With Rutgers' reported hiring of Eddie Jordan Thursday, the primary activity is over for the spring on the college basketball coaching carousel.
All things considered, it was a really boring year for coaching moves.
Only eight major jobs turned over, and that's including the Mountain West and Atlantic-10 along with the putative big-six conferences. Of the eight, exactly one (UCLA) has legitimate cachet as a basketball power.
Somehow, the Southeastern Conference fired nobody despite one of its worst seasons ever. Neither did the Atlantic Coast Conference, which placed just four teams in the NCAA tournament. The only turnover in the Big 12 – another league that did not distinguish itself – was Texas Tech ridding itself of an interim coach. The Big East's lone coaching change was precipitated by scandal, not wins and losses.
What does the lack of movement mean? Could be a couple of things.
There is either more patience or apathy out there, as schools spend more time and money worrying about football and less on basketball. Or it's cyclical, and all hell will break loose next spring. (I'm leaning more toward the latter. See below.)
But in the meantime, let's pass out some grades for the few big hires that were made:
Hired Duke assistant Chris Collins after firing Bill Carmody. Collins passed on several other opportunities to leave Mike Krzyzewski's side over the years before seizing this one. It's a great fit: he's from the area and takes over an underachieving program with a similar academic profile to Duke's. The Big Ten is brutal and Collins has to prove he can be a head coach, but expect to see the Wildcats finally lock up that first NCAA tournament bid in the near future. Maybe Northwestern has found its Mike Brey.Grade: A-minus.
Saint Louis: Retained interim coach Jim Crews, who replaced the late Rick Majerus before the 2012-13 season began. If Jim Larranaga wasn't your AP Coach of the Year, Crews probably was. He did a remarkable job stepping into the head coach's role and leading the Billikens to a 28-7 season and A-10 championship. Saint Louis had a lot of talent and experience, but it could have fallen apart without Majerus. Not only did it stay together, but the program flourished until an unceremonious NCAA rout at the hands of Oregon. Now we'll see whether Crews can recruit well enough to maintain the momentum. Grade: A-minus.
Texas Tech: Hired Tubby Smith after relieving interim Chris Walker, who replaced troubled tyrant Billy Gillispie. Taking an older coach who was fired by a Big Ten school and owns a championship ring? The formula worked once for Tech with a guy named Bob Knight, give or take a salad-bar confrontation or two. Knight made the Red Raiders respectable, with five 20-win seasons and four NCAA tournament appearances. The hope in Lubbock is that the 61-year-old Smith can do the same with a program that has backslid drastically. Smith needs to reinvigorate his staff, and he got a start on doing that by reportedly luring Pooh Williamson (who played for Tubby at Tulsa) away from TCU. Grade: B-plus.
USC: Hired Andy Enfield from Florida Gulf Coast after firing Kevin O'Neill during the season. Enfield may be the ultimate Big Dance Flavor of the Month, riding the first-ever Sweet 16 appearance by a No. 15 seed from the Atlantic Sun Conference to a high-paying job in the Pac-12. Consider: FGCU was clinging to a three-point lead with five minutes left against North Florida in the A-Sun quarterfinals – if that game gets away, Dunk City is a myth. We never hear of Andy Enfield. So there is a lot to prove for a guy who has been a head coach for all of two years and has one winning season. But what Enfield lacks in track record, he may make up for in the substance he showed during that NCAA run. USC has been a sucker job for years – everything is in place to succeed, but success rarely follows. It might have the right guy this time. Grade: B.
Minnesota: Hired Richard Pitino from Florida International after firing Tubby Smith. There is little doubt that if his name were Richard Pittman, the Gophers would have looked elsewhere. But it's Pitino, and while the bloodlines are excellent so are the early returns on Richard as a head coach. He went 18-14 and nearly made the NCAA tournament at FIU, a school that had not even come close to having a winning record since 2000. The job will not be easy at Minnesota and there figures to still be a significant learning curve ahead, but Pitino has shown signs of having the total head-coaching package: recruiter, tactician, motivator. Grade: B.
Rutgers: Fired Mike Rice after the abuse bombshell dropped earlier this month and has reportedly replaced him with NBA assistant coach Eddie Jordan. Right now, the Rutgers job is a toxic dump – scandal hanging over a losing program as it moves from the frying pan of the Big East to the fire of the Big Ten. In other words, there's a reason why Danny Hurley would rather stay at Rhode Island than come home and rescue Rutgers. Given that, the school did about as well as it could to get Jordan, a Rutgers alum and all-around good guy who should represent a tainted school well. The fact that he lost nearly 100 more games than he won as an NBA head coach in three stops is secondary – Rutgers just needs someone to stabilize the program and class up the joint a little. Grade: B.
New Mexico: Replaced Steve Alford, who left for UCLA, with assistant Craig "Noodles" Neal. Losing a coach who won a minimum of 22 games all six seasons he was with the Lobos is a significant blow, but hiring his right-hand man may be the best way to overcome it. Neal is highly regarded in basketball circles and provides the continuity that could enable a talented 2013-14 team to approximate last year's 29-6 record. The question will be what happens in the years that follow – is Neal high-quality head-coach material? A lot of people think so, but we'll have to wait and see. Grade: B.
Fired Ben Howland and replaced him with Steve Alford. This could work for a couple of reasons: Alford has been a big deal since he was a teenager and has the ego to feel comfortable in a huge job; and he's a consistent winner. But it also could blow up: UCLA wants to win national titles, and Alford has been an NCAA tourney underachiever – he hasn't been to a Sweet 16 since 1999. His style of play has been about as plodding as Howland's. And Alford already has taken a justified beating for his offensive handling and revisionist history of the Pierre Pierce debacle at Iowa – how will he handle controversy here? UCLA wasn't able to land one of the rising stars in the college game, and there is reason to wonder whether Alford is a suitable substitute. Grade: C-plus.
Schools on the clock in 2013-14:
Wake Forest: Current coach: Jeff Bzdelik. The problem: He's 34-60 in three seasons, and hardly arrived with unanimous approval after going 36-58 in the previous three years at Colorado. (That's 118 losses in the last six years if you're scoring at home.) There is a lot of negativity among the fans that will carry over into next season, and a slow start could produce an even more toxic atmosphere.
Boston College: Current coach: Steve Donahue. The problem: He's 46-52 in three seasons and still searching for an NCAA tourney bid. Donahue appears to have the program headed in the right direction, especially with a young roster returning for what could be the breakthrough year. But if next season goes sideways, he could be facing some pressure under an athletic director (Brad Bates) who did not hire him.
Auburn: Current coach: Tony Barbee. The problem: He's 35-59 in three seasons, and this year was the worst yet – 9-23 and last place in a truly bad SEC. The Tigers cared enough to build a new basketball arena a few years back, so they'd probably like to see at least a decent team play in it. Next year figures to be make-or-break for Barbee.
Current coach: Mark Fox. The problem: He's had three losing seasons out of four in Athens. Fox still has an overall winning record at 65-63, and there is a core of young players that have a chance to improve greatly next year. But he's been hurt by early entry to the NBA draft, and that struck again this spring with SEC Player of the Year Kentavious Caldwell-Pope going pro as a sophomore. Fox deserves the benefit of the doubt, but improvement next year would certainly help.
Oregon State: Current coach: Craig Robinson. The problem: He's 11 games under .500 in five years and still is searching for that first NCAA bid. The Beavers tied for last in the Pac-12 this season. In a league that is rapidly remaking itself, does Oregon State join the change movement or stick with the President's brother-in-law? Next year could be decision time.
Stanford: Current coach: Johnny Dawkins. The problem: He's 12 games below .500 in Pac-12 play and has no NCAA tourney bids in five seasons. Dawkins had to replenish the roster when he arrived, but there has been no return to prominence for a program that went to the Big Dance 13 times in the 14 seasons before he got there. Given Stanford's all-around athletic excellence, men's basketball has become an under-performer.
Washington State: Current coach: Ken Bone. The problem: No NCAA bids in four seasons, despite having a star in Klay Thompson his first two years. Pullman is a tough place to win, but it's been done with regularity recently – the Cougars had their first losing season since 2006 this year, tying for last in the Pac-12. Probably doesn't help to see Gonzaga succeeding wildly just up the road in Spokane.
Arizona State: Current coach: Herb Sendek. The problem: Just one NCAA bid in the last seven years. Realistically, the Sun Devils may not be able to do better than Sendek – he has four 20-win seasons, including this year, when the Devils narrowly missed the NCAA tourney. But ASU wants to compete with Arizona, and that rivalry is tilting toward Tucson under Sean Miller. Getting back to the Big Dance in 2014 would be a big boost to Sendek.
Current coach: Rick Barnes. The problem: Bottom fell out this year on a program that has long failed to perform up to its talent level. Longhorns went 16-18 and missed the NCAAs for the first time in forever, floundering with an extremely young team. It would be a shock to see Barnes get canned, especially by an athletic director who is only vaguely aware that his school plays basketball. But Texas is accustomed to winning in everything, so another losing season would not be well-received.
DePaul: Current coach: Oliver Purnell. The problem: He's 6-48 in Big East play. Transitioning to the new Big East, patience with the Blue Demons' eternal futility may wear thin. There will be less excuse for being flattened by a conference of relative peers than there was when losing to Louisville, Syracuse and Connecticut.
South Florida: Current coach: Stan Heath. The problem: four losing seasons out of six on the job, and an overall record that is 25 games below .500. The NCAA bid and two tourney victories in 2012 insulated Heath from any heat over this year's 12-19 fiasco, but that may change if the record doesn't change in the watered down AAC.
Nevada: Current coach: David Carter. The problem: He's recorded the only two losing seasons in the last 12 in Reno. It's been boom or bust for Carter: 21-13 the first year, 13-19 the next, then 28-7, then 12-19. The transition to the Mountain West was a tough one, but guard Deonte Burton's return for his senior year will give Carter a chance to move up from the MWC basement.
St. Joseph's: Current coach: Phil Martelli. The problem: One NCAA bid in the nine seasons since the fairy-tale team of 2004. Martelli may be untouchable at St. Joe's, and perhaps he should be. He's won more often than not at something of an underdog school. But after watching fellow Philly and A-10 Catholic school LaSalle go to the Sweet 16, there may be increased pressure to rekindle the glory days.
Fordham: Current coach: Tom Pecora. The problem: He's lost 64 games in three years. Rick Pitino might not be able to win at Fordham, where the Rams have endured six straight losing seasons. But if there is any urgency to climb up from the nether reaches of the A-10, Pecora probably needs to show some improvement next year.
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