The West Coast Conference’s youngest head coach at just 34, the University of San Francisco’s Todd Golden is about to head into his first season taking over for the Dons’ most successful coach in two decades — Kyle Smith, the man who hired him.
On Thursday in Las Vegas, the rest of the conference showed just what it thinks of the team he inherited.
After a disappointing home stretch last season cost the team a shot at their first NCAA Tournament since 1998, Smith left for Washington State, and Golden took over a team that had lost three of its top players. They were just picked to finish sixth in the WCC in the annual preseason poll, with just one player — guard Charles Minlend — picked as part the preseason All-WCC team.
“We lost three guys who played significant minutes,” Golden said in an interview in July. “We have some guys who are ready for the challenge, but they’re not the same type of players. We’ve got to figure out what are we going to do to put those guys in the best situation possible to be successful, instead of trying to fit square pegs in round holes.”
Having lost starting point guard Frankie Ferrari, leading rebounder and starting forward Matt McCarthy and senior wing Nate Renfro, the Dons will be different on both ends of the court.
Golden, Smith’s defensive coordinator, has taken to speaking with Golden State Warriors defensive guru Ron Adams — sitting and chatting with him, on one occasion, at practice during the NBA Finals — and has paid close attention to how the Warriors defend. He’ll have some tweaks he wants to implement on defense that should help San Francisco be more competitive, but the offense will need more than tweaks.
San Francisco loses 30.7 points per game, meaning that Minlend, a dynamic, springy wing will have to continue to improve on his ability to hit the shots he’s able to create for himself.
Minlend was the Dons’ leading scorer for much of the season as a redshirt sophomore, shooting 43.8% from the field and averaging 15.2 points per game as the Dons went 17-3 through Feb. 2, but he averaged just 12.9 points per game over the final month of the season, shooting just 36.5% from the field as San Francisco went 4-5 and was bounced in the first round of the WCC Tournament.
His inclusion to the preseason team marks three consecutive years with a Dons player on the preseason list.
Minlend is one of three returning starters from last year’s team that won 21 games and finished fourth in the WCC, along with 3-point sniper Jordan Ratinho and center Jimbo Lull. The native of Concord, N.C. is the leading returner from last year’s team, having finished the season with 451 points, averaging 14.5 points per game.
Jamaree Bouyea quietly got a lot of experience last season and should play a bigger role in 2019-20, and Remu Raitanen should be able to step up into a larger role.
Ratinho has two major milestones within reach this season: he is just 30 points from becoming the 37th player in school history to score 1,000 points and is 34 3-point field goals from breaking the all-time program record. Lull is coming off his best season for the Dons, when he started a career-best 30 games and set career-highs in minutes played, field goal percentage, rebounds and points per game.
The season begins Tuesday, Nov. 5 when USF hosts Sonoma State. The Dons will then host Princeton at Chase Center.