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Coaching changes signal new era of SMU basketball

Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire

Tim Jankovich has made his first official moves as the head basketball coach at SMU.

Since taking the job this July, Jankovich has been relatively quiet, focusing on offseason workouts with the team and hitting the recruiting trail. However, this week, he made two important changes to his staff that will greatly benefit the Mustangs this season.

Jankovich hired Shawn Forrest, who was on the staff at Louisiana Tech. Additionally, Jay Duncan, the man who has served as the Director of Basketball Operations over the past three years, will move to the bench as an assistant coach.

While these moves may not seem all that important on the surface, they could be massive for the Mustangs this season.

Duncan, while remaining a relative unknown except among the most hard-core Mustang fans over the years, has established himself as a rising star in college basketball. After a successful playing career at Northwood University in the NAIA, Duncan burst onto the college coaching scene as a graduate assistant under Jay Wright at Villanova from 2010 until 2012. However, when Larry Brown joined the Mustangs’ staff, Duncan took a job as a video coordinator with SMU in 2013.

Quickly, Duncan established himself as a very intelligent basketball mind, and earned himself a promotion to Director of Basketball Operations with SMU after just one season in the video room. While he has worked tirelessly in the front office over the past three years for the Mustangs, his dream was always to sit on the bench for SMU.

Now, he will get that chance.

Joining him is Forrest, a man who brings a tradition of winning that falls directly in line with SMU’s recent successes. He started as a graduate assistant at Troy in 1998. He then shed the graduate tag in 2002 at Florida A&M, where he helped the Rattlers to a fourth-place finish in the MEAC, the program’s best finish in over a decade. After a year in Florida, Forrest then moved to Arkansas State, where he secured multiple top-100 recruiting classes over six years, producing one of the most successful stretches of basketball in Arkansas State history.

Forrest’s tenure at Arkansas State solidified his future as a college coach, and helped him secure a move to the University of North Texas. While with the Mean Green, Forrest’s teams averaged 21 wins per year, and he was instrumental in securing the 2010-2011 recruiting class, which ranked 31st in the nation, one of the most highly regarded in UNT history.

From there, Forrest moved to the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, where he worked mainly with Orlando Magic point guard Elfrid Payton. Payton’s development helped Forrest land a job at Western Kentucky, where he secured three straight 20- win seasons before he moved to Louisiana Tech. Forrest had not coached a game in Ruston, Louisiana. His move to the Mustangs marks his third team in 2016. However, this is not a move born of desperation; it’s exactly the opposite. This is a destination job for Forrest, a man who has paid his dues in the business and has a chance to coach an at-large team in the NCAA Tournament. He didn’t have that chance at previous Sun Belt stops.

Forrest’s tenure across many different college basketball programs demonstrates two expectations for his work as an assistant: The team is going to win a lot, and the recruiting classes are going to be historically great.

In Duncan and Forrest, SMU has added two brilliant basketball minds with considerable people-management skills to its bench. While assistant coaches typically don’t get the credit they deserve for a team’s success, these men can be paramount in sustaining the growth of SMU basketball. As Tim Jankovich enters his first season as SMU head coach, Duncan and Forrest will be leaned on heavily for assistance. Considering their impressive track records, they will certainly be ready to meet the new challenges ahead of them.

Coaching changes signal new era of SMU basketball

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