graduation 2024
Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Thousands of 
people from the Central Valley and other places came to graduation in the Save Mart Center to watch Fresno State
students walk across the stage to complete their 
college career.  
college career. Photo by Rosemarie Borunda
Fresno State announces 2024 president's and deans' medalists
May 17, 2024
Faculty members weigh in on Fresno States rapid increase in athletics spending
Faculty members weigh in on Fresno State's rapid increase in athletics spending
May 6, 2024

Column: Fresno State should roll with the tide and hire Ryan Pannone

Jacqueline Carrillo/The Collegian
Fresno State men’s basketball players huddle up in the Thomas & Mack Center on March 13.

When Justin Hutson led the Bulldogs to a 23-9 record in 2018-19, his first season as the head coach for the Fresno State men’s basketball team, the program seemed to be on an upward trajectory.

That promising season proved to be a mirage. However, it resulted in an extremely underwhelming tenure.

The Bulldogs proceeded to go 69-85 in his final five seasons before the school decided to part ways with the coach last month.

Back to square one, Fresno State is tasked with finding a coach to lead a struggling program that has made the NCAA tournament just once in 2016 since 2002.

The university held interviews this past week with several candidates, including Santa Clara Assistant Coach Scott Garson, Arkansas Assistant Coach Keith Smart, Clovis West High School Head Coach Vance Walberg and Alabama Assistant Coach Ryan Pannone.

None of these names necessarily stand out to the average fan, but all possess a wealth of coaching experience in college or in the NBA.

As of Friday, April 5, that list was narrowed down to two: Walberg and Pannone.

Walberg is the most tenured of the four finalists, having coached since 1978. He is the only one of the four to have head coaching experience at the collegiate level.

Walberg spent two seasons (2006-08) leading Pepperdine University but his time there was cut short due to his health. His 14-35 record however would suggest his leash would have been short regardless.

Walberg spent the next four seasons as an assistant at the University of Massachusetts. From there he spent four seasons as an assistant in the NBA with three different teams.

He returned home to Fresno in 2016 where he resumed coaching at Clovis West where he also coached from 1989-2002.

In the case of Pannone, 39, he is the youngest of the bunch, but still offers experience and promise. Here are three reasons Fresno State should hire Pannone to be the next head coach for the Bulldogs.

Pannone has a wealth of experience developing talent.

Going global, Pannone has over 20 years of coaching experience at the high school, junior college and international levels with the Guangzhou Loong Lions (2012-13), the Erie BayHawks, the White Wings Hanau (2015-16), Hapoel Jerusalem (2016-17, 2018-19) and with Prievidza (2017-18).

The Crimson Tide coach has proven his ability to coach at all levels, both in the United States and internationally.

Most notably, he has spent over six years in the NBA with the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies, working with over 80 NBA players including Herbert Jones, Trey Murphy, John Petty Jr. and Kira Lewis Jr.

At Alabama, he has been instrumental in helping the Tide reach the Final Four, where they will compete with Connecticut on April 6 for a spot in the National Championship.

There’s no guarantee that he could take the Bulldogs to that level, but the program needs a significant boost in development and Pannone fits the mold perfectly.

He would be taking on a roster with a lot of turnovers. Of all the players that averaged at least 1 point per game during the 2023-24 season for the Bulldogs, only guard Jalen Weaver (7.4 PPG) is currently slated to return.

Bulldog guards Isaiah Hill and Isaiah Pope are graduating without any eligibility remaining. Meanwhile, six different players have entered the transfer portal: Eduardo Andre, Enoch Boakye, Donovan Yap, Isaac Traveras, Leo Colimerio and Xavier DuSell, all of whom started regularly.

Beyond Weaver, the remaining roster includes Chuks Isitua, Chase Courtney, Pierre Geneste Jr, Steven Vasquez Jr, Jeff Sims Jr. and AJ Robinson. The stats of those six players combined equates to just six field goals this past season.

Whoever is hired will essentially have a blank roster to build the team to their liking. Pannone could use his connections overseas and in the southeastern part of the country to build a well-rounded roster.

Pannone is a master of the X’s and O’s.

Alabama Head Coach Nate Oats holds high praise for his assistant.

“Over my last four years at Alabama, I have gotten to know Ryan through his work with the Pelicans organization. He is one of the brightest minds in the game of basketball and a relentless worker,” Oats said, according to the Alabama website. “Ryan brings a wealth of X’s and O’s experience to Tuscaloosa from his time coaching in the NBA, G League and overseas.”

The stats back it up too. Alabama ranked number one in the country in several offensive categories including scoring (90.6 PPG) and offensive efficiency this season.

While Hutson coached at Fresno State, one of the Bulldog’s biggest flaws was the lack of execution in crunch time. This includes a crushing final loss against Utah State, in which the ‘Dogs were outscored 17-5 in overtime to end the season.

Pannone should help significantly in that department. His ability to draw up a play to get a basket at the end of regulation will help him win more close games.

He has the connections to build an elite coaching staff.

As previously mentioned, Pannone has created a network of connections around the globe with his expansive and diverse coaching experience.

Who might be on his staff is unclear, but one name almost certain to be in the mix is Fresno native and nine-year NBA vet Quincy Pondexter.

Pondexter was interested in the head coaching position himself, but was denied an interview because he didn’t meet the five years of coaching experience requirement.

The pair were first acquainted in 2013 when Pondexter played for the Grizzlies summer league team, coached by Panonne.

Pondexter would be an incredible hire as an assistant. Not only does he already have three years of coaching experience at the University of Washington, but he knows the Central Valley basketball scene better than anyone.

Even while playing in the NBA and coaching the last three years in Washington, the former San Joaquin Memorial Panther would frequently return home to his roots.

Beyond Pondexter, Pannone’s staff has plenty of options. That is where his connections would come in handy.

Of the four finalists, they all have extensive coaching experience, but only one presents the Bulldogs with the best chance to return to relevance, which is something the Fresno State basketball program has yet to see in a very long time. That man is Pannone.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Collegian
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of Fresno State Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Collegian
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *