Not many, if any program had a more chaotic month of March than Chattanooga. After winning their conference tournament on a buzzer-beater, the Mocs fell short in the Round of 64, lost their head coach, and saw their star player enter the NBA Draft. They went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.
But, with loss comes opportunity. On the final day of March, the Mocs made more history as Dan Earl was named the 22nd head coach in Chattanooga history.
“I am honored and extremely excited to be the next head basketball coach at UTC,” Earl said in his introductory press conference, “I am very aware of the proud history of Chattanooga basketball. My staff and I will work tirelessly to continue the winning ways and plan on competing for championships. I can’t wait to get started, Go Mocs!”
And exactly that is what they have done in their first two months in Chattanooga. The Mocs have added 8886 minutes of D1 experience, a total of 52.2 points per game last season, and have completely rebuilt a team who lost their top four scorers from a year ago.
Now the portal is a completely new tool for Earl and his head assistant Ander Galfsky. Both coming from VMI, the school didn’t allow transfers. They don’t even have graduate school.
So, you can say they went HAM on this cycle at their new school.
The centerpiece of their first Mocs team will be the same man who led VMI for the past four seasons, Jake Stephens. At VMI, Stephens tallied 1416 points and only seemed to be getting better every season.
Heading into the 2020-21 season, his goal was to work on his rebounding. Stephens upped his average by 3.2 rebounds per game. Heading into last season, his goal was to build on his three-point shooting. Stephens was one of the best three-point shooters in the country, shooting 49% from behind the arc.
Along with all this, he sits at 6-10 and averages a near double-double per game. Chattanooga’s first big commit in the Earl era was a kid who could shine at any level of D1 basketball.
Pairing with him, Earl got one of the top freshmen in the SoCon to head west with him in Honor Huff. Huff averaged 10 points per game at VA Mil and was a thorn in his new program’s side. In two games against Chattanooga, he scored 45 points. That’s good.
Outside of their prior program, Earl’s biggest grab was Jamal Johnson from UAB. Although the guard didn’t play all that much last season for Andy Kennedy, he was a starter for an Auburn team who finished 25-6 in 2020, averaging just under ten points per game in 20-21.
In the backcourt alongside him, Earl grabbed Dalvin White from USC Upstate, a leader of their third-place finishing team in the Big South, and Khristion Courseault from Houston Baptist who averaged 17.2 points per game in his last nine games a year ago.
They went from having a guy who did it all in Malachi Smith to a bevy of talents to pick from.
To add on to all the D1 additions, Chattanooga has two JUCO guys in Tada Stricklen and Demetrius Davis. Davis will be an immediate threat from the inside for the Mocs at the three, some have even compared his skill set to Kevin Durant.
Many people, including myself, will have Furman slated as the preseason favorite in the SoCon, but you can’t go wrong with any of the top four schools. With the additions that Earl has made in his first two months at the helm, the Mocs are right back into the competition as one of the best teams in the SoCon. If things go right, they should not only be flirting with their second consecutive NCAA Tournament bid but a chance of being in the Top 25.