A day after the Dons’ first round exit in the NCAA Tournament on March 18, USF announced that its associate head coach, Chris Gerlufsen, will become its 21st head coach in program history.
The announcement came after Matt Norlander of CBS Sports broke the news that Todd Golden had taken over as head coach for the University of Florida with a six year, $18 million contract. Golden left USF after three seasons, compiling a 57-36 record, and leading the team to its biggest basketball achievements in decades, including its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1998.
Given the turnaround in success that Golden had with USF, media speculation of him leaving had already begun prior to the Dons tournament game against Murray State. In an article by the San Francisco Chronicle, Golden avoided questions when asked if he would like to coach for a Power-5 team. 48 hours later, the rumors were revealed to be true and USF found itself searching for a new head coach for the second time in three years.
In a similar blueprint of sticking with current staff when Kyle Smith left USF for Washington State in 2019 and Golden took over, Athletics Director Joan McDermott and her team did not look far in their hiring process and quickly turned to promoting Chris Gerlufsen.
“Having had the opportunity to observe Coach Gerlufsen on the bench this season as well at Hawai’i and San Diego, we are thrilled to have his leadership and expertise for our student-athletes as we aim to continue our success both on and off the court,” McDermott said.
After serving as top assistant for schools such as Hartford, San Diego and Hawaii, the 45-year-old coach now has his first opportunity as a full-time head coach. “My time here on the Hilltop has been nothing short of spectacular thus far. I’m indebted to Coach Golden for his leadership and friendship and I know he will have continued success at the University of Florida,” Gerlufsen said.
Hired in June 2021, this past season was Gerlufsen’s first year at USF. The offensive-minded coach spearheaded the team’s offensive improvements. He worked closely with guards Jamaree Bouyea and Khalil Shabazz, who both had their career best seasons. He also recruited standout Yauhen Massalski during his time at the University of San Diego, where he spent the 2015-19 season as an assistant.
The Philadelphia native had always set his sights on leading a Division 1 school as a head coach. Basketball and coaching have been a significant part of Gerlufsen’s life. Speaking with the San Francisco Chronicle, Gerlufsen said that since he was a kid, he was at “gyms all the time” and “loved everything about it: the competition, the friendships, the grind.” His father, Ron Gerlufsen, served as head coach for the University of Massachusetts.
In his 24 years of serving as a graduate assistant, assistant coach, and associate head coach, Gerlufsen has a consistent track record of guiding teams in improving their offense and recruiting. While at San Diego, Gerlufsen led efforts in expanding the school’s global recruitment, signing more than half a dozen international players.
Now, Gerlufsen takes over a team in transition. Its two best players, Bouyea and Massalski, both All-West Coast Conference First Team selections, are ineligible to return. Shabazz has the option to return for one more year under the NCAA COVID-19 impacted rules, but also can go pro.
The task of building off the recent success from the Kyle Smith and Todd Golden eras is Gerlufsen’s biggest challenge. In five of the last six seasons, Dons basketball teams have won 20 or more games. While the rest of the team stays intact, every year the team has seen some kind of improvement. USF will likely try and convince Shabazz to stay, as well as utilize the transfer portal like last season.
With his deep basketball background, his familiarity with the West Coast Conference, and finally given the opportunity to be a head coach, Gerlufsen said, “I am ready to get to work immediately with our players to build on the foundation that has been laid as we will strive to continue to compete for West Coast Conference championships and national recognition.”