When ESPN and Sports Illustrated start handing out their Coach of the Year awards late in March or April, typically they are handed out to one of two types of coaches: a big name coach leading a powerhouse to an exceptional record or a coach on the rise leading a non-traditional power to new heights. The awards are great recognition for coaches who undoubtedly have done a tremendous job with their respective teams. But more often than not, they aren’t the coaches doing the best job coaching that season. The awards are earned from compiling a couple good years of recruiting together and developing players over time; not for just their successful records that year.
But if you want to really look for the best coaching jobs of the individual season, you need to start looking at the bottom of the barrel. Look at the squads who have almost no returning talent in the power conferences, where legendary coaches are on the opposing bench two to three times a week. Graduation, transfers, and early entrants to the NBA draft can leave coaches with rosters full of question marks. When expectations are at their lowest, that’s when a great coach can really make his mark and show his excellence in his craft. Finishing in with a .500 record might not mean a lot to the national audience, but the basketball junkies will recognize a job very well done.
With that said, let’s look at some coaches who will be trying to prove all those preseason prognosticators wrong.
Steve Donahue, Boston College
Donahue will have to lead a young BC squad against the heavyweights of the ACC this year.
Here’s all you need to know about the daunting task Steve Donahue is facing this year: his top returning scorer is preferred walk-on Danny Rubin (4.1 PPG), who saw his playing time diminish in the middle of the ACC regular season. With Reggie Jackson’s early departure to the NBA and the graduation of six seniors, Donahue will realize how bare Al Skinner left the cupboard. Along with Rubin, guard Gabe Moton and junior Oregon-transfer Matt Humphrey will be the welcoming seven scholarship freshmen and a few other walk-ons. Although some of the freshmen will certainly be talented, Jeff Bzedlik learned last year how hard it is to compete in the ACC with a young, inexperienced Wake team. If Donahue can get this group to win more than five ACC games and show player development throughout the season, most Eagles fans will be thrilled.
Ed Cooley, Providence
A native of Providence, Cooley will try to resurrect the Friars and make them relevant in the Big East again. Losing first-round pick Marshon Brooks to graduation leaves quite a scoring gap for Ed Cooley’s young team and will be the reason most pundits are down on Providence. Throw in guard Duke Mondy being released from his scholarship and most will expect another bottom half finish for the Friars. But guards Gerald Coleman and Vincent Council have shown flashes of their talent and potential. But the Friars inability to consistently play team defense cost them in Big East play (8-28 Big East record previous two years) and ultimately Keno Davis his job. Cooley will be looking to build an identity that the Friar faithful can rally around and hopefully inject some life into the floundering program.
Most college coaches are given one real shot at making an impact and leaving a legacy. It’s a win or go home type career path, with tons of fame and fortune if you’re the former but endless disgust and resentment if you find yourself in the latter category.
Hopping Herb, could find himself on this list soon enough...
Sure, there’s plenty of bench bouncers and job jumpers, who seem to find their way from school to school, mid-major to mid-major or from Raleigh, NC to Arizona State (Hello, Herb Sendek and Lon Kruger). But, many college basketball coaches open and close their head coaching careers with one bad screw up.
The lucky are afforded another opportunity, or two, or five. But, how do they fare?
This year the likes of: Billy Gillispie, Mark Gottfried, and others were all given a second chance at life in the NCAA ranks. They’ve each enjoyed some success in their career but the questions still linger.
Will Gillispie prosper as he did in College Station or will he flounder like he did at Kentucky? Is Mark Gottfried the right man for N.C State, in the post Sidney Lowe era, or will his days of mediocrity in Tuscaloosa stick with him?
The queries will keep piling up amongst fans and foes alike. The unnerving “what if” scenarios will continue to fuel the fire if immediate gratification isn’t found in the form of wins and losses. And legacies will endure further criticism and scrutiny, as analysts and experts view the actions of each journeyman with a microscopic lens.
Johnny Dawkins, the former Duke basketball player and assistant coach, has signed an extension with Stanford to remain their head coach through the 2015-2016 season. But with three years remaining on his original contract and a ho-hum 49-48 overall record, why would Stanford sign him to an extension?
Will Dawkins' extension help him on the recruiting trail? It better.
Only one reason seems possible: to help Dawkins on the recruiting trail. Jon Wilner of the Mercury News explains it well:
The extension is partly a show of support for Dawkins, who’s 49-48 in three years (no NCAA appearances) and oversees a program slipping into irrelevance — even on its own campus. But it’s largely a recruiting necessity: It allows him to hit the road this month and tell rising juniors and seniors that he’s under contract at Stanford for the entirety of their college careers.
This makes a lot of sense. Stanford wants to improve its basketball program and this will hopefully help Dawkins turn it around on the recruiting trail and land some impact players for the Cardinal. Plus, it’s relatively risk-less. In the world of college athletics, a lot of these contract extensions are meaningless as the school’s protect themselves with “out-clauses” that let them get rid of the coach with limited financial loss.
Dawkins better hope that recruiting improves and results follow, but it won’t be easy. The Pac-10 has been relatively weak the past few years but it won’t be down for long (see: improving Washington, Arizona, UCLA, USC). If Dawkins doesn’t have the Cardinal dancing in one of the next two years, he won’t get a dime from this contract extension.
After nearly a two week search for their next head coach, Penn State seems to have found their man.
Jeff Goodman from CBS Sports reported early Thursday night that Penn St was in heavy pursuit of Boston University head man Patrick Chambers. The acclaimed college basketball writer also noted that no formal offer has yet been received by Chambers.
Could this be an omen of things to come in Happy Valley?
This hire could be a huge move for Chambers as he would jump from the America East conference to the Big Ten with a program that is looking towards a bright future.
Although it may be a good chance for Chambers the move seems like more of a push by the Nittany Lions. Chambers has only been a head coach for two years and he doesn’t have much more than last year’s success in the America East and tournament appearance to work off.
The positives that most people may overlook are that Chambers is a homegrown Pennsylvanian with a track record for success in the state. He played point-guard at Philladelphia University in the early 90’s and after spending three years as an assistant there took a job on Jay Wright’s staff at Villanova.
Chambers was one of the head recruiters during his tenure at Villanova and helped Wright make his way to the NCAA tournament, including the 2009 Final Four, in each of the six seasons he served as an assistant.
Moving up the ranks pretty quickly, Chambers is 42-28 in his 2 season at BU with a conference title and NCAA berth (both 2011) under his belt already.
If, or more likely when, Chambers becomes the head man in Happy Valley look out for him to set out a full court press on talent in the local region. He’s got some great skills at convincing good players to take a chance and could invade on both Wright and Pitt’s Jamie Dixon’s recruiting territory.
This could be a very good hire for Penn State AD Tim Curley and the Nittany Lion staff, especially if Chambers is able to re-establish his recruiting prowess down the east coast.
Just when basketball in Happy Valley seemed to be back on the rise, for the first time in decades, it appears that they may be headed back to square one.
The Nittany Lions were on a serious high after getting to the NCAA tournament for the first time in over 10 years and seemed ready to build for the future, only to be left high and dry by the very man that seemed to be resurrecting the program.
After eight topsy-turvy seasons in Happy Valley, Ed DeChellis jumped ship (literally) over the weekend, deciding to take the vacant job at Navy.
Are those tears of joy, Ed?
Dechellis may have thought it was the best move for his career, although I’m hard pressed to believe that, but he clearly didn’t think about the impact it would have on a Penn State program that he coached (in some capacity) for more than 20 season.
The Nittany Lions now must jumpstart a coaching search unexpectedly and extremely late in the offseason, when everyone else has already had their shot at the big names.
Cinderella runs in the NCAA Tournament are no longer surprises to college basketball fans. The question no longer is will there be a Cinderella, but how many teams will try on the slipper in a given year. The deep run in the tournament not only brings attention to the school and its players, but the coach as well. With the high rate of turnover in college basketball, the NCAA Tournament has become a pseudo-audition of sorts for many coaches of mid-major programs.
It is an interesting concept. Many NBA scouts complain that GMs put too much stock into a three-weekend tournament when evaluating talent. Everyone is captivated by the NCAA Tournament, and given that the games are on a national stage, it makes sense as to why a talent evaluator could fall in love with a guy who gets hot at the right time and leads his team to the second or third weekend.
