The up-and-comer has arrived. But what will he deliver?
The reason ETSU Richard Sander was brought back as athletic director was because he has had the Midas touch when it comes to hiring men’s basketball coaches.
He’s never hired a men’s basketball coach that didn’t win 20 games in a season for his school, admittedly more of an accomplishment back when Sander started at Virginia Commonwealth in the 1980s when fewer games were played, but still notable.
And four of his previous five hires took the program Sander hired them to coach to the NCAA Tournament.
So can 37-year-old Brooks Savage, ETSU’s new head men's basketball coach, continue that streak?
He comes in with several things going for him. With Sander’s approval and Savage’s past work as an assistant coach during the Steve Forbes era, Savage comes into a welcoming environment.
His coaching career seems to be one of a go-getter, starting out doing the grunt work at Tennessee under Buzz Peterson, then slowly but surely rising up the coaching ladder and taking on more responsibilities such as recruiting and scheduling until finally becoming Steve Forbes’ right hand man at Wake Forest, calling plays and the like.
And the cupboard at ETSU, despite a 12–20 record last season, is not devoid of talent.
Previously Sander, 77, had plucked coaches from the staff of the National Champions (Florida’s Anthony Grant, VCU 2006), the staff of a nationally prominent program (Wichita State’s Steve Forbes, ETSU 2015), a young Mike Krzyzewski disciple who was a familiar name to college basketball fans (Jeff Capel, VCU 2002), and a head coach who had taken an SEC program to the Final Four (Auburn’s Sonny Smith, VCU 1989).
Even Mack McCarthy (VCU, 1998), though already on the Rams’ staff (so was Capel upon his hire), had taken Chattanooga to the Sweet 16 just the season before.
Savage’s resume isn’t quite that. Since becoming Forbes’ right-hand man at Wake Forest the Demon Deacons have improved, even…