Duke escaped 93-85. Keatts also became the first coach in CAA history to win CAA coach of the year 2 seasons in a row (2014-15 and 2015-16). Keatts’ success at Wilmington has made him a candidate for other power 5 jobs as well, most notably being listed as one of North Carolina State’s top choices.
Why he’s a good fit for Indiana
He wins- Keatts has won at every coaching stop he has made in his career. Whether it was winning an absurd 94 percent of his games at Hargrave, being an assistant on Louisville’s 2013 national championship team or leading Wilmington to a school record 29 wins this season, Keatts has won and won big everywhere he has been.
He recruits. One of Keatts’ biggest strength is that he is a strong recruiter. A prime example of that is during his time at Louisville, where he was Rick Pitino’s head recruiter. During his time with the Cardinals, Keatts played a huge role in landing Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell, who both played roles in Lousiville’s 2013 national title run. Keatts was also the lead recruiter for Terry Rozier and Chinanu Onuaku, who (along with Harrell) all have seen time in the NBA over the past two seasons.
He is young. At just 44 years old, Keatts is in a position to where he can get a major college basketball job (like Indiana) and stay for a long time if successful. This makes Keatts a more ideal choice for Indiana then say Greg Marshall (54), Billy Donovan (51), Steve Alford (54) or Bob Huggins (63).
The Pitino factor. Kevin Keatts falls into the ever expanding Rick Pitino coaching tree. Included in the Pitino tree is Billy Donovan (2 time NCAA champion at Florida, current OKC head coach), Tubby Smith (1998 NCAA champion at Kentucky), Frank Vogel (former Pacers and current Magic head coach), Mick Cronin (Cincinnati head coach), and 2017 Big Ten Coach of the Year Richard Pitino. The New York Daily Post noted Pitino’s coaching tree as being one of the most impressive in basketball history. Keatts could be the next great Pitino disciple.
Why he’s a bad fit for Indiana
Unproven. While Keatts has had tons of success everywhere he has been, the fact that he has yet to prove himself with a major college basketball program really hurts his chances at landing the IU gig. If Indiana wants to make a splash hire (i.e. a Sean Miller) that will get the fan base excited, Keatts is not going to be that guy.
Recruits Nationally. Keatts is a great recruiter, that’s one of the things he does best. However, Keatts has done a lot of his recruiting by using his connections that he built while at Hargrave, which would lead to him recruiting more nationally. As we all know, there is a section of the IU fanbase that is furious at Tom Crean for not recruiting enough local talent. This trend would continue under Keatts, as he would try to get the best players, not just the one’s from Indiana.