Possible replacements to fill Kevin Willard’s staff after Tony Skinn’s departure

Head coach Kevin Willard now has his first staff vacancy to fill as news surfaced Wednesday night that assistant Tony Skinn was trending to become the next head coach at George Mason.

That became official on Thursday morning as George Mason officially announced Skinn as its next head coach.

Early intel pointed to Virginia assistant Jason Williford as the top guy in the coaching search, but after he passed on the George Mason job in favor of remaining in Charlottesville, Skinn became next man up and he had support from a handful key people around and plugged into the program heading into a decision. Skinn, a proven recruiter, left a big imprint on Maryland’s 2023 recruiting class after leading the way for both Jahn Lamothe and Deshawn Harris-Smith, but the Mason alum also entered College Park with a track record developing guards.

Maryland already has local recruiters on its staff with assistant David Cox paving the way locally along with Tevon Saddler and Greg Manning Jr.’s local ties, but Willard will be tasked with adding another local recruiter to its staff to bolster its staff. We take a look at a few key names to know:

Rhode Island assistant Kenny Johnson

With Skinn gone, Willard could look to turn to another longtime assistant with Team Takeover ties in Kenny Johnson. The Oxon Hill native began his career at Towson before moving onto Indiana and Louisville where he helped recruit NBA talent like Victor Oladipo, Damion Lee, Jerami Grant and others. Johnson joined former Indiana coach Archie Miller at Rhode Island this offseason, though he’s in the midst of serving a two-year limited show-cause due to recruiting violations at Louisville. Would Willard take a risk? That’s the big question.

VT assistant Mike Jones

Maryland won’t have to answer the question whether it can recruit DeMatha with Jahmir Young not only transferring in last summer, but announcing his return this week. Still, Jones’ ties thanks to his longtime history coaching at DeMatha make him an obvious candidate for Willard’s staff one year after he emerged as a possibility. Jones also brought four-star guard Rodney Rice from DeMatha to Blacksburg and carries an accomplished resume beyond his experience with the Stags. After serving in three coaching roles with USA Basketball alone in 2019, Jones was named a co-recipient of the 2019 USA Basketball Developmental Coach of the Year award. He led the 2019 USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team to a gold medal at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Brazil, was a lead coach at the 2019 USA Men’s Junior National Team July minicamp and was a court coach at the 2019 USA Men’s Junior National Team October minicamp.

Butler assistant Mike Pegues

If the former DeMatha head coach isn’t the move, what about a former DeMatha player? Pegues joined Thad Matta at Butler last offseason after stints with VCU, Delaware, Xavier then Louisville. Pegues also stepped into an interim coaching gig on two occasions during the Chris Mack era, going 12-13 overall, but has the local recruiting connections to bolster Willard’s local recruiting touch.

Duane Simpkins 

Former George Mason head coach Duane Simpkins is currently in the mix for a head coaching gig at American, but the longtime regional assistant could be a name Maryland turns to should things fall through. Simpkins, a former Maryland star and DeMatha grad, has been linked to vacancies on Maryland’s staff several times through the Mark Turgeon era and would give Willard the area ties needed. But all eyes are on the American head coaching search where it appears Simpkins’ to lose.

Stay tuned for more as Willard fills a key role.

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