NCAA tournament appearances and success can often define a coach's tenure at a school and his career in total.
Most coaches start at mid-majors or smaller and then work their way up. John Calipari began his career at UMass, Rick Pitino at Boston University, Jim Calhoun at Northeastern and Ben Howland at Northern Arizona.
It was success at those schools that led them to more prestigious jobs. So who are this year's star coaches?
With a 51-87 record coming into the 2012 season, Stan Heath was on the hot seat at South Florida. The Bulls had only one winning season and just one NIT berth in his first four years. Behind freshman point guard Anthony Collins, the Bulls improved by 12 wins over 2011.
Heath earned the Big East Coach of the Year this season. This was USF’s first NCAA tournament appearance in 20 years, and the Bulls had not won an NCAA tournament game until its First Four matchup vs. Cal.
With a big turnaround and Collins just a freshman, Heath is unlikely to go anywhere.
Tom Crean came to Indiana with a 190-96 record in nine seasons at Marquette. That included leading the Golden Eagles to the 2003 Final Four behind Dwyane Wade.
At the beginning of the 2012 season, Crean was on the national lists of coaches on the hot seat with just a 28-66 record at IU. Crean possibly saved his job by leading Indiana to a 27-8 season, including a scintillating upset over Kentucky earlier this season.
The Hoosiers and Wildcats will rematch in the South Regional Semifinals on Friday. The future looks bright in Bloomington. Crean returns his top five scorers next season and welcomes the nation’s ninth best recruiting class, according to ESPN.com.
In his first season as a head voach after Billy Kennedy left for Texas A&M, Steve Prohm led the Racers to a 31-2 record. The Racers won just their third NCAA tournament game in school history. He helped junior guard Isaiah Caanan improve his scoring average from 11.7 to 19.0 from his sophomore season.
At just 37 and in his first season as a head coach, Prohm might stay at Murray State depending on what Caanan does. The Racers lose their next three top scorers after Caanan this season.
In this era, it can be easier to just stay where you are. Butler’s Brad Stevens and Gonzaga’s Mark Few are perfect examples of that.
After struggling through his first four seasons at Norfolk, Anthony Evans led the Spartans to their first NCAA tournament win in school history.
Their upset win over Missouri has Norfolk State Athletic Director Marty Miller expecting Evans to get called, according to a story by Steve Greenberg on SportingNews.com.
Dr. Brett Reed has led Lehigh to a 94-62 record and two NCAA tournament appearances in five seasons at Lehigh. The shocking upset over second-seeded Duke by the 15th-seeded Mountain Hawks should place Reed’s stock the highest it could possibly be for him.
With the nation’s fifth-leading scorer in CJ McCollum, Lehigh led Xavier by 15 before the Musketeers took control in the second half. McCollum is only a junior. Lehigh returns its four leading scorers next season.
With that in mind, Reed will likely stay in Bethelem, Pennsylvania at least through next season.
In just three seasons as Sean Miller’s successor, Chris Mack has led Xavier to a 77-29 record and two Sweet Sixteens. The Musketeers have a 5-2 NCAA tournament record under Mack and won the Atlantic Ten title in his first two seasons.
After its fight against Cincinnati earlier in the season, Xavier slid, losing five of its next six games. The Muskies had a big win against St. Louis in the A-10 quarters to assure them of an NCAA tournament bid.
A former Xavier player, Mack is probably there to stay.
In their first season in the Pac-12, the Buffaloes made an impressive run to capture the conference tournament title as the sixth seed. They added an impressive upset over UNLV in the “second round” (of 64) before falling to Baylor in the third round.
He has built a solid program with the Buffaloes. Boyle has posted a respectable 48-26 record in his first two seasons in Boulder. With the nation’s 22nd-ranked recruiting class (according to ESPN) coming in next season and sophomore Andre Roberson and freshman Spencer Dinwiddie to lead them, Boyle has the Buffaloes poised to be among the Pac-12’s elite for the next few years.
After resigning at Alabama 19 games (with a 12-7 record) into the 2008-2009 season, Gottfried has gotten redemption at North Carolina State this year. The Wolfpack have advanced to their first Sweet 16 since 2006. As an 11 seed, NC State has defeated sixth-seeded San Diego State and third-seeded Georgetown to advance. The Wolfpack next face Kansas in the semfinals of the Midwest regional in St. Louis Friday.
In just his first season in Raleigh, Gottfried isn’t going anywhere. After a four-game losing streak in February, NC State has won six of its last seven. The Wolfpack's only loss was the the Midwest’s top seed North Carolina in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament.
If sophomore C.J. Leslie returns next season, North Carolina State could find itself ranked in the preseason top 25.
Groce has his Bobcats in the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. Groce has an 84-55 record in three years in Athens. For the second time in three years, he led OU to a huge first-round upset.
In 2010, the Bobcats knocked off third-seeded Georgetown as a 14 seed. This season, as a 13 seed, the Bobcats defeated No. 4 seed Michigan and No. 12 seed South Florida to reach the Sweet 16. They next play North Carolina in the Midwest Region Semifinals in St. Louis.
One rumor from Brian Rosenthal of The Lincoln Journal Star has Groce being considered at Nebraska.
Smart led the Rams to another first-round upset as a 12 seed (they were an 11 during their 2011 Final Four run). They very nearly pulled off a second upset in the “third” round. A wide-open three-pointer that missed by Rob Brandenberg at the buzzer prevented the Rams from advancing to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season.
Smart has a 84-28 record in three years at VCU. The Rams won the College Basketball Invitational in 2010 before making the NCAA tournament the last two seasons. Last year’s run to the Final Four got Smart a raise. This year’s successful season might get him a new job.
He had been linked frequently to the Illinois job (here via The Chicago Sun-Times) since it was apparent that Bruce Weber wouldn’t return to Champaign.