Where does Eric Musselman rank on the SEC basketball coaches’ hot seat?
The only surprise out of Oxford, Mississippi, on Friday was the timing.
Ole Miss announced it had fired head basketball coach Kermit Davis on Friday morning as the Rebels sat in a tie for last in the SEC at 2-13 in league play and 10-18 overall. Davis led Ole Miss to the NCAA Tournament in his first year, 2018-19, but the team had only one winning season since.
With the unsurprising news hitting Friday, we figured it was time re-evaluate our hierarchy when it comes to job security in SEC basketball. Which coaches are now on the hottest seats? Which are safest?
Let’s examine all 13 full-time head coaches, their respective seasons this year and their overall resume and see if we can’t make a prediction as to who may be the next to go.
To be clear: It doesn’t appear any of the 13 remaining coaches will be forced out in the offseason, but some of that has to do with a league that has five such guys in their first year on the job.
1. Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse
Jan 10, 2023; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores head coach Jerry Stackhouse during the first half against the Tennessee Volunteers at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Vanderbilt has improved every season under Jerry Stackhouse’s watch and the Commodores are certainly better than they were under Bryce Drew. But now in his fourth year and an NCAA Tournament berth again unlikely, things are starting to warm a bit for the North Carolina icon.
2. Kentucky coach John Calipari
Kentucky head coach John Calipari reacts after a turnover during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Should Kentucky part ways with John Calipari? Well, the answer as of February 24, 2023, is “probably not.” But if the Wildcats stumble down the stretch and either fail to make the NCAA Tournament (they almost certainly will make it) or lose in the first round (distinct possibility of this one), the fan and donor pressure may force the hand of Kentucky brass.
3. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl
Feb 8, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Auburn Tigers head coach Bruce Pearl during the first half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Only three coaches in and we’re already to the “He’s not going anywhere” part of the conversation. Still, we are placing Pearl as No. 3 on the hot seat. Auburn has a Final Four on his watch, but it was back in 2019, which is a whole generation of players ago. Falling in the second round last year was a major disappointment and if the Tigers don’t watch out, they could be out of this year’s NCAA Tournament. They should be fine, of course, but a Sweet 16 would cool things.
4. South Carolina coach Lamont Paris
Dec 11, 2022; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Lamont Paris directs South Carolina Gamecocks guard Meechie Johnson (5) against the Presbyterian Blue Hose in the second half at Colonial Life Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina may be the toughest place in the NCAA to have consistent success outside Vanderbilt. Maybe Ole Miss. No one expected Lamont Paris to win 20 games his first year in Columbia. No one really expected him to go .500. But only three wins in SEC play is a disappointment. Again, because it’s his first year, there is no real worry here.
5. LSU coach Matt McMahon
Jan 24, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; LSU Tigers head coach Matt McMahon during the first half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
We’ll hear arguments for putting McMahon higher than Paris and Pearl, for sure. The former Murray State coach, in his first year, has led LSU to just a two conference wins. And that’s with a couple of potential All-SEC players on the roster. Still, we’re giving McMahon the benefit of being the person to replace Will Wade and that disasterous off-court mess.
6. Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams
Jan 8, 2022; College Station, Texas, USA; Texas A&M Aggies head coach Buzz Wiiliams instructs his team against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the first half at Reed Arena. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Buzz Williams may have started the year as No. 2 on this list. And if Texas A&M loses in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, he is going to climb back up near that spot. Now in his fourth season with the Aggies, Williams has A&M at 13-2 in league play and sniffing at a seed as high as No. 5 if things go their way. But anything short a NCAA Tournament berth feels like Williams will enter next year as No. 1 or No. 2 on this list.
7. Alabama coach Nate Oats
Feb 16, 2022; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nate Oats (front) reacts during the first half against Mississippi State Bulldogs at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Alabama is on the verge of its best three-season regular-season stretch since the late 1980s turned into the early 1990s with Wimp Sanderson. The Crimson Tide are a likely No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. So why is he here? The off-court incidents this season have been impossible to ignore. And he hasn’t handled them in the most astute of ways. If jobs were just oncourt, Oats’ seat is plenty cool. But jobs aren’t just oncourt.
8. Arkansas coach Eric Musselman
COLUMBIA, MISSOURI – JANUARY 18: Head coach Eric Musselman of the Arkansas Razorbacks reacts to a foul call on his team against the Missouri Tigers in the second half at Mizzou Arena on January 18, 2023 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
It’s stupid that a coach coming off back-to-back Elite Eights at a school like Arkansas would even considering being let go. And as far as we know, he isn’t. But some insane portions of the fan base had called for it earlier in the year. Arkansas is far from a lock to make the NCAA Tournament, but the Hogs should, and if they do, they’re dangerous enough to make a deep run, which would send Musselman back down toward the bottom – which is the good place to be – of these rankings.
9. Florida coach Todd Golden
FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS – FEBRUARY 18: Head Coach Todd Golden of the Florida Gators directs his team in the first half during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena on February 18, 2023 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Todd Golden isn’t going anywhere. Not right now. Florida is doing about what Florida was expected to do in Golden’s first season with the program, hovering around .500 in league play. Even before the team lost Colin Castleton for the season, the NCAA Tournament seemed a longshot. Golden will go higher in these rankings if this continues next year. Florida has had just one losing season in SEC play since 1999.
10. Georgia coach Mike White
Feb 21, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mike White during the first half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Georgia is not an easy place at which a coach can win. Not a visiting coach, mind you. The home coach. The Bulldogs haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2015 and haven’t finished above .500 in SEC play since 2016. Tom Crean had four years to make something happen, but when it didn’t UGA went with White, who was fair at Florida in taking the Gators to the NCAA Tournament in four straight seasons before being let go last year.
11. Mississippi State coach Chris Jans
Feb 8, 2023; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Chris Jans reacts during the second half against the LSU Tigers at Humphrey Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
The Rick Stansbury days seem so long ago. Mississippi State followed the Rick Ray era with Ben Howland and mostly suffered mediocrity. Howland took MSU to an NCAA Tournament in 2019 as a 5-seed and they lost in the first round. Last year’s 18-16 (8-10) record saw Howland exit. Jans has done well, mostly, for the Bulldogs. A stretch from December 20 to January 25 that saw them win just one game severely hurt their season. But they’ve been better since and were dynamite before. Everything is to-be-determined.
12. Missouri coach Dennis Gates
COLUMBIA, MISSOURI – JANUARY 18: Head coach Dennis Gates of the Missouri Tigers talks with D’Moi Hodge #5 in the first half of the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Mizzou Arena on January 18, 2023 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Don’t look now, but Missouri is on pace for its best season since 2013. Gates, in his first season at the helm has already lifted the Tigers to 20 wins and they’re a game above .500 with three to play in the SEC. Barring an utter collapse, which hasn’t even been hinted at as being possible this year, Mizzou will make the NCAA Tournament. Quality year for Gates.
13. Tennessee coach Rick Barnes
Feb 19, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Tennessee Volunteers head coach Rick Barnes talks to an official in the first half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Barnes has not only taken Tennessee to the NCAA Tournament four of the last five years, he owns a Sweet 16 appearance, too. That said, if the Vols, who have spent most of the two-plus seasons inside the Top 20, don’t make it at least that far this year, it’s conceivable this seat warms. But still, for a school not exactly known for its basketball except during the Pearl era of the late 2000s and early 2010s, Barnes has been a blessing.