Last week, HoopDirt.com posted who Reggie Witherspoon would be adding to his staff at Canisius (Canisius Dirt). It has now been made official, Chris Hawkins and Larry Blunt have joined the Golden Griffins’ coaching staff for the 2016-17 season. Additionally, Jake Kroll, a 2015 graduate of the University at Buffalo, has been added as the team’s director of basketball operations.
“I’m excited to add Chris, Larry and Jake to the men’s basketball staff here at Canisius,” Witherspoon said. “All three of these guys bring excitement and enthusiasm to our program, and they are looking forward to representing Canisius College. I look forward to working with them and having them become part of Canisius and Buffalo community.”
Hawkins, a 1992 graduate of Radford, spent the previous five seasons at his alma mater on head coach Mike Jones’ staff. In that five-year stretch, Hawkins was part of the coaching staff that helped earn 79 wins and two appearances in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI). In 2013-14, Radford received a CBI berth with a 22-13 overall mark, a program record for wins in a season, and then followed that effort with another 22-win season and a second-straight trip to the CBI. From 2011-16, Radford notched non-league wins over schools such as Georgetown, Oregon State and Penn State and as the program’s academic coach, Hawkins helped promote a graduation rate of 100 percent.
His most recent work at Radford marked his second stint on the Highlander bench, as he also spent three seasons there from 1997-99 and helped lead Radford to the school’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1998 and to a Big South Conference regular-season crown in 2000.
After his first term at Radford, Hawkins joined with Witherspoon at the University at Buffalo for seven seasons from 2000-07. In a three-year stretch from 2003-06, the Bulls won 59 games, including a 23-win season in 2004-05. In addition to his assistant coaching responsibilities at Buffalo, Hawkins served as the Bulls’ recruiting coordinator, where he helped bring players such as 2005 MAC Player of the Year Turner Battle, 2005 MAC Sixth Man of the Year Mark Bortz and All-MAC honoree Calvin Cage to UB’s program. The Brandywine, Maryland native spent the 2007-08 season at Tulane, where the Green Wave earned just their third winning campaign in a decade with an 18-15 record, highlighted by victories over Georgia, LSU and St. John’s.
As a player at Radford, Hawkins was a key piece of the 1991-92 “Never-Say-Die-Landers” team that went 20-9 and won the Big South regular-season championship. He graduated from Radford as the school’s career leader in assists with 310, highlighted by his 128 assists during the 1991-92 campaign that ranks top-10 in school history. The Radford team MVP in his senior year, he helped lead the Highlanders to 12 wins in games where the squad trailed in the second half.
“Chris Hawkins brings a wealth of college basketball coaching experience and knowledge with him to our staff, and some of that experience was working with me previously,” Witherspoon said. “He has recruited at different levels and in different parts of the country, and he is very familiar with Western New York. I am really looking forward to have the chance to work with him again.”
Blunt joins the Griffs’ staff after serving as the head coach at Orangeville Prep in Mono, Ontario for the last three seasons. At Orangeville, he had the opportunity to coach 12 players that went on to play Division I hoops, including former Kentucky guard Jamal Murray, who was taken seventh in last month’s NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets. He also coached Thon Maker, the first prep player to be drafted in the NBA Draft Lottery since 2005, when he was taken ninth overall by Milwaukee. At Orangeville, Blunt had the chance to work with future Griffs Selvedin Planincic and Dantai St. Louis as well.
A 2005 graduate of James Madison, where he was a member of the Dukes’ football program, Blunt moved to Canada and served as the head coach of the Oshawa Power in the National Basketball League of Canada. In his one year with the Power, he set the record for most wins in franchise history. Prior to taking over the reigns of the Oshawa franchise, he was an assistant coach at three different NCAA institutions.
In 2005-06, Blunt accepted his first coaching job at Eastern Mennonite, a Division III school in Harrisonburg, Va. He spent the next two seasons on the staff at Shaw University, a Division II program located in Raleigh, North Carolina, and then joined the coaching staff at Hampden-Sydney for the 2008-12 seasons. At Hampden-Sydney, Blunt recruited and coached Harrison George, a Division III All-American and Khobi Williamson, a three-time All-ODAC honoree who is currently playing professionally in Germany.
“Larry is a promising young coach who has had the chance to work at the Division II and Division III levels and then on a professional stage in Canada,” Witherspoon said. “Most recently, he coached at one of the top prep schools in North America at Orangeville, where he worked with a number of NBA players and Division I signees. I’m excited to have him on our staff and I look forward to him helping us strengthen our recruiting ties in southern Ontario.”
Kroll rejoins Witherspoon on the staff at Canisius after spending the 2015-16 season as an assistant coach with former Canisius bench boss Mike MacDonald at Daemen. With the Wildcats, he was involved in all aspects of the program, including on-floor coaching, recruiting and scouting of opponents. Before joining the staff at Daemen, Kroll served as the assistant video coordinator for the men’s basketball program at the University of Alabama for one year. In that role with the Crimson Tide, he worked closely with the team’s coaching staff, preparing and editing video scouting reports on opponents while also breaking down Alabama practice and game film for self-scouting purposes.
Prior to his time in Tuscaloosa, Kroll served as the varsity team assistant coach at Park School of Buffalo during 2013-14 season. The Lancaster, New York, native graduated cum laude with his bachelor’s degree in communication from the University at Buffalo in 2015. At Buffalo, Kroll served as a student manager for the men’s basketball program under Witherspoon. There, he assisted in the day-to-day operations of the Bulls program, handling everything from drills in practice to team travel. He also assisted with UB’s video scouting efforts.
“Jake has been around the game, and me and my programs, since he was nine years old,” Witherspoon said. “Jake worked very closely with me and the coaching staff when we were together at the University of Alabama and he has a tremendous passion for the game of basketball. He is very organized and I know he is thrilled to be a part on our staff. I am thrilled to have the chance to be working with him again.”