Ranking the 10 Worst Coaching Performances of the College Basketball Season
Coaching is a thankless job: long hours, snotty kids, meddlesome boosters, byzantine restrictions.
And for what? A disembodied strand of nylon?
It's the kind of profession only a true basketball junkie could love, which is why I know the fine men on this list won't mind a bit of pointed criticism. It's not like you guys care what we think about you, right? You're not going to be bothered by the contention that you, among a group of 346 peers, have been among the worst college basketball coaches in the country this season.
No way. Not a chance.
Great. Now that my conscience is clear, let's slide ahead.
Note: All advanced stats courtesy of KenPom.com.
10. Joseph Price, Grambling State
Preseason Ranking: NR
Current Record: 0-24, 0-15 (SWAC)
The 2012-13 Grambling State Tigers might be the worst team in the history of college basketball.
They rank dead last in pythagorean winning percentage, dead last in adjusted defensive efficiency and dead last in adjusted defensive efficiency. And as Deadspin pointed out in a recent post, "the team's No. 2 scorer is a typo."
This is not entirely the fault of new head coach Joseph Price. The program has been handcuffed by a number of harsh NCAA penalties stemming from low academic achievement. Price's only real sin was to inherit the mess.
That said, this list would feel incomplete if it didn't include the coach currently presiding over one of the worst seasons in recent sports history.
Sorry, Coach Price.
9. Frank Haith, Missouri
Preseason Ranking: 15th
Current Record: 19-8, 8-6 (SEC)
The bulk of Frank Haith's troubles this season are off the court, where he was the target of an NCAA investigation regarding his tenure at the University of Miami. Haith seems to have skirted punishment for the most part, but the incident is certainly a dark cloud over his coaching name.
On the hardwood, Missouri has been hurt by injuries to Laurence Bowers, Keion Bell and Jabari Brown. But even then, you'd expect more from such a talented team, particularly considering the SEC's relative weakness.
Bowers and senior point guard Phil Pressey both made the midseason Wooden Award watch list, and yet the Tigers have losses to LSU, Texas A&M and Arkansas.
It's also hard to fathom why Connecticut transfer Alex Oriakhi, the team's most efficient offensive player per KenPom.com, is getting so few touches. Oriakhi's percentage of shots taken is the lowest among Mizzou's rotation players, and his bystander role in the offense has limited the team's potential.
8. Lorenzo Romar, Washington
Preseason Rank: NR
Current Record: 15-13, 7-8 (Pac 12)
Washington was one of four teams to earn a first-place vote in the preseason Pac-12 poll, and it's easy to see why.
Shooting guard C.J. Wilcox has seamless scoring ability. Point guard Abdul Gaddy was once one of the nation's most coveted recruits. Center Aziz N'Diaye is 7'1".
Plus, the Huskies were coming off four straight seasons with 24 wins or more.
And yet the pieces haven't come together for Lorenzo Romar this year. After losing early home games to Albany and Nevada, the Huskies have struggled to remain relevant.
7. Scott Drew, Baylor
Preseason Ranking: 19th
Current Record: 16-11, 7-7 (Big 12)
We keep waiting for the year when Baylor—one of the nation's recruiting powerhouses—establishes itself as a regular threat to Kansas atop the Big 12. The Bears flirted with relevance last year—climbing as high as third in the AP Poll—and have made the Elite Eight twice in the last four years.
And yet it seems every two steps forward in Waco is followed by another step back. Even with 5-star center Isaiah Austin playing alongside senior guard Pierre Jackson, Scott Drew's team suffered early home losses to Northwestern and College of Charleston and has never quite recovered.
A recent three-game slide in league play has the Bears firmly on the bubble. If they slip even further, this could be one of the more talented NIT teams in recent memory.
6. Ben Howland, UCLA
Preseason Rank: 13th
Current Record: 19-7, 9-4 (Pac-12)
The evidence is piling up against Ben Howland.
First, the 2012 report in Sports Illustrated claiming that Howland's program had "drifted from the UCLA way." Then the on-air criticism from former UCLA great Bill Walton. And now a 2012-13 team with no fewer than three NBA prospects that can't seem to gain any separation in a down Pac-12.
Most discouraging of all is the fact that Howland seems to have abandoned his coaching principles in the process.
The same man who adhered to a stubbornly conservative brand of basketball when he had exceptional guards like Jrue Holiday, Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook at his disposal has done a 180 this year.
After seven straight years in which his teams never ranked higher than 155 in adjusted tempo, Howland's 2012-13 Bruins are the 26th fastest team in America.
It's often said that the mark of a great coach is his or her ability to adjust to his or her personnel. After ignoring that imperative for years, Howland has finally attempted to make a substantial strategic change. The results, unfortunately, haven't been encouraging.
5. Leonard Hamilton, Florida State
Preseason Ranking: 25th
Current Record: 14-12, 6-7 (ACC)
Florida State's record—middling as it is—obscures just how bad the Seminoles have been this year. At 117th overall in Ken Pomeroy's pythagorean winning percentage metric, Leonard Hamilton's team ranks behind sub-.500 clubs like Oregon State, Washington State, Purdue and Georgia.
And without a few timely shots by shooting guard Michael Snaer, Florida State could easily be near the bottom of the ACC.
Of course that in turn obscures how disappointing Snaer has been. The preseason All-ACC selection is shooting just 41.8 percent from the field and has seen his offensive efficiency rating drop considerably from last year.
The defense, meanwhile, ranks 146th in adjusted efficiency despite one of the nation's tallest back lines. There are good athletes down in Tallahassee, and it's a wonder Hamilton hasn't done more with them in a year where the ACC lacks depth.
All would be forgiven if super-recruit Andrew Wiggins signs with the Seminoles later this year. Barring that, though, this season has been a loss.
4. Mark Gottfried, North Carolina State
Preseason Ranking: 6th
Current Record: 19-8, 8-6 (ACC)
It's never good when a former player questions your ability to manage talent. It's even worse when a current player tacitly endorses that assessment. And it's rock bottom when your team's play substantiates the original claim.
Mark Gottfried is living through all three levels of chagrin this season, as his embarrassingly talented team has stumbled from preseason darling to ACC mediocrity amid a well-publicized Twitter slight from former NC State forward Thomas de Thaey.
De Thaey called Gottfried a "great recruiter" and "terrible coach," and the evidence supports his contention. Despite a roster that features NBA prospects at forward (C.J. Leslie), point guard (Lorenzo Brown) and shooting guard (Rodney Purvis), the Wolfpack have been among the ACC's worst teams in defensive efficiency.
And because of that, the preseason ACC favorite now hopes merely to nab a double-digit at-large seed for the NCAA tournament.
3. Mo Cassara, Hofstra
Preseason Ranking: NR
Current Record: 6-22, 3-12 (CAA)
In 2009-10, Mo Cassara inherited a Hofstra team that had gone 40-26 over its past two seasons. After a solid first season buoyed by holdovers from the previous regime, Cassara's Pride have sunk to the bottom of the Colonial Athletic Association.
But the on-court misery is secondary compared to the scandal that rocked the program earlier this season. On December 29, four Hofstra players were arrested and charged in connection with a flurry of on-campus robberies.
Even more embarrassing for Cassara was the fact that the players—one freshman and three transfers—were all brought in under his watch.
Cassara did seem pretty torn up in the aftermath, and the proverbial bad-apple defense may well apply in this case. But the facts are still pretty grim. Cassara took over a promising program located in a major media market (New York City) and has promptly watched said program spiral into disrepair. Not a lot of silver linings in that sequence.
2. Rick Barnes, Texas
Preseason Rank: NR (29th)
Current Record: 12-15, 4-10 (Big 12)
Even after accounting for the loss of suspended guard Myck Kabongo, it's hard to explain Texas' play this season. A team with seven former ESPN 100 recruits on its roster (eight if you include Kabongo) has the following black marks on its resume:
— 20-point loss to Iowa State
— 23-point loss to Georgetown
— 26-point loss to Kansas State
— 26-point loss to Kansas
— 13-point loss to Chaminade (NAIA)
Now I understand losing close games without a stabilizing veteran presence like Kabongo on the floor. But to not even remain competitive suggests a flaw in design.
Rick Barnes has a reputation for struggling to maximize his talent. This year, he's earned it.
1. Kevin O'Neill, USC
Preseason Ranking: NR
Current Record: 12-14, 7-6 (Pac 12)
The inglorious Kevin O'Neill era at USC came to a fittingly inglorious end when the Trojans canned their head coach midseason. USC was 7-10 at the time of O'Neill's dismissal.
The charges against O'Neill were various. Doug Gottlieb quoted an anonymous former player who said O'Neill had a "black heart," and multiple incidents of public outrage painted the former Raptors head coach as an irascible figure.
Bottom line, though, O'Neill didn't win enough. He went 6-26 in 2011-12 and didn't fare much better in 2012-13 despite some promising new talent.
KO has been scoring headline coaching jobs since the early 1990s, but poor results and a growing litany of troubling anecdotes makes one wonder if O'Neill has finally run out of options.