The last few weeks we’ve talked about why Missouri is a good job, and what challenges Missouri head coaches face. On Tuesday, we moved on to the landscape of college coaching, looking at what jobs might come open in the Big East, Big 12 and ACC.
Today we’re going to dive into the Big 10, the Pac-12, and, of course, the SEC.
There are typically 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 B1G is a really, really attractive conference
Ohio State Buckeyes
With the amount of money the B1G generates on an annual basis, there are a lot of reasons why the conference is so attractive to coaches. There’s stability and fan support, and it’s lucrative. The league is having a bit of a down year, but there are still a lot of good teams, just few great ones. Still, the coaching turnover is likely minimal at best.
There are some pretty safe coaches here as well. In the “completely safe” situation are Tom Izzo, Greg Gard, Chris Collins, Matt Painter, Mark Turgeon, Fran McCaffery, John Beilein, Richard Pitino and Thad Matta. Steve Pikiell is in the too soon category ... and the rest are probably starting to wonder.
I first want to talk about Thad Matta. From what I’ve gathered, Matta is safe despite a few recent bumps the last few years. The Buckeyes missed the NCAA Tournament last year and look to be in danger of missing it again this season. After nine NCAA tournaments in 10 years, Matta has leverage. However, struggles with his health are no secret, so while he’s “safe,” that doesn’t mean he might not want to step away at some point.
When Matta decides it’s time, it will be his decision. If he decides that time is soon, Ohio State will be one of the most sought after jobs in the country. The Buckeyes can print money, and the coaching community knows it.
So keep your eyes on that situation. If the job comes open, I’d guess Dayton’s Archie Miller will want it and pursue it. The OSU job is a legitimate top 15 job, those don’t come open often.
Current Head Coach: Tim Miles (5th season / .483 win%)
Nebraska isn’t an easy job. Danny Nee had a run in the early 1990’s, but since 1994, the Huskers have only been to two NCAA tournaments. It’s for that reason I think Tim Miles will have his job next year. Miles has been okay, but Doc Sadler did about the same and got six seasons, so there’s reason to believe Miles will get another shot.
If Nebraska were to move on, the Huskers could go back to the Summit league to get their coach. Dave Richman has done a nice job at North Dakota State, Craig Smith has been solid for South Dakota, Jon Coffman has a few key wins for Fort Wayne, and I like the job Derrin Hansen has done for Nebraska-Omaha.
Nebraska isn’t likely to go out and spend a ton — they’re likely to stay in the mid-major arena, which is why somebody out of the Summit makes sense, or even the MAC: Saul Phillips has been pretty good for Ohio and came out of the Summit league.
Current Head Coach: Tom Crean (9 seasons / .561 win%)
When you coach at a place like Indiana, there are always going to be rumors about your job status. If I were the athletic director at Indiana, I would stay the course with Tom Crean. I think Crean is a very good basketball coach, an incredibly hard worker, and a tireless recruiter.
Still, the rumors are there, and if Crean is fired I don’t see him being out of work for very long. He’s an odd dude, but players love him, and he wins a lot. In fact, the last school we feature should take a long look at Crean if things trend that way.
So Indiana would be stupid to move on, mostly because the second coming of Bob Knight isn’t sitting out there waiting to take the job. Maybe they could make a run at somebody like Gregg Marshall, who might be the closest thing, but in the end I think the Hoosiers stand pat. (And no, Brad Stevens is not taking the Indiana job. Stop talking about it, Hoosier fans.)
Illinois Fighting Illini
Current Head Coach: John Groce (5 seasons / .559 win%)
This is probably the job I’ve been asked about the most, and with good reason. It’s often viewed as a peer to Mizzou since both play each other every year. But let’s get one thing clear, Illinois is a better job. That doesn’t mean Mizzou can’t get a better coach, but if all things are equal, the job in Champaign is simply better. They have plenty of money and great fan support and are probably the fifth-best job in the Big 10 after Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin.
So it’s easy to see why, after five seasons, Groce is running out of excuses for why his Illini have only been to one NCAA tournament.
New-ish Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman has shown he’s not afraid to go get a name when he hired Lovie Smith to coach their football team. He got an NFL head coach to lead a pretty bad football program, so imagine what he might try to do with a very good basketball program.
If the Illini move on from Groce, Whitman won’t be shy and he’ll move quickly. I’ve heard Cuonzo Martin’s name bandied about, but that doesn’t feel like a Whitman hire. I would say Fred Hoiberg feels a lot more like a Whitman hire. Whether or not he goes after somebody with that kind of name recognition remains to be seen, but Illinois has a chance to be the top job available this off season. Whitman has the knowledge and power to make a dazzling hire if he plays his cards right.
The Illini have the 11th-best recruiting class coming in, which a lot of people will include as a reason to possibly give Groce another year. But at this point what have you seen from him that makes you think it will matter? Never keep a coach for a recruit or two, and as good as the class is, there isn’t a single player who is going to make Illinois a great team when they’re graduating four seniors currently providing the bulk of the minutes and scoring.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Current Head Coach: Pat Chambers (6 seasons / .454 win%)
Let’s face it: Penn State is a tough place to win basketball games. Since 1997, the Nittany Lions have had two 20-win seasons. If you think Missouri is in a bad place now, the Tigers have had that many in the last five years and more in the last six.
I’d probably give Chambers another few years, exactly because it’s difficult to win in Happy Valley. I won’t spend a lot of time on Penn State because they are further down the rung from Missouri, but if they decided to move on from Chambers, I think they follow the Nebraska method and hire a semi-local, mid-major type of guy.
The West Coast isn’t the Best Coast
Strictly speaking in Ken Pomeroy numbers, the Pac-12 is the worst power conference in basketball. This is what happens when your bad teams are really bad, and the Pac-12 has some awful teams. Oregon State is 273rd, Washington State is 200th (both are worse than Mizzou, for reference), and Stanford, Arizona State and Washington are all sub-100. So yeah, the league isn’t good.
Still, there are some people who are safe in their jobs.
Arizona’s Sean Miller can probably breathe easy, as can Oregon’s Dana Altman and UCLA’s Steve Alford. Larry Krystkowiak, Andy Enfield and Cuonzo Martin are all safe as well. Tad Boyle is really popular in Colorado despite the setback they’ve had this year, and even though Oregon State is awful, I think the general consensus is the Beavers are on the right path under Wayne Tinkle because he’s recruited well, and they’ve been decimated by injuries this season.
Bobby Hurley is only in year two, Jerod Haase is in year one, and Ernie Kent is in year three but making a little headway. That really only leaves...
Current Head Coach: Lorenzo Romar (15 seasons / .616 win%)
Let’s face it: Lorenzo Romar has lost his fastball, at least on the court. Off the court, he’s still winning some pretty tough recruiting battles. The Huskies have had so many NBA players come through their program over the years, and Romar can legitimately point to putting guys in the NBA as a reason to come play for him.
What he can’t point to is post-season success. From being a 1-seed in 2005, U-Dub last made the NCAAs in 2011. The natives are getting restless.
Sitting in the wings for Washington is former Missouri recruiting target Michael Porter Jr. I don’t have to remind you of the saga of MPJ, but Romar got his name on a Letter of Intent, and Porter is the kind of electric player who will put butts in seats.
Is that enough to keep Romar around? I kind of think so. I think he is probably feeling some heat under his seat, but ultimately I think he stays.
I don’t think he should, necessarily, because as I said above ... never keep a coach for a recruit. Romar is an alum and has had an okay run. If Washington were to move on, I’d imagine they would be a pretty desirable landing spot because the talent in the Northwest is pretty underrated. It’s not as good a job as Missouri, but it’s a good job. I think somebody like Nevada’s Eric Musselman or Fresno State’s Rodney Terry would be a good fit.
If you’re looking for a job within the SEC, there won’t be many open. Of the 14 schools in the league, five of them have hired coaches in the last two years (Vanderbilt, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi State, Tennessee), and those coaches are safe. I’ll go out on a limb and say that I’m pretty sure John Calipari is secure. Plus, Andy Kennedy, Billy Kennedy, Frank Martin, Bruce Pearl, and Mark Fox aren’t going anywhere either (unless they choose to). That leaves three jobs with a potential for change.
Current Head Coach: Mike Anderson (6 seasons / .631 win%)
I don’t know how hot the seat is for Mike Anderson, but it’s probably gonna get awfully warm if they miss the NCAA tournament again this season.
Anderson is ‘home’ in Arkansas, and the Razorbacks gig is one of the best in the SEC, and fairly underrated nationally. If Arkansas decided to dump Mike Anderson, I’d be surprised. But there’s reason to believe they could attract a good coach.
Right now, if Anderson makes the NCAA tournament, he should be fine. And with the Hogs at 17-5 and winners of five straight, things are trending in the right direction. Anderson has also built momentum in recruiting, so in the end I think he keeps his job this year and next.
Current Head Coach: Johnny Jones (5 seasons / .586 win%)
What’s funny about Johnny Jones is that his winning percentage is better at LSU than it was at North Texas, where he coached for 11 years prior to LSU. LSU hired a guy with a reputation of not really being an engaged coach, and he has performed to expectations.
Jones is a good recruiter, but essentially the recruiting will suffer if you aren’t winning enough, and LSU hasn’t won enough.
LSU has a fairly storied history with a lot of great players, from Pete Maravich to Shaquille O’Neal. But the school doesn’t generate a ton of money, sinking towards the bottom third of the SEC. So who would want to take on a job there? Good question. It’s still a power conference job with good regional talent and a winning history.
If I were LSU, I’d take a long look at East Tennessee State’s Steve Forbes. Forbes has a history of winning where he goes, and he’s worked at a lot of places with fewer resources. He’s a hardworking guy who was on Gregg Marshall’s staff, and he spent time coaching in Florida JUCOs.
Scott Cross has done a nice job at UT-Arlington, though doesn’t have the power conference experience you might want. He does have program building experience, though, and he has done an admirable job at his alma mater.
Current Head Coach: Kim Anderson (3 seasons / .289 win%)
Many of you know what’s going on, and I feel 100 percent positive in saying that Missouri will be looking for a new head coach at the end of the season. We’ve talked about how good the job is, we’ve talked about the challenges. And now we can see where Missouri sits in the pecking order.
Missouri is the best job available in the SEC as long as Arkansas sticks with Mike Anderson. But the more jobs that open up in the Big Ten, the lower Missouri can fall.
My guess, based upon what little info is out there, is that Missouri will be looking for an experienced head coach at the power conference level. There are plenty of guys who have been mentioned in the last two articles who don’t have that experience but have the combination of experience as an assistant and head coaching experience at a lower level. I believe this to be the fall back plan.
If the Tigers (or another job similar or better) lures away a current “safe” head coach, then that reshuffles the dominoes (mixing metaphors is fun, you guys, leave me alone). I have an idea of the coaches Missouri is going to go after, but I like to tease things and we’ve still got four-plus weeks left in the season. And I don’t want to have to write about this basketball team.
If I were to rank the jobs we’ve featured this week, it would look like this:
- Ohio State
- NC State
- Boston College
- Penn State
If Indiana or Ohio State cut ties, things will get very interesting. Georgetown isn’t likely to look too far or too aggressively if JT3 gets canned, and Arkansas is likely to keep Mike Anderson around. For me the 3 key jobs this offseason are going to be Illinois, Missouri and NC State.