Tod Kowalczyk sought varying levels of experience to assemble previous coaching staffs, balancing the youth of a novice eager to work with a veteran.
This spring, as he prepared to hire two assistants, the University of Toledo coach glanced at a mirror.
“I saw a lot of gray hair,” Kowalczyk quipped. “I’m the old veteran guy now.”
The youngest of his new assistants, 26-year-old Jordan Mincy, is someone Kowalczyk kept an eye on for 10 years or so. The other, Jason Kemp, at 32 is the staff’s eldest assistant. He aced his interview to outmatch a deep candidate pool.
Pair the two with holdover Jason Kalsow, who will turn 30 this summer, and Kowalczyk’s assistants are an average 29 years old.
“I wanted to hire a young, energetic staff,” said Kowalczyk, who will turn 47 next month and is entering his 12th season as a head coach. “My No. 1 criteria was great staff chemistry. No. 2, I wanted great relationships with our current players. Those were the two major things I was looking for.”
Mincy, who coached last season at College of Charleston, was a clear choice from the start.
The former Mid-American Conference point guard comes recommended by past Kent State coach Jim Christian, a close friend of Kowalczyk’s, as well as current Kent State coach Rob Senderoff. Mincy made a profound defensive presence on two NCAA tournament teams with the Golden Flashes and later coached two seasons at Kent.
“He’s the one guy I targeted early on,” said Kowalczyk, who several years ago tried to recruit the Memphis native to Green Bay.
Kowalczyk had no predetermined plan for the other position and interviewed “quite a few people.” None of them, he said, was more impressive or more prepared than Kemp, who spent eight seasons — including the last six as an assistant — helping North Dakota State jump from Division II to a formidable D-I mid-major. His hiring was announced last week.
NDSU coach Saul Phillips called Kemp’s effect on the program “immeasurable” in a statement on his departure.
“He added some things that were different,” Kowalczyk said. “Different recruiting ties, different recruiting connections.”
Both assistants leave programs that last season advanced to the championship game of their conference tournament, falling one win short of an NCAA tournament berth. NDSU (24-10) appeared in the postseason College Basketball Invitational, as did Charleston (24-11).
Kowalczyk will not appoint an associate head coach, a title held by Angres Thorpe on the previous staff. Thorpe, who had worked alongside Kowalczyk since Green Bay, left to be an assistant at University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ryan Pedon took a noncoaching job on the staff at Illinois.
Kowalczyk said he had interest in Ohio State video coordinator Greg Paulus. A three-year starter at Duke who later quarterbacked the Syracuse football team, Paulus is viewed in coaching circles as a rising star.
There was a belief Kowalczyk might look to people with ties to Toledo to fill the jobs. He interviewed former Purdue and Whitmer guard Ryne Smith, the son of Whitmer coach Bruce Smith. Ryne was a student assistant at Purdue last year.
“He’s a great guy, a very talented coach,” Kowalczyk said. “He’s got a very bright future, and I hope some day our paths cross again. There’s not one negative there.”
Smith, 23, last week was named head coach at Clinton Prairie High School in Frankfort, Ind.
DECOMMIT: Kowalczyk cannot say much per NCAA rules about the bizarre turn of events this week that saw a player commit, then decommit from the Rockets in less than 24 hours.
Kyle Vinales of Detroit is leaving Central Connecticut after two seasons. On Twitter, he announced his allegiance to Toledo on Sunday. By lunchtime Monday he had soured, indicating his wish to “wait a little longer to make my decision.”