The last few weeks we’ve talked about why Missouri is a good job, and what challenges Missouri head coaches face. Today we’re moving on to part three of the series, in looking at the landscape of the college coaching scene. This is a two-parter which explores what power conference jobs are likely or possibly may come open? I’ll also discuss how attractive those jobs are and who some ideal replacement candidates might be.
There are two reasons you might be looking to hire a new head coach. First, they haven’t been winning enough. Second, your coach left to take another job and you need a replacement.
We won’t be able to to know much about the second point, but we can sure take a long look at how many jobs have the potential to open up and where each sits in the pecking order.
The Big Picture
If you were to rank the conferences by their basketball, the SEC would likely fall into the fifth or sixth slot depending on how your figure things. If you simply take the KenPom rankings, the SEC is ahead of the Pac12, but behind the Big 12, ACC, Big East and Big Ten.
The Big East doesn’t generate as much money as the other leagues without football, but being a basketball-only league allows them to devote a whole lot of their time, energy and resources to basketball. That elevates them. The league also has several teams playing at an extremely high level, and even the bottom of the league has had a financial commitment to improve. It could be easy to see them being a favorite landing spot for the foreseeable future.
I said last week the money from the SEC helps in a lot of ways. Here are the 2014 revenue and expense averages by conference:
ACC: $9,009,752 expenses, $15,077,783 revenue
Big Ten: $7,696,555 expenses; $14,908,843 revenue
SEC: $8,091,636 expenses; $11,572,258 revenue
Big 12: $8,389,699 expenses; $10,699,034 revenue
Big East: $7,791,015 expenses; $9,296,659 revenue
Pac-12: $6,506,216 expenses; $8,693,599 revenue
The SEC is third in both revenue and spending.
The Big Ten and ACC generate more money from basketball overall, but the SEC outpaces the Big 12. The consistency of the Big 12 over the more recent years helps its profile as a good basketball league, however.
The Big 12 goes unchanged
Barring something crazy happening, I don’t think you’ll see anything change in the Big 12. Before the season you could probably point to Kansas State as the only spot for potential turnover because of Bruce Weber’s relative struggles, coupled with so many new recent hires and established league coaches. However, the Wildcats have been playing really well this year and are currently 29th in KenPom with no bad losses on their 15-6 resume. I think Weber is safe.
Scott Drew, Bill Self, Lon Kruger, and Bob Huggins are all locked in safely into their jobs. TCU, Oklahoma St, Texas Tech, Texas, and Iowa State have all hired coaches within the last two years.
Would you leave a Big East job?
I’m not sure why anyone would voluntarily leave a job in the Big East at this point. The league is taking off and they’re just starting to unlock the potential of being a basketball-only league. There’s certainly a lot to be said about being your school’s top priority. However there are some struggling programs so I’ll put one on the “monitor” watch.
Current Head Coach: John Thompson III (13 seasons / .659 win%)
Georgetown has struggled in three of the last four years, including this season. John Thompson III has the support of his father, which carries a lot of weight at Georgetown, so it remains to be seen if the Hoyas would fire Thompson even if Georgetown continued to struggle this year.
Georgetown is probably a top-3 job in the Big East and likely a top-30 job overall with its ability to create and spend money, plus the access to the DC metro area, which is rich in basketball talent. If the Georgetown job came open, it would certainly be considered one of the best jobs available.
Rumors have linked Patrick Ewing to a potential opening, and the Hoya job would likely be the only college job Ewing would consider. But I’d also consider UNC-Wilmington’s Kevin Keatts a strong candidate for the job there as well. Keatts has strong ties to Virginia from his time at Hargrave Military Academy and his current home isn’t far away.
I still don’t know if Georgetown would make a move, but it’s possible. The only other likely openings are if one of the current league coaches get snatched away from their existing situation. But would you leave a Big East job right now?
The ACC Landscape
The ACC is stocked with good coaches, but there are a few programs scuffling. Safe are Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Tony Bennett, Rick Pitino, Mike Brey, Jim Boeheim, Jim Larrañaga, Leonard Hamilton and Buzz Williams. In the “too soon” category are Kevin Stallings, Josh Pastner and Danny Manning. That leaves three coaches. Let’s talk about the best job first:
North Carolina State Wolfpack
Current Head Coach: Mark Gottfried (6 seasons / .616 win %)
Not many are exactly sure what to make of the situation at NC State. Gottfried went to four straight NCAA tournaments before missing last year, and despite some great talent on the roster the Wolfpack are scuffling at 3-6 in league play. The potential for a talented roster to get depleted in a hurry is high with Dennis Smith Jr. and Omer Yurtseven likely to bounce to the NBA after this season. That puts even more pressure on Gottfried to succeed with the roster he has now.
Worse for Gottfried is that there is a highly coveted coach, and former Wolfpack guard, sitting in Dayton and winning lots of games. It’s been rumored that Archie Miller is willing to be patient in Dayton while he waits on the right opportunity, and one of the opportunities he likely covets is his alma mater.
I’ve heard multiple stories on this — one is that Miller covets NC State, the other is he has his sights on another job much closer.
Should NC State decide to move on, another candidate is the previously mentioned Keatts. Wilmington is quick drive up I-40 to Raleigh, and jobs on Tobacco Road don’t open up very often. There is enough talent at State to push Gottfried to another NCAA tournament, and that could be enough to save him for another season. But there is no denying the seat is getting warmer.
Boston College Eagles
Current Head Coach: Jim Christian (3rd year / .337 win%)
Being in year three of a coaching tenure and ranking 143rd in KenPom isn’t great. Boston College hasn’t competed for an NCAA tournament bid since 2011 — coincidentally, that was the last time the Eagles were over .500. Steve Donahue bottomed out the program, and Christian has been trying to breath life into it, but the best he could muster was 13-19 in their first season.
It’s entirely possible, given the level of bottoming out that has happened at BC, that the administration may give Christian one more season to see if they’re on the way up. The ACC is an unforgiving conference, and the Eagles have won two more games in conference than they did a year ago. They also aren’t a program flush with cash, so they almost need to be more patient.
That said, the program is bad, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them try something new this offseason. BC seems more likely to have to make an economic hire — somebody like John Becker at Vermont could be considered; the Catamounts have been very good for six years under Becker, and it’s possible he could be lured to a larger job in the ACC.
Mitch Henderson has done well at Princeton and has power conference experience as an assistant at Northwestern. Iona’s Tim Cluess wouldn’t be a bad hire either, as he’s won at each level.
If BC decided to move on, I don’t think they’d be near the top of the available jobs. They’ve still got some youth, and they’ve been improving as the season has gone on. Their KenPom rating bottomed out at 216, so if their 143 rating can keep going up, I could see Christian getting more time.
Current Head Coach: Brad Brownell (7th season / .556 win%)
The Clemson situation is one of the more intriguing ones in the power conference landscape. The Tigers looked poised for a breakout season, as they had a star player in Jaron Blossomgame return to school instead of heading to the NBA. Four-star transfers Shelton Mitchell and Elijah Davis became eligible this year as well. The advanced metrics like them a lot — they were 45th in KenPom last year.
So why are they only 12-8 and 2-6 in conference play?
The ACC is brutal and has been unkind to the Tigers so far. They’ve got some decent wins, beating Georgia, Alabama, Wake Forest, South Carolina and UNC-Wilmington. Their worst loss is to Georgia Tech on the road, but Tech has also beaten North Carolina, Notre Dame and Florida State at home. They’re 31st in KenPom right now.
So why is Brownell on this list? The Tigers haven’t made the NCAA tournament since Brownell’s first season (2011) and have just two 20-win seasons to show for his seven years. They could get there this year, but there are no guarantees in the ACC.
If the KenPom projections hold, they’d be on the bubble but probably in, as an 8-10 record in the ACC is probably enough with a very soft bubble. If they make it in, I think Brownell is still coaching them next season.
If Clemson decided to move on, the school may not have an easy time attracting high-level coaching talent. It’s been a traditionally difficult place to win, with only 11 NCAA tournament appearances, one Elite Eight, and two Sweet 16s.
The school has also not been a big spender on its basketball program. If Clemson decided to move on, a prime candidate would be Will Wade. Wade has done a nice job at VCU — they’ve fallen back a bit since Shaka Smart left, but he built a great roster at UT-Chattanooga, and maybe most important, he’s a Clemson alum.
Wade is originally from Nashville but was a student manager for the basketball team before getting a bump to the Director of Basketball Operations under Oliver Purnell. I would think the search could begin and end with Wade if Clemson went looking.
Wade is a guy who a lot of schools will take a look at. He’s young and has risen quickly. He’s already recruited at a high level, landing big-time prospects at VCU both as an assistant and as a head coach. He’s got power conference experience, and you’ll see his name on a lot of lists. But the VCU job is a really good one right now, and Wade has shown he’s smart enough to realize that. If Clemson, or another school, makes a foray towards Wade, there’s no guarantee he’d take the job.
That’s the basic layout of the Big 12, the ACC and the Big East. On Thursday, we’ll get into the SEC, the Pac-12 and the Big Ten.