STARKVILLE — In an attempt to help the Mississippi State University men’s basketball team open recruiting roads to the Midwest, new MSU coach Rick Ray announced Monday the hiring of assistant coach Chris Hollender.
Hollender, 35, spent the past three years as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Evansville University.
“Chris is a guy I’ve known for a long time,” Ray said in a university release. “He has an outstanding reputation as a worker, a recruiter, and, more importantly, as a great on-the-court basketball coach. He will do an unbelievable job with skills development for our players and helping me teach in the intricacies of the motion offense.”
Hollender likely will be asked to infuse the MSU roster with talent from Chicago, Indianapolis, and St. Louis. Those areas were his main recruiting targets while at Evansville under coach Marty Simmons.
“He did an awesome job for us,” Simmons said. “He’s smart, knowledgeable, and is a great communicator with the players. As good as a coach as he is, he’s an even better person. He’s A-plus in everything. He’s a quality person and someone I consider family. He’ll do a great job at Mississippi State.”
Like Ray, Hollender is a coach with second-generation coaching tree ties to Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight. While Ray worked at Indiana State for Royce Waltman, a former assistant coach for Knight, Hollender worked for Simmons, who played for Knight from 1984-1985.
“I’m very fortunate, and I’m very excited to get to work at such a well-respected institution and for a guy I’ve known and trusted for a very long time,” Hollender said. “Coach Ray is a relentless worker with impeccable character and is second to none in his knowledge with the game of basketball.”
After spending his freshman season at Lake Land (Ill.) College in his hometown of Mattoon, Ill., he transferred to Evansville and became an All-Missouri Valley Conference standout. As a senior, he led the Missouri Valley Conference in field goal percentage (.548). He also was captain of the MVC’s Most Improved Team in 1998 after his scoring average rose from 11.8 points per game as a junior to 16.5 as a senior.
In 84 career games, including his 70 starts, Hollender averaged 12.3 points and 5.9 rebounds. He is 42nd all-time on the school’s scoring chart.
After graduating with a degree in marketing, Hollender spent one season with Bremerhaven in Germany before joining the St. Louis Swarm of the International Basketball League. The Swarm won the IBL Championship in each of Hollender’s two seasons with the club
Hollender then signed on with the Rockford Lightning of the Continental Basketball Association, where he played 14 games in the 2001-02 campaign before starting his coaching career at Army.
Ray is expected to complete his coaching staff today by naming Adam Gordon as MSU’s Director of Basketball Operations.
Gordon spent last season in the same position at Northern Colorado University. Prior to that, he spent three seasons at Clemson University. Two of those seasons at Clemson were when Ray was an assistant coach to Tigers coach Brad Brownell.
Gordon served as the Tigers’ graduate assistant in the 2010-11 season, and his primary duties were assisting in practice, coordinating on-campus visits, and providing assistance with film breakdown and recruiting mailouts.
Gordon was an assistant coach at Central Florida Community College in Ocala, Fla., from 2006-08. He was responsible for recruiting, player development, scouting, video editing and exchange, and academic counseling. He helped the Patriots to two appearances in the NJCAA Florida state tournament.
Prior to his coaching stop in Ocala, Gordon was head manager and student assistant coach at the University of Tampa from 2002-06. Gordon has also served as a counselor at many high-profile summer basketball camps, including with UCLA, the Phoenix Suns, and the Sacramento Kings, as well as at camps run by NBA standouts Jason Kidd and Amar’e Stoudemire.