February 18, 2024 

Portal Perspective: Which coaches are turning over top-tier transfer talent?

Let's remember a truly unprecedented number of transfers

In the days before the one-time transfer waiver, a coach consistently losing key players to the transfer portal was a canary in the coalmine, a sign that something was going seriously wrong with their program. Nowadays, a coach not losing any undergraduate transfers suggests they aren’t bringing in enough talent in the first place. Even Dawn Staley and Tara VanDerveer have parted with All-American-caliber players in recent years.

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But Staley and VanDerveer are not losing talent year after year. That honor belongs to a set of coaches across the country who span a wide variety of levels of acclaim and job security. For many fans and analysts, it’s hard to tell which of these coaches are in trouble and which are bringing in enough talent to offset the transfers. There is a difference between consistently turning over talent on a roster and actually losing talent en masse.

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To solve this issue, I propose a highly scientific measure of determining how problematic mass transfers are for a coach: speculating whether a team made up of players who have transferred out of their program would beat a team made up of players who graduated from their program.

In some cases, the answer to who would win is simple. In some cases, it’s a wash. In some, there are a couple players propping up one team and their results should be taken with a grain of salt.

Let’s get into it.

Brenda Frese, Maryland

Frese is limited to the past decade, since transfers at this level were so rare before then

God, that is so much talent. That is just a wild amount of talent Frese has recruited over the past decade.

My money is on the Pro-Frese faction. I think that roster works better and its bench is definitely far better than the Antifreeze bench. The opposing faction clearly has more star power, though, and I wouldn’t be shocked if most people thought the Antifreeze faction would win.

Brenda Frese is an elite recruiter, and she is turning over talent, not just losing it.

Jeff Walz, Louisville

Walz is limited to the past decade, since transfers at this level were so rare before then

Pro-Walz wins this one. The Ant-Walz team here has a legitimately good roster top to bottom, which is pretty surprising for a team that would lose by roughly a million points. Jeff Walz is turning over talent, not just losing it.

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Kelly Graves, Oregon

This matchup, alongside the Frese one, is the main reason I’m doing this whole bit. Because this is an incredible matchup, and wow is it crazy that this could even be close when Graves still has on his side the best one-two punch since UConn’s fourpeat in Ionescu and Satou Sabally. What also stands out is that the Kelly Graves/Mark Campbell combo could recruit the hell out of one-dimensional shooters and play-finishing bigs.

Anyway, the first notable thing about the Anti-Graves faction is that of those 10 players, nine of them came from just the 2020-21 roster. The other notable thing was that I couldn’t even list all the players who could start for other teams in this article, like Taylor Bigby and Chanaya Pinto and Taylor Chavez. If I set the cutoff here at the past four years, the result would be an obliteration of the Pro-Graves team.

My call is that Anti-Graves wins this matchup. If we include that level of depth — heck, even if we don’t — the Pro-Graves faction is going to need a combined 60 points from Ionescu and the Saballys to keep up. I don’t know if that’s realistic.

Adia Barnes, Arizona

Yes, I am shoehorning both Vonleh and Ware into the same lineup even though they’re both pure centers. Sue me.

Anyway, it’s way too early to call this one in favor of the Anti-Barnes faction, and I highly doubt that it will end up pulling ahead. But this is at least worth noting. Adia Barnes is doing fine and this one goes Pro-Barnes. Though breaking down each of these teams by when they played at Arizona shows a trend that looks a bit like Graves’ — losing talent en masse.

Lynne Roberts, Utah

Roberts would probably do well to hang on to her posts a bit better — I couldn’t even fit Peyton McFarland and Lola Pendande on the Anti-Roberts depth chart, and either one of them is good enough to be the Pro-Roberts backup center. That said, this is barely a contest — the win goes to Pro-Roberts.

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Scott Rueck, Oregon State

Rueck is limited to the past decade, since transfers at this level were so rare before then

Oh hey, it’s Destiny Slocum again! And yes, I am once again shoehorning two pure centers into the opposing lineup. Blame Rueck himself, though: he started them together for a few years (and it was a very clunky fit). Either way, the Pro-Rueck faction runs away with this one.

Written by Em Adler

Em Adler (she/they) covers the WNBA at large and college basketball for The Next, with a focus on player development and the game behind the game.

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