In May of 2009, Bruce Weber signed a contract extension that was designed to keep him at Illinois through the 2014-15 season.
But will he actually make it that long?
Weber guided the Illini to the national championship game in 2005. But since then Illinois has gone six straight years without reaching the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. Two times during that span his team didn’t even make the field.
The shortcomings have led to rumblings that Weber’s job security may be shaky heading into the 2011-12 campaign, when the Illini will try to surge forward without standouts Demetri McCamey, Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis, all of whom graduated. Also, standout freshman Jereme Richmond left for the NBA draft.
Illinois will add seven newcomers to next season’s roster. How quickly they adapt to the college game could go a long way toward determining Weber’s future.
Here are some other coaches who will enter the 2011-12 season feeling the heat.
Rick Stansbury, Mississippi State – The Bulldogs have missed the NCAA tournament four of the last six seasons, and last year’s fiasco involving Renardo Sidney left a sour taste in some fans’ mouths. The good news is that Mississippi State will have one of the most talented teams in the SEC in 2011-12. If Sidney continues to mature and UTEP transfer Arnett Moultrie plays well, the Bulldogs shouldn’t have any problems earning a berth in the Big Dance. If that happens, Stansbury will be safe.
Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest – Under Bzdelik, the Demon Deacons became the first team in ACC history to lose 24 games in a season. Wake Forest also posted an embarrassing 1-15 record in conference play. To be fair, Bzdelik’s inaugural squad was forced to deal with numerous off-court issues that resulted in suspensions and dismissals, so it’s probably not fair to judge him at this point. Still, this was a curious hire that hacked off scores of Demon Deacons fans. Bzdelik’s team must improve quickly or he’ll lose what little support he already has.
Seth Greenberg, Virginia Tech – The Hokies have won more than 20 games four times during Greenberg’s seven-year tenure, but they’ve made the NCAA tournament just once (in 2007) during that span. Along with perennially being on the proverbial NCAA bubble, Greenberg’s tenure has been defined by both head-turning wins and maddening, inexplicable losses. If the Hokies’ administration is satisfied with being a fringe top 25 team each year, then Greenberg is probably safe. But if the aspirations are higher, a change may be needed soon if Greenberg can’t get his program over the hump.
Derrick Kellogg, Massachusetts – Some thought the former Minutemen star should’ve been axed following the 2010-11 season, when Massachusetts lost 10 of its final 12 games and finished 15-15. Kellogg is 39-53 in three seasons at his alma mater and only 19-29 in the Atlantic 10. Kellogg, who previously served as an assistant under John Calipari at Memphis, was given a vote of confidence by athletic director John McCutcheon in March, but the support may not be there next year unless the Minutemen show dramatic improvement.
Stan Heath, South Florida – One season after finishing 9-9, the Bulls went just 3-15 in the Big East last season under Heath, whose days will be numbered in Tampa if his squad doesn’t show significant improvement in 2011-12. South Florida won’t have any excuses if it doesn’t make strides. The Big East won’t have nearly as many elite teams this season, and while most of their foes lost star players, the Bulls return most of their roster including standout forward Augustus Gilchrist.
Tom Crean, Indiana – The former Marquette coach faced a massive rebuilding job when he took over in Bloomington in 2008-09, so it’s unfair to judge him solely on his win-loss record. Still, Hoosiers fans and administrators certainly thought Indiana would’ve won more than three Big Ten games in Crean’s third season. The roster doesn’t boast a ton of talent, but neither do the other teams near the bottom of the league. With hotshot recruit Cody Zeller set to arrive this summer, Indiana needs to take a major step in 2011-12 to keep the pressure off of Crean, who has a handful of strong commitments from underclassmen.
Jim Christian, TCU – Christian had six consecutive seasons of 20-plus wins at Kent State before taking over at TCU in 2008-09. Unfortunately his success didn’t follow him to Fort Worth. TCU went 11-22 last season and posted an embarrassing 1-15 record in the Mountain West conference. It’s hard to believe that Christian kept his job – especially with the Horned Frogs heading to the Big East in a year.
Craig Robinson, Oregon State – The Beavers were winless in the Pac-10 the year before Robinson’s first season in 2008-09. So he was certainly beginning at rock bottom. Still, after three years, Robinson continues to preach patience, but the signs of progress within his program have been minimal. The Beavers are just 13-23 against Pac-10 opponents the last two seasons. Considering how poor the conference has been, that’s unacceptable. Even for Oregon State.
Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss – Kennedy may have been fired last year if not for the $3.9 million Ole Miss would’ve owed him had it made the move. Firing Kennedy after the 2011-12 season would cost the Rebels $2.6 million. It may be worth it. Ole Miss has yet to earn an NCAA tournament berth in five seasons under Kennedy. Even worse is that the upcoming season could be a real struggle for the Rebels, who lost their top two scorers to graduation. Meanwhile, most of their foes in the SEC have improved.
Trent Johnson, LSU – Johnson is a good basketball coach. He proved that at Stanford and Nevada. But a lot folks scratched their heads when he was hired at LSU, mainly because of his lack of recruiting ties in the area. Johnson’s inaugural team won the SEC West title in 2009. But since then he’s gone 11-20 overall in back-to-back seasons while posting a collective 5-27 record in SEC play. If things don’t get better this year – and there’s no reason to believe they will – Johnson will be feeling the heat.