Steele era gets off to roaring start

Photo courtesy of | Former associate head coach Travis Steele was formally introduced as the next head coach of the men’s basketball team last Wednesday.

Xavier Athletic Director Greg Christopher wasted no time selecting the next men’s basketball coach at Xavier.

After former head coach Chris Mack informed the athletic department that he was leaving on March 27, Christopher quickly went to work and hired associate head coach Travis Steele as the next head coach of Xavier men’s basketball.

In total, seven candidates were interviewed for the position. Christopher and Steele both tweeted pictures together from San Antonio, the site of the interviews as well as the Final Four, to announce the decision.

“I am excited about the opportunity to build on the success that we’ve enjoyed in the Xavier basketball program,” Steele said.

Steele, just 36, has extensive coaching experience under his belt. The Indiana native was an original member of Mack’s coaching staff assembled nine years ago. In addition, prior to becoming a coach, he was the director of basketball operations at Xavier for a season. In 2015, Steele was promoted to associate head coach under Mack. Steele is known for his knowledge on the offensive end of the floor and is an elite recruiter.

“(Steele) brings passion, personality and organizational leadership skills to our head coaching position, which is really the CEO of our basketball program,” Christopher said. “He has earned a reputation as one of the brightest young offensive minds in the game and one of the future stars in this profession.”

Expect many of the same offensive principles to remain in place under Steele, but on the defensive end, look for some major tweaks. Steele has mentioned several times since taking the job that he wants to emphasize defense. He’s also tossed around implementing a harder press more frequently, but as he says, not to the extent of “Press Virginia” or Shaka Smart’s “Havoc” style of defense.

Next year’s team has a real chance to be Xavier’s best defensive team in recent memory. They will be long, extremely athletic and able to react well to opposing offenses.

In less than two weeks since officially accepting the position, Steele has already landed two verbal commitments from graduate transfers who will be immediately eligible to play next season.

The first, Zach Hankins, was the Division II National Player of the Year at Ferris State. He comes in standing 6’10″ and 255 pounds and is more of a true center type of post player. Hankins averaged a little more than three blocks a game in his career at Ferris State. After the adjustment to the Division I level and the play of the Big East, Hankins could be a strong pickup for Xavier.

Sunday afternoon, Columbia’s Kyle Castlin tweeted his commitment to the Musketeers. Castlin has struggled with injuries, but the 6’4″ guard will also likely be good for Xavier’s depth issues next year. While he would not necessarily be considered an elite sharpshooter, Castlin can shoot it well from three and drive to the cup.

He will have to share time in an already-crowded backcourt, but he gives the Musketeers more talent to utilize with a few scholarship spots still open.

Steele was endorsed by many and has been received very well. He hit the ground running, and Xavier fans are behind him. Now, the attention turns to November when he will finally have his chance to be the head coach in a Division I game.

By: Paul Fritschner ~Staff Writer~