This Friday, VCU basketball assistant coach Jeremy Ballard was hired as the new head coach at Florida International University. Alum Joey Rodriguez, who served as a member of head coach Mike Rhoades’ staff at Rice and VCU, is expected to join Ballard in his home state. Ballard was in his second stint as an assistant at VCU in 2017-18, having previously served as an assistant coach from Shaka Smart. Ballard is the sixth former VCU assistant in the past ten years to become a head coach elsewhere. Mike Morrell (named UNC Ashville coach this week), Rhoades, Will Wade (LSU), Jamion Christian (Mount Saint Mary’s) and Mike Jones (Radford) all preceded Ballard as VCU assistants who have moved on to become head coaches elsewhere.
While it is unfortunate for the Rams program to lose two bright young coaches in Ballard and Rodriguez, the fact that the former was coveted as a head coach at the Division I level represents that VCU is still in a good place. The VCU coaching tree is spreading its roots across Division I the Smart disciples are having success elsewhere. Jones led Radford to its first even NCAA Tournament victory this season, Christian has taken Mount Saint Mary’s to multiple NCAA Tournaments, Rhoades turned around a struggling Rice program and Wade has become one of the hottest names in all of college basketball. They all have one thing in common: beginning at VCU. For as much success as the program has had, the coaches who helped build the program have been equally successful. Assistants young and old are showing that they are more than just a byproduct of the VCU environment and are proving they can win on their own. This continued success of coaches elsewhere will only make VCU a more attractive destination for players and coaches alike. Seeing assistant coaches go on to have success elsewhere builds the VCU network and alerts players that at VCU they will have access to a staff of highly competent coaches. Likewise, it is showing the program is attracting the right people, as even former players like Rodriguez are having success in the coaching realm. The continued success and growth of the VCU coaching tree can only bring good things for the program moving forward.