KINGSTON, R.I. - Rhode Island Men's Basketball Coach David Cox is one of 12 national finalists for the 2019 Joe B. Hall Award, which is presented annually to the top first-year coach in Division I.
In his first season at the helm, Cox has led Rhode Island to a 17-14 record and a spot in the Atlantic 10 Championship Quarterfinals. He has his team playing its best basketball at the right time, as the Rams have won five straight games, including Thursday's A-10 second-round win over La Salle.
A part of the Rhode Island program that won the A-10 tournament in 2017 and the league's regular-season title last season, Cox inherited a team that lost six players to the professional ranks. Jared Terrell (NBA), E.C. Matthews (Finland), Stanford Robinson (G-League), Andre Berry (Spain), Jarvis Garrett (Cyprus) and Nicola Akele (Italy) all played professional basketball this season.
Cox has been able to blend four true freshmen into his regular rotation, including two who are starters. Jermaine Harris has started every game at forward, while Tyrese Martin was inserted into the starting five midway through the season. Dana Tate and Omar Silverio have also been key contributors throughout the season.
The team's veterans have also shown significant growth this season. After being the team's primary distributor in his first two seasons, junior Jeff Dowtin increased his scoring from 9.6 points per game to a team-high 15.2 per game this season. He also has a team-best 120 assists, making him the first Ram with 100+ assists in consecutive years since Mike Powell did so in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
After starting three games in his first two seasons, junior Cyril Langevine has started every game. He more than doubled his scoring average, going from 6.1 points to 14.9 points per game. He also led the A-10 in rebounding, going from 5.8 rebounds to 10.0 per game. Langevine earned second team all-conference honors after recording 17 double-doubles, the most by a Ram since Lamar Odom had 19 in 1998-99.
Sophomore Fatts Russell also transitioned into a starting role and doubled his scoring, assist and steal totals. Russell went from 7.0 points, 53 assists and 27 steals as a freshman to 14.7 points, 114 assists and 54 steals this season. He set a program record for points in a road game when he poured in 41 at Saint Joseph's, a performance that helped him earn CBSSports.com National Player of the Week honors.
Dowtin, Langevine and Russell all earned Atlantic 10 Player of the Week recognition this season.
With Thursday's win over La Salle, Cox has the fourth most wins by a first-year coach at Rhode Island. Jim Harrick (25-9 in 1997-98), Claude English (21-8 in 1980-81), and Tom Penders (20-10 in 1987-88) are the only coaches to win more. Cox passed Bob "Red" Haire, who was 16-6 in 1948-49.
The Joe B. Hall Award is named for the man who was given the task of following the legendary Adolph Rupp. In his first season at the University of Kentucky, Hall finished 20-8, won the SEC and advanced to the NCAA Regional Finals.
From 1972 to 1985 Hall would win two-thirds of his games (297-100), receive four SEC Coach of the Year honors and win a National Championship (1978). Along with the 1978 title, Hall also guided Kentucky to a runner-up finish to UCLA in the 1975 NCAA tournament, a Final Four appearance in the 1984 NCAA Tournament and an NIT championship in 1976. He won 8 Southeastern Conference regular season championships and one Southeastern Conference tournament championship (1984).
Hall is one of only three men to win an NCAA championship as a player (1949- Kentucky) and coach (1978- Kentucky). The only others to achieve this feat are Bob Knight and Dean Smith.
The recipient of the 2019 Joe B. Hall award will be announced on April 5 at the College Insider Awards Event, in Minneapolis, site of the 2019 NCAA division I basketball championship.
2019 JOE B. HALL AWARD FINALISTS
Griff Aldrich, Longwood
Jeremy Ballard, FIU
David Cox, Rhode Island
Darian DeVries, Drake
Jared Grasso, Bryant
Penny Hardaway, Memphis
Tavaras Hardy, Loyola
Justin Hutson, Fresno State
Dusty May, FAU
Chris Ogden, UT Arlington
Sam Scholl, San Diego
Travis Steele, Xavier