Last month I wrote an article labeling then VCU assistant Mike Rhoades as the hottest commodity in the mid-major coaching game. My high praise of Rhoades had me scratching my head when he decided to take the job at Rice after being so selective in the past. Let's face it, the Rice Owls aren't exactly synonymous with basketball glory.
Rhoades took the job at the academic titan in Houston and said the following in his press conference when asked about the academic rigors of the school:
I'm not afraid or scared of that. We're going to build something special here. We came here because we are going to win." via the Houston Chronicle
You hear a quote like that at just about every introductory press conference for a coach, but Rhoades is already proving me, at least, wrong in my doubts regarding him taking the job in Houston. Rhoades has already hired Scott Pera from Penn and J.D. Byers from Radford; both are great additions in their own way.
Pera has learned how to recruit with some of the stiffest of academic restrictions in the country, and he also coached Houston Rockets star James Harden in high school and at Arizona State. While it may not seem like much, having a "friend" like Harden in your hometown can be another bargaining chip for Rhoades on the recruiting trail.
While Pera brings nearly 20 years of experience, J.D. Byers is a young, energetic assistant who has worked with Rhoades before at Division III Randolph-Macon. The other valuable experience that Byers brings to the table is he learned how to resurrect a program under a different former VCU assistant, Mike Jones, at Radford.
Beyond hires, Rhoades has already been busy on the recruiting trail and garnered a big three star commitment from Chino Hills, Ca., forward Bishop Mency.
Don't expect the Owls to shoot up to the top of Conference USA and end their 34 year NCAA Tournament drought next year, but expect the team to be competitive and become a real factor in the conference over the next three years. Rhoades has said that Rice's administration is willing to invest in it's basketball program and in doing so may have begun a basketball renaissance in Houston, especially with the crosstown Cougars hiring Kelvin Sampson.