Villanova hires former Quinnipiac head coach Baker Dunleavy as basketball GM

It’s free agency season in college basketball and money matters. Yes, that’s the current, ever-evolving climate the sport is in, and it’s why Villanova followed a new trend: hiring a general manager. 

University vice president and athletic director Mark Jackson announced on Thursday morning that Baker Dunleavy, now former Quinnipiac head coach who played at Villanova from 2003-06 and served as an assistant under Jay Wright from 2010-17, would be taking on this newly-created athletic department role to manage the men’s and women’s basketball programs. 

The announcement came just minutes after Quinnipiac released a statement that Dunleavy was stepping down after six seasons at the helm in Hamden, where he went 86-93. In the same announcement, the Bobcats named former Hofstra (2001-10) and Fordham (2010-15) coach Tom Pecora their new head coach. The 65-year-old was Dunleavy’s associate head coach for the last six years. 

Villanova’s decision to bring Dunleavy back to the Main Line, where he was Wright’s right-hand man as associate head coach for the national championship run in 2016, is a smart and creative move. Dunleavy is a school of business graduate and will take on name, image and likeness within the men’s and women’s basketball programs while monitoring the transfer portal and looking at ways to build players’ brands. 

For a men’s program that missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012 and went 17-17 in Kyle Neptune’s first season, Dunleavy is a familiar face and should only boost the Wildcats in his return.

Villanova’s roster will be highlighted by the return of fifth-year senior Justin Moore, who came back from an Achilles injury and propelled the Wildcats to a late-season surge this past year. With Eric Dixon back to lead the frontcourt efforts and an expected leap from sophomore point guard Mark Armstrong, the Cats have a strong core developing. They are also awaiting a decision from Washington State transfer TJ Bamba (15.8 PPG on 43% FG last season), who is set to choose between Villanova and Georgia Tech on Friday. 

Villanova’s announcement on Thursday is the latest case of the college game showing principles of the professional ranks, because in this day and age, it’s necessary. 

Over 20% of Division I men’s scholarship players have entered the transfer portal, most notably Hunter Dickinson of Michigan. NIL dollars are playing key roles in determining many of these players’ next stops. So, like Duke did in hiring the first-ever general manager in college basketball last June with former Nike executive Rachel Baker, the Wildcats are following suit. 

Others will do the same.

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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