NCAA: Coaches On The Hot Seat
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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The coaching carousel in college basketball was tough to keep up with this summer as there was a significant amount of activity. When the 2011-2012 season begins over 50 head coaches will be making their debuts with new programs. There actually could have been more had it not been for some coaches managing to stick around for another year and avoid getting their pink slip.
They’ll likely have the upcoming season to prove their worth because in-season coaching changes happen much less in college basketball than they do in the NBA. That means the pressure is on, though, for them to produce this year or else they may not be employed at this time next year.
There may not be a hotter seat than that of Illinois head coach Bruce Weber right now. Weber boasts a record of 193-86 as the Fighting Illini’s head coach and did take the school to the NCAA Tournament Championship Game in 2004-2005. However, since that season Illinois hasn’t advanced past the second round of the big dance. They’ve missed it twice in that span and have been a .500 team in Big 10 play for the last three seasons.
Weber will point to the fact that the team has won less than 20 games just once under his guidance, which is a valid argument to keep his job. The problem is that it just doesn’t seem like he’s the right fit anymore. The program isn’t flourishing, it’s on the decline. A new system and culture may be what they need to grow back into a contender rather than being one-and-done like they have been recently. Weber won’t be out of the game for long, though. There are schools out there who would be more than happy with what he’s done over the last six years. Illinois just isn’t one of them.
Indiana is another school that has extremely high expectations that are just not being met right now by Tom Crean. Crean, who inherited Kelvin Sampson’s mess at IU after a successful nine year stint at Marquette, accepted the position knowing that it was a rebuilding situation that was going to take some time. He made wholesale changes upon his arrival, hoping to take a few steps back then to take several forward in the future.
Three years later everyone is still waiting for the forward steps to be taken. The Hoosiers have gone 28-66 under his guidance and won just eight conference games. The loyal Hoosiers’ fan base patience is wearing thin. They feel like they’re far enough removed from the Sampson era to at least be near a 20-win team. Crean doesn’t need to go out and win the National Title to keep his job, he just needs to have a solid year and prove that progress isn’t just being talked about, it’s being made.
Another interesting coaching situation to keep an eye on in the Big 10 is Michigan and John Beilein. Beilein has been with the program since 2007-2008 and has a record of 67-67 over the last four seasons. The Wolverines have never finished better than tied for fourth in conference play and have not seen past the second round of the NCAA Tourney. Last year was arguably his best yet, though, so there’s some optimism that 2011-2012 could be even better as they do have some nice talent coming back.
Five seasons will be enough for the Michigan decision makers to decide whether or not Beilein is their guy for the future. While football obviously reigns supreme at the university, basketball is quite important too. They’d like to have both in National Championship contention. They hired a new football coach this offseason and could do the same in basketball if they feel like Beilein isn’t the guy to take them to great heights. Like Weber, he wouldn’t be jobless for long if he were to get the boot.
Mississippi State’s Rick Stansbury has been the face of the program since 1998 when he took over for Richard Williams. He’s accumulated an impressive record of 272-151 as the Bulldogs’ top man, but lately things have been going downhill a bit. Stansbury’s coddling of five-star recruit Renardo Sidney has gone beyond anything that Sidney would have received anywhere else. Meanwhile, the success of the team as a whole has just been mediocre. The amount of wins overall isn’t bad, but they’ve gone 9-7 in SEC play each of the last three years. Last year they didn’t even earn a bid to postseason play.
The Bulldogs have too much talent to have similar results next year. Stansbury’s job security could depend on the aforementioned Sidney and forward/center transfer Arnett Moultrie. If the two of them dominate inside like they’re capable of the Bulldogs will be formidable. Unfortunately for Stansbury, there’s serious concern that Sidney may have played his last game collegiately.
Former Denver Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik has the head coach of Wake Forest for just one season, so it may be a bit premature to say that his seat is hot even after going 8-24 overall last year and 1-15 in ACC play. They are projected to be much better this upcoming season, but it has to be a tad bit alarming that Bzdelik is four years removed from his last 20-win season. His name has some value and his pro experience does help with recruiting, but right now Bzdelik is in a situation where he quickly needs to prove that he can coach a winner. It’s been a little too long since he’s done so.
Other coaches whose seats are hotter than their peers include: James Dickey (Houston), Trent Johnson (LSU), Johnny Dawkins (Stanford), Herb Sendek (Arizona State), Bill Grier (San Diego), Andy Kennedy (Ole Miss), Craig Robinson (Oregon State), Jim Christian (TCU) and Seth Greenberg (Virginia Tech)
Yannis Koutroupis is a senior NCAA and NBA analyst for HOOPSWORLD. You can follow him on twitter.