2009 College Basketball Hot Seat: The Candidates, Part 2
A continuation of the first coaching candidates post.
For some reason, folks think that Tubby wants to come back south. Now, it is cold in Minnesota, but the man is building a great team again; and his time in the SEC was… well, I don’t know who would want to go back into that cauldron. Kentucky fans may be insane, but are Alabama fans much nicer, more patient? Well, probably, but still a long shot. He’s got a pretty good gig, and he’s nearly 60.
Why So Sexy: He’s won at a 70% clip overall at Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky, and now Minnesota. He’s sent a number of players into the NBA as draft picks, won a national championship, and has gone to the NCAA Tournament 14 times in 18 years.
Drawbacks: The winning is nice, but Kentucky was dissatisfied with the lack of championship banners in Tubby Smith’s 10 years. I don’t find much to quibble with, but those NBA players – the best of the lot would likely be Tayshaun Prince and Rajon Rondo – were vilified in the Bluegrass state for their inability to match expectations, especially on offense. Is that Tubby’s recruiting, his player development, or just overly high expectations?
Good for: A team who has a lot of money and a private plane to lure Tubby out of Minneapolis… personally, I don’t see why he would go to yet another school, but money does talk.
The former assistant under Nolan Richardson at Arkansas – 1994 NCAA champions with their “40 minutes of hell” style of play – has instituted the fastest 40 minutes in basketball (really, Virginia Military is faster, but not by much). Mike Anderson’s team has had some struggles, but he is in the NCAA Tournament with Missouri, who hadn’t “gone dancing” since 2003.
Why So Sexy: Anderson has Missouri playing some great ball and in an exciting uptempo style. He utilizes a number of players, young and old. Anderson recruits guys who can play his system. The team’s defensive field goal percentage is excellent, but their turnover rate is more spectacular. They handle the ball well. He rebuilt a Missouri program at a low point, and coming off of some scandal.
Drawbacks: If big success in the NCAA Tournament requires 2-3 NBA players, then Mike Anderson – who hasn’t sent anyone to the top American professional basketball association – isn’t yet primed for the big success. His style took 3 years to institute at Missouri, a period that also featured a few arrests and nightclub incidents that schools hate to be involved with. But he never said he wouldn’t be interested in a return to, say, Alabama, where he coached (Alabama-Birmingham).
Good for: A team who needs excitement, hustle, and has a little patience – it might take a year or two to get the proper mix of precision and pressure working for the team.
Former Tom Izzo assistant Frank Haith is on this list in part because of a rumor that he is looking to leave Miami, and might be a candidate at Alabama from CBS Sports. Now, I have no doubt that there is some truth to the rumor that Alabama is interested but…. Haith has a single NCAA appearance under his belt; his teams look like St. John’s on offense with much better players – little flow and a lot of physical hitting. There’s also the lack of a point guard… and the point guard they had getting arrested. Haith says he will absolutely return. We will see.
Why So Sexy: Haith’s team made a NCAA run last year. He has developed a nice rotation of tough, physical defenders who make scoring hard and don’t foul the other teams’ players; he has recruited some solid talent to a school that hasn’t often attracted quality players. The Hurricanes tend to rebound very well.
Drawbacks: They don’t have much point guard play and have not in a while. Frank Haith’s teams, while defensively tough, don’t pressure the ball enough, keeping them out of the elite chaos-bringing level of defense. Haith has only won 55% of his games. And yes, the ACC is a tough conference, but at least one year with single-digit losses would inspire more confidence in Haith’s ability to make a team elite.
Good for: A school that wants a tough, physical squad.
You may remember Reggie Theus from the Saturday morning NBC show Hang Time. Let’s just get that out of the way right now, shall we? Theus is a good team ambassador and former Rick Pitino assistant. He coached at New Mexico State for a pair of years, with transfers and holdover talent like Elijah Ingram (booted from St. John’s in that great Pitt incident). They got to the NCAA Tournament, but they lost in the first round… and then Theus coached the Sacramento Kings.
Why So Sexy: Theus managed a 10 win improvement in the New Mexico State Aggies. He attracted some solid recruits (Herb Pope being one) and was looked at as the next coach of Creighton before Dana Altman decided to stay a Blue Jay. He coached a season and a half with the Sacramento Kings.
Drawbacks: Theus has kind of a flimsy college resume, and is an unknown quantity. His New Mexico State teams turned the ball over quite a bit. The NBA is a different game, but he only won 41% of their games.
Good for: A west coast team who wants a coach with extensive playing and media experience.
Fran McCaffery gets some great performances from his Siena team. This is the second straight year they are in the NCAA Tournament, and this is the second year they have made the second round, even coming from the small MAAC conference. McCaffery gets his teams to play fast, force some turnovers, and not foul. The amount that Siena doesn’t foul is truly amazing, and has been impressive for the last 3 years. Also, Fran is a Wharton grad and has a wife who really cares about basketball (that’s a serious plus in my mind).
Why So Sexy: He’s done very well in conference everywhere he has been. McCaffery has developed solid players at Siena, and they have beaten two major conference foes (to date) with the group of Ubiles, Franklin, Hasbrouck, and Rossiter. He knows his way around the prep schools in the northeast. McCaffery’s team can win shooting from outside and inside, depending on his talent. The Saints force turnovers.
Drawbacks: McCaffery’s teams have not been elite, but that might be a question of the level/ conference they play in. There is some question as to why Fran has not gone for a higher profile job, coaching at Lehigh, taking assistant jobs for 10 years, and then coaching at UNC-Greensboro and then at Siena. Then again, his career winning percentage is 57%; his winning percentage at Siena is much better – 65% – while willingly taking on the nation’s best competition.
Good for: A team who needs a very good coach who develops players, and doesn’t want to break the bank for a coach who is already at a school with deep pockets. Fran McCaffery is close to Virginia Athletic Director Craig Littlepage… which means that if St. John’s should remove the current head coach, there will be competition for McCaffery’s services.
The former Tom Izzo assistant has been with the Dayton Flyers for 6 seasons in his first head coaching stint. And he has been very, very good. Actually, he’s been excellent, and then his teams have had some injury issues in 2006 and last year, where the Flyers were a legitimate top-25 team before Chris Wright‘s injury. Under Gregory, the Flyers have been tough and defense-oriented, much like Tom Izzo’s teams, but with more pressure. They speed the other team up and don’t get the ball stolen (though they do have a number of non-steal turnovers) and rebound well.
Why So Sexy: Brian Gregory’s teams are getting better and better every year, and he gets his players to play against the best teams in the country. They play an exciting style (10+ deep) and with the pressure they bring, they’re always in the game. They play pressure but usually they don’t play a helter-skelter fast style – they actually are in the lower half of Division I in pace, and have been for years.
Drawbacks: I suppose one never knows how well a coach can recruit high-level players until he is at a high-level basketball school, and Gregory’s only real marquee recruit is Chris Wright. This year’s team is a poor-shooting squad, and the free throw shooting for Dayton hasn’t been very good in Gregory’s tenure. In fact, his teams have been so-so shooters, non-elite defenders, and force fewer turnovers than one would think with their defensive style. As well, he hasn’t developed a quality big man in his time at Dayton.
Good for: A team who needs an up-and-coming coach with an ability to adapt to his personnel and coach some players up. Though he did just sign a contract extension. It is not on paper yet.