When the men's basketball team takes the court for the 2007-08 season, it's going to be difficult to recognize them. This offseason has been chalked full of changes. Seven players from last year's squad will not return for next year. Four (Zach Andrews, J.J. Tauai, Will Franklin, and Danny Adams) are gone via graduation, while three more (Saihou Jassey, Jeremy Fears, and Ray Brown) are leaving for other reasons. Those seven players will be replaced by seven new recruits, including four JUCO players and three freshmen. It's a talented group of incoming players -- Scouts Inc. recruiting expert Bob Gibbons ranked Bradley's recruiting class at the 24th best in the nation (subscription req.) last week -- but talent doesn't always translate into success. The question remains, can coaching staff mold these new players with the returning ones and form a cohesive unit?
Normally, I'd say yes without hesitation. Jim Les has proven himself to be an excellent coach over the past two seasons. The problem is, player turnover isn't the only thing Les has to deal with heading into next season. He also has to deal with replacing two of his assistant coaches following the departure of Lennox Forrester and the retirement of Chuck Buescher. That leaves only one returning assistant, Chuck's son Eric Buescher, from a staff that lead the Braves to two straight 22 win seasons. Les has already named Alvin Brooks III as one of the new coaches, but the other has yet to be named. It's going to be very interesting to see how Les shapes his new staff and how the new staff can come together itself to help the new players come together.
Les did give us a better idea today of exactly how the staff will look next year with the announcement that Eric Buescher has been promoted to Associate Head Coach. The new title doesn't really mean a whole lot, other than that it sounds more important and comes with a bigger salary, but the article does mention the expectation that the addition of Brooks to the staff means that Buescher's recruiting focus will likely shift from JUCO players to high schoolers next season. I see this as a good move. Brooks has been an assistant for each of the past two NJCAA Div. 1 national champions and has a lot of JUCO connections. Meanwhile, Buescher has done a great job recruiting since he joined the staff in 2002 and I'm curious to see what he can do recruiting at the high school level. The PJS article also mentions that Les has offered the other vacant job to someone and is in the final interviewing process. Expect an announcement on that sometime next week.
Whoever the new assistant is, they, like the rest of the staff, are going to have thier work cut out for them. This much change in one season make me nervous. The team has plenty of talent and Jim Les is a good coach, but there are a lot of question marks that still need to be answered. I still expect a successful 2007-08 campaign, but I get the feeling it's going to be an interesting ride.