College Basketball Coaches on the Hot Seat After 2013-14 Season
The college basketball coaching carousel kicks into gear during March and April, and the average season sees 30 to 50 jobs come open. Coaches retire, migrate to other positions or are simply dropped unceremoniously onto the unemployment line.
We can see many of the firings coming long before they happen, as win-loss records head south, and players scatter in all directions. Fan concern turns to fan indignation, boosters begin cutting back on their support of the program and eventually a change needs to be made.
Some, such as Stanford's Johnny Dawkins or Tennessee's Cuonzo Martin, manage to pull themselves off the canvas with deep NCAA tournament runs. These eight coaches, however, may not be able to bank on that kind of fortune in 2015.
Not all of these coaches are likely to be out of a job this time next year, but all should have varying degrees of concern about their current status.
Tom Crean, Indiana
Over the past two years, Indiana has signed seven recruits ranked among ESPN's top 100 in their respective classes. How many still remain on the Hoosier roster?
While it's perfectly understandable for Noah Vonleh to leave after one season when he's expected to be an NBA lottery selection, other departures are causing more head scratching. Coach Tom Crean has seen four players other than Vonleh bolt during this offseason.
Crean was unable to develop Indiana natives Austin Etherington and Jeremy Hollowell into consistent contributors for the Hoosiers. Walk-ons Jonny Marlin and Joe Fagan were never expected to be stars; they simply joined the program to keep playing basketball. Marlin left a scholarship at IPFW to pay his own way at IU, but any expectations of playing time were unreasonable.
This is not even mentioning touted forward Luke Fischer, who bolted Indiana after playing in 13 games.
Rising junior Yogi Ferrell will be a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate in 2014-15, while Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson showed flashes during their freshman campaigns. Crean continues to pull in highly rated recruits, as scorers James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson also join the Hoosiers this fall.
With talented recruiting classes, however, expectations don't abate. Indiana failed to even make the NIT this season. IU athletic director Fred Glass sealed Crean's fourth season of six without postseason basketball when he said, "We're Indiana. We don't play in the CBI."
Glass is correct in his assessment that the CBI should be beneath Indiana, and that a typical Hoosiers season should always end in the NCAA tournament. Crean has only gotten IU there twice, and after the first time, the school was excessively happy about a Sweet 16 berth.
Indiana's standards are dipping. Indiana high school stars are leaving, and even walk-ons are bolting for some reason. Another season outside the field of 68 should have Crean looking over his shoulder.
Anthony Grant, Alabama
The 2013-14 season was the first losing campaign of Alabama coach Anthony Grant's career. For that reason, he deserved the benefit of the doubt and one more shot next year. Athletic director Bill Battle gave him both in a lengthy press release last month.
Unfortunately, athletic directors don't issue press releases defending their coaches unless there's something to defend the coach from. Alabama's no Indiana or Kentucky in terms of basketball tradition, but it should at least be able to reach the NCAA tournament from a watered-down SEC.
Grant's biggest on-court accomplishment aside from the Crimson Tide's 2012 NCAA bid has been a 7-3 record against archrival Auburn. Over the last two years, even that series has been even, and Auburn has raised the stakes.
New Tigers coach Bruce Pearl has been a thorn in Alabama's side dating all the way back to the 2005 NCAA tournament, when his Wisconsin-Milwaukee team bounced the Tide in the first round. The ex-Tennessee coach's boundless energy has already resurrected one football-mad school's moribund hoops program, and it ought not be surprising to see him do something similar at Auburn.
Pearl has spent the past three years unintentionally plaguing his Tennessee successor Cuonzo Martin, a man with a personality very similar to Grant's. Much like Tennessee fans, Alabama fans will need to see results to keep backing their man in the face of such a force of nature.
Now that he's at Auburn, Pearl will be tormenting Grant very intentionally.
Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss
Mississippi's basketball tradition is thin enough to read a newspaper through, and it's for that reason that Andy Kennedy's record in Oxford can't be discounted too readily.
The Rebels haven't had a losing season in eight years under Kennedy, the longest such streak in program history. However, the previous record string of winning seasons—six, from 1996-2002—boasted five of the school's seven NCAA tournament trips and three of its four victories.
Kennedy's run has produced exactly one tournament win in one trip. To even earn that, he had to ride scatter-gunning guard Marshall Henderson's shooting and woofing to the school's first SEC tournament title since 1981.
In 2013-14, Henderson's antics were somewhat subdued after Kennedy hit him with a three-game suspension that included the first two SEC games. Ole Miss' success was similarly quieted, falling short of 20 wins for the first time in five seasons and missing the postseason completely for only the second time in Kennedy's tenure.
“Last year we broke through and we hoped that was the standard by which we could continue to grow,” Kennedy said to Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger before the SEC tournament. “We haven’t been able to get that back based on some of our guys playing to the potential that I think is there.”
Players failing to rise to their potential has become a recurring theme at Ole Miss. It's rare that a major-conference coach can survive for eight years with only one tournament bid to show for it. How much slack will Kennedy receive if the Rebels can't adapt to the post-Henderson era?
Steve Masiello, Manhattan
If life had worked out well for Steve Masiello, he'd be finalizing his coaching staff at South Florida by now. Instead, he has to go to classes at Kentucky to keep the job at Manhattan that he was trying to leave.
Masiello was set to become USF's new coach until a background check discovered that he had never been awarded a degree from Kentucky, as his resume stated. Luckily for him, a statement released by Manhattan's administration wrote off Masiello's error as "poor judgment" rather than an intentional misrepresentation.
Manhattan has placed Masiello on unpaid leave until he officially finishes his degree at Kentucky with associate head coach Matt Grady running the program on an interim basis.
On the court, the Jaspers still return some talent next season, but all three double-digit scorers from the 2013-14 team graduate. Manhattan should still be a contender in the MAAC, but if they aren't, Masiello's leash may have been substantially shortened by the CV fiasco.
Matt Painter, Purdue
Purdue staggered to its second straight losing season under Matt Painter in 2013-14, and it's an unfamiliar sensation in West Lafayette, Ind.
After all, the last time the Boilermakers finished under .500 in successive seasons was the '04-'05 and '05-'06 campaigns, Gene Keady's final year as Purdue coach and Painter's first. Those were the first back-to-back losing seasons at Purdue since the early 1950s.
While Purdue's recruiting classes have been well-regarded—Rivals ranked the 2012 class 20th in the nation and last season's 24th—results have not justified the optimism. The centerpieces of 2012's crop, center A.J. Hammons and point guard Ronnie Johnson, have both offered only flashes of potential.
Now, Hammons is pondering a jump to the NBA and Johnson is transferring. Johnson blamed a poor fit in Painter's system and "a lot of subbing" when he explained his decision to Kyle Neddenriep of the Indianapolis Star. Considering Johnson started 59 games and played 30 minutes a night, the explanation seems shaky at best.
Painter has seen five other players transfer out that would have been part of his last two teams. Between the underachieving and the attrition, Purdue could be left with only four experienced scholarship players next season.
After the season-ending loss to Northwestern, which dropped the Boilers into last place in the Big Ten, Painter took full responsibility for the current state of the program. As reported by the Big Ten Network, Painter said:
We have to recruit a more unselfish player, we have to recruit a tougher player. We have some of those guys in our program, some guys who don't. And that's my fault. This isn't a school district, I recruited these guys.
Painter also once recruited a class containing Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore, who formed the nucleus of five straight NCAA tournament teams. If the 2014 class—ranked 28th by Rivals—can't help turn results around, Painter's ties to his alma mater could become tenuous at best.
Oliver Purnell, DePaul
Everywhere Oliver Purnell has coached, he's fixed up programs that had fallen into disrepair. Radford, Old Dominion, Dayton, Clemson—Purnell left all four in better shape than he found them.
The same could be said about DePaul, but that's a very low bar to reach. Purnell has won 12 games in two of his last three seasons, a mark that the Blue Demons hadn't reached since winning 20 in 2006-07. Still, it's been two decades since DePaul was a perennial tournament team and three since it was making Final Four runs, and progress has been halting at best.
After four seasons, Purnell's record stands at 42-85 with only faint glimmers of improvement. Freshman Billy Garrett Jr. was named this season's Big East Rookie of the Year with teammate Tommy