2009 College Basketball Hot Seat: The Candidates, Part 1
see earlier posts in this series: 2009 College Basketball Coaches on the Hot Seat | 2009 Coaches On the Hot Seat: The Firing Squad Started, Gottfried + Felton
It’s part of the job, and every college coach knows. They probably fear it. No one wants to hear they they are on the hot seat. It means abuse for your family who come out to watch the games, it means the kids you recruited are going to be called “bums,” it means that every fan all of a sudden knows the Athletic Director’s name, email, and phone number, and writes impassioned (or just plain rude) screeds imploring him or her to REMOVE THE COLLEGE BASKETBALL COACH! Froth, anger, and a spinning carousel of coaching possible swirl in the local papers. National columnists write off your team for good.
Fully understand – putting together a quality basketball program and achieving the metrics of success that a coach promised in their interview – conference banners, fans in the seats, an exciting style of play that attracts students and players, an increase in “Q” score – all of that is a tough task in the face of competitive conferences. Fans are dissatisfied with anything short of a national championship, though for most teams, a lot less will do.
But sometimes, there is so little improvement or so little consistency that an Athletic Director really needs to turn the reins over to someone else. And there are different reasons, such as the abject failure of DePaul; the 5-year mostly uncompetitive streak at one of the top-10 winningest programs of all time at St John‘s (I’ve written about it here, here, here, and here, I think that counts as “ad nauseum“); the perennial hot seat and vast (ridiculous? over-marketed?) resources at Oregon; the Lute Olsen retirement at Arizona; the not meeting expectations when bringing in a major conference coach like Larry Eustachy at Southern Miss; or not meeting the big-time in everything expectations at Georgia and Alabama, where the coaches are already at home getting over the ignominy of a mid-year firing, settling into a good book between networking calls. No one wants to hear how hard the job is – the call is for results.
Interestingly, a mix of a down economy and more likely, decent success may keep the coaches at Northwestern, Florida State, Penn State, and even Rutgers and Seton Hall in place; it might even save some of the coaches who work at previously mentioned schools.
Meanwhile, some good coaching jobs are being done out in college basketball. Some coaches from the professional ranks might like a different kind of pressure and the opportunity to teach. Some retreads are looking to recapture their good name. And schools are looking to make the right kind of hire, the guy who will excite the fans, sell season tickets (in a down economy), get the buzz out to recruits, and help but a little shine on the school.
Without further ado, here are some candidates, broken up into categories:
Sexy Candidates – The [Fill In Name of Flash in the Pan Actress Here] of coaches, 2009
I don’t know what’s got people thinking that he’s such a candidate to leave. Certainly, Memphis is not the heart of the world, but he has a fiefdom. And he makes his win total swell in bunches every year he’s there. He is nearly guaranteed to make the tournament every year. Maybe he likes being a huge fish in a pond (and with a schedule) of his own making, pumping up his win total and tournament achievements.
Why So Sexy: Winning. Slickness. Top Recruits. Great on defense and offense. He understands marketing. He has handled top-level one-and-done players, sends ballers to the NBA, gets his teams to play tough. Getting to the NCAA finals sure doesn’t hurt his name any, either.
Drawbacks: Gosh, I don’t know… vacated Final Fours/ Camby taking money, players’ off court indiscretions, more off court indiscretions, the presence of Worldwide Wes, Worldwide Wes and Milt Wagner’s employment at Memphis, the recruiting calls to Abdul Gaddy from a Memphis booster… he is perceived as too slick. Wonder why.
Good for: The team that doesn’t mind winning at all costs… and he wouldn’t come cheap, commanding one of the highest fees for coaching in the nation.
Being nearly named the next head coach of Florida before Billy Donovan reconsidered has its perks. His Virginia Commonwealth team knocked off Duke in the NCAA tournament and has done well in the parity-filled Colonial Athletic Conference, but it’s the only place he’s coached.
Why So Sexy: He’s been the “it” name for SEC openings, seems to be able to recruit a little. Personally, the fact that he has single digit losses in each of his three years means the man can likely coach a little. He has a very good “name” point guard in Eric Maynor to his credit, one who beat Duke in 2007’s NCAA Tournament.
Drawbacks: He’s only been a head coach for 3 years. His roster still includes the former coach’s players, and the former coach is Jeff Capel… Hasn’t sent players to the NBA as a head coach, but he is in the CAA.
Good for: The south; teams who want a solid, young name; a school with a solid recruiting base (he made his name as a recruiter at Florida).
Having a top-5 Oklahoma Sooner team all season – and possibly a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament – brings in accolades. As does recruiting very well, being a former Duke player, and getting Virginia Commonwealth to the NCAA Tournament. The coach that quickly turned around the scandal-marred post-Kelvin Sampson Sooners has done a great job.
Why So Sexy: See above. Winner. And he’s young. Georgia has a bit of a chubby for Capel. He’s a former standout Dukie, so he knows successful systems from Coach K. His dad’s a coach as well.
Drawbacks: Oklahoma’s a football school that pours money into its athletics. Would Capel leave to come back to the southeast? If the region isn’t a draw, Oklahoma can either match whatever money Capel’s offered or drive up Jeff’s price into the prohibitive range. I can’t think of any top NBA draft picks that have come out of either school, but Blake Griffin will soon change that. Not many negatives here. But he’s only been to the NCAAs twice and has reached just the second round.
Good for: The team willing to spend oodles of money on a near sure-thing.
The Xavier Musketeers coach comes from the Pittsburgh system, and has brought Xavier to even better heights than the program has enjoyed under the other great coaches they have had. Single digit losses for three years running (only 3 losses in 08-09) and a 72.5% winning percentage. His team will soon make it 4 straight NCAA appearances in what is probably the best conference that is not SEC/ ACC/ Big East/ Big 10/ Big 12/ Pac 10. The man can coach. He recently brought in Book Richardson to help him recruit the New York City area.
Why So Sexy: He’s good. Tough defense. Deep runs in the NCAA Tournament. Good recruiting, good staff that helps with recruiting. Has worked with a McDonald’s All American (transfer Drew Lavender). Was a standout guard at Pittsburgh. Worked well with a young team and a freshman point guard. Has an Elite Eight run to his credit.
Drawbacks: It’s gonna cost ya. Xavier is a lot better than a lot of other jobs; and Miller might choose to wait for the Pittsburgh job, or he might love being in Cincinnati.
Good for: What ails ya. Besides the fact that he hasn’t been a head coach at the top levels – he elevated the level of his team instead – I don’t know why teams wouldn’t want him… but the price will be high.
One of the most famous names in coaching has over 900 wins. He also quit on his team in the middle of a season. Personally, I think that is low, and not the behavior of someone I would hire for a head coaching position. That is not the way to teach young men perseverance. You can google video of many of his misdeeds. But Knight’s got a interest in the sweet peach of Georgia.
Why So Sexy: Name recognition. Doing it the “right way.” Solid fundamental basketball. Tough disciplinarian. Puts fans in the seats by that name recognition. Has had great teams, doesn’t take guff, wins with very little talent.
Drawbacks: You think this guy wants to recruit top-level athletes? Name the top athletes he’s brought in… over the last 15 years! He does things the “Knight way.” He is tough to deal with for administrators (though that can be a good thing). Mediocre results in the past 20 years. Doesn’t use the three-point shot enough. Quit on his Texas Tech team in mid season.
Good for: A school that wants things done the old-school disciplinarian way. A school with okay talent that wants to maximize it, and prefers good students to high-level talent, and isn’t thinking about a long-term solution at coach.
For nearly ten years Mark Few has been rolling at Gonzaga, overseeing an expansion of the Gonzaga brand and helping fund their conference. He is often mentioned for coaching openings, and is a friend of the Oregon athletic director Pat Kilkenny (edit: who is now the former AD, giving up the job to former football coach Mike Bellotti); rumors had Ducks men’s basketball coach Ernie Kent run out so the AD could bring in Mark Few. Now, Kent’s probably near the end of his tenure at the U of Oregon (8-22 overall) so is the time right…? Others, like Arizona, would like to make a run at Few’s coaching skills as well.
Why So Sexy: Winning. Building a mid-major program that rivals Memphis and is the goal for teams like Xavier. A near 80% win percentage. Players know his name, and he has sent a few guys to the NBA.
Drawbacks: He’s only coached at Gonzaga. His teams are often… a little soft. No final four teams. High-ranked Bulldog squads that routinely are upset by lower seeds in the tournament (see: 2002, 2004 as a 2 seed losing to a 10, 2005, 2008). Most of those guys sent to the NBA are not there anymore, outside of Ronny Turiaf… but he does coach at Gonzaga, so he might get better talent at another school.
Good for: A team that needs a strong, experienced coach who knows how to build a whole program. A coach clearly motivated by things other than looking for the next stop, or he would have left Spokane long ago.
The youthful-looking Butler Bulldog coach inherited a solid squad from now-Iowa coach Todd Lickliter. With freshmen and sophomores this year, however, he is burning up the win column. His team was picked to finish fifth in the Horizon league, and finished first. He’s not just youthful looking… he’s 32 years old…
Why So Sexy: He’s young, he’s successful, he’s building a great program. Well-spoken, he’s led an experienced team (last year) and led an inexperienced team of talented freshmen he brought in. Seriously, those freshmen were amazing, and that has to do with training and getting his point across.
Drawbacks: He’s only been a head coach for 2 years. It’s not entirely known if he can sustain strong recruiting (but the class he brought in was great). He’s been coaching at a small school, different than the frothy fishbowl of schools like Georgia.
Good for: A team who needs a young, dynamic coach and a face of the program.
Coming up: Part 2, the more likely candidates.