Take a guy like Gordon Hayward, for example. Hayward was smart because he realized that after leading Butler to their first National Championship appearance, and being the driving force behind that run even though Butler very much played with a team-basketball concept on both ends of the floor, his stock could not get any higher than it was at that point. Hayward is a fine player, and probably will become a solid rotation player in the league, but ask the Utah Jazz whether they would change their minds if they could do it over again and you’d likely get a pained look and a head nod.
Well, this is not a unique concept just to players. Coaches of mid-major programs are beginning to use the tournament as a spring board into the off-season, where a successful March can translate into major bargaining power with their current schools or an opportunity to move on to a more high-profile gig. The point is, guys who lead an underdog to the Sweet Sixteen or beyond may not necessarily leave a Naismith trophy, but they won’t leave empty handed.
It used to be that the mid-major coach was as good as gone once they led their team to the second weekend, but that paradigm took a big turn after the ’05-’06 season when Jim Larranaga chose to take a big extension at George Mason rather than bolting for one of the many higher profile programs that had expressed interest, including his alma mater Providence. Instead, Larranaga took a pay raise and a whole bunch of extra years on his contract and stayed put…
Well, until this past off-season, when he signed with Miami.
Longtime Valparaiso coach Homer Drew will be stepping down as head coach for the Crusaders and his son Bryce Drew will take over after serving as an assistant for the past six years. Homer’s other son Scott is currently the head coach for Baylor where he has been the head coach for the past seven years after taking over for Homer at Valpo for one year in 2002-2003.
Scott has rebuilt Baylor after the Patrick Dennehey murder scandal and Homer has had some mild success at Valparaiso with seven NCAA tourney appearances, but Bryce is still the most famous Drew because of one shot…
Late Monday night as the Boston Celtics were watching their season slowly slip away from their old, fragile fingers, the University of Maryland was getting busy with a new head basketball coach.
Maryland got their man. And - No, it's not Mike Brey
The Terrapins AD announced Monday night that former Texas A&M head man, Mark Turgeon was to be named Maryland’s next coach.
After the sudden departure of long time coach and leader Gary Williams last week, the Terrapins Athletic Department put on a full court press search for their next head man. The Terps targeted top dogs all around the country and made finding, not just a suitable, but a well deserved replacement for Williams a top priority.
Now, because of Williams late decision to retire, Maryland was late getting to the party and missed out on a number of top candidates that may have been perfect fits in College Park.
Mike Anderson, Jim Larranaga, Billy Gillispie even Frank Haith (ha, kidding) all would have been at least good fits for the program and could have made an immediate impact with the Terps.
But, now Maryland had to rush around, bouncing from coach to coach in search of the right man for their program and with the right direction to get them back to the promised land in the NCAA’s.
The question is: how do you replace a legend?
University of Maryland head basketball coach Gary Williams is retiring after coaching the Terps for the past 22 years and leading them to the 2002 NCAA Championship.
Gary Williams, the winningest coach in Maryland history, will no longer walk the sidelines of the Comcast Center. He had a 668-330 (.637) record in 33 seasons as a head coach at 4 different schools.
A sad day for Terrapins fans. A 1 P.M. press conference is scheduled for tomorrow. More thoughts to come.
Here’s our first edition of Twithitters. Here’s the quick idea- have a rundown of important games, power polls, rankings, etc. with a brief “Twitter” response. So short and sweet. Mayo and Luke disobeyed the rules of Twitter but we’ll let it slide this time.
First topic, three best/worst off-season coaching hires.
Top 3 Hires:
Arkansas finds the perfect guy.
- Mike Anderson, Arkansas – Proven coach who has won with “40 minutes of hell” at 2 different spots. Bringing fans back to the Nolan Richardson championship days. Perfect fit.
- Lon Kruger, Oklahoma – All 54 places he coached at he has won. Sooners fans will be pleasantly surprised to have winning basketball before spring football.
- Ed Cooley, Providence – Getting a local boy who turned around Fairfield ain’t bad. Stealing one of Jim Calhoun’s top recruiters will get the Friar faithful excited.
- Mike Anderson, Arkansas – This isn’t rocket science. Not only does Arkansas get a coach with a proven track record, but also a guy who has been there before as an assistant. This hire has rejuvenated an admittedly stagnant fan base as memories of former head coach Nolan Richardson begin to percolate with Anderson’s arrival.
- Jim Larranaga, Miami – Miami looked doomed to make a desperation hire after being rebuked by Tommy Amaker, who thought that Harvard was a better job than The U. Yes, Harvard. Instead, they get a guy who has been to a Final Four and has a proven track record. Harvard?
- Bill Gillispie, Texas Tech – The Red Raiders go from a guy who used his nepoticious (ok, I made that word up—see Bob Knight) connections to get his head coaching job to a guy who has earned everything that he’s achieved. Gillispie was never a good fit personality-wise at Kentucky. Tech feels much more like Texas A&M where Gillispie put his name on the map.
- Mike Anderson, Arkansas: A gift! In Anderson, Arkansas is getting a Nolan Richardson clone. He’s a solid recruiter and a master motivator, always getting the most out of his players. With a solid class on it’s way the former Mizzou man could bring the Razorbacks back to national prominence once more.
- Dave Rice, UNLV: A former player and Rebel at heart, Rice should return the Runnin Rebels style of the early 90’s and reenergize college ball in Vegas. He did a terrific job at BYU and with some solid assistants -Stacey Augmon (Denver Nuggets)/Justin Houston (SDSU) – the Rebels should hit the ground running.
- Ed Cooley, Providence: After turning a seemingly non-existent Fairfield program into a conference champion two years running, Cooley has experience taking lemons and turning them into lemonade. Cooley is great on the recruiting trail and with a little luck could have the Friars back in the tourney in two years.
Bottom 3 Hires:
I guarantee I will make one NCAA tournament in the next seven years.
- Jim Larranaga, Miami – Because “The U” didn’t hire Frank Martin. A terrific basketball coach who actually wants to coach at Miami. Not settle down and retire like Jimmy boy.
- Mark Gottfried, NC State – Debbie Yow made this coaching search into a pissing match between her and Gary Williams. She threw her new coach under the bus in the process.
- Frank Haith, Missouri – Strike out on Matt Painter. Panic. Hire Frank Haith. Couldn’t get a hold of Paul Hewitt or Sidney Lowe?
- Frank Haith, Missouri – Missouri fans lost a guy they loved in Mike Anderson. Then, they thought they were getting Matt Painter from Purdue. Instead, they get the next best thing. Well, if not the next best then at least close, right? Wait, what? WHAT was his record in the ACC while at Miami? 43-and-what? 43-and-69? Uh oh…
- Brian Gregory, Georgia Tech – Usually when an ACC school hires a coach from a smaller, mid-major type program, it’s a guy who has achieved great success there and the whole program is sad to see him go. If the guy’s previous fan base is breaking out into song upon his departure, you might have wanted to re-evaluate.
- Mark Gottfried, NC State – Gottfried did have moderate success during his run as the Alabama head coach, but just because he will be an upgrade over Sidney Lowe doesn’t make him a great hire. Here’s a guy who want after a Wake Forest recruit the day after Skip Prosser passed away and walked out on his team mid-season in ’09. Yeah, he’ll be able to recruit against Roy Williams and Coach K…
- Larry Krystkowiak, Utah: Rick Majerus why have you forsaken us? Just because a guy can win at Montana and Idaho doesn’t mean he can compete with UCLA, Arizona and the PAC-12 crop. I’ll give it 4 years before Utah is looking for a new coach and Krystkowiak is back in the unemployment line.
- Frank Haith, Missouri: Really? I’m sure you’ll be receiving the complimentary fruit basket from Iowa State welcoming you to the Big 12 cellar any day now.
- Cuonzo Martin, Tennessee: Don’t dislike the coach as much as the situation. Martin did a great job at Missouri State but is entering a hostile situation in Knoxville. With an NCAA investigation pending, an already thin roster and possible penalties on the way this job would be a bad move for anyone.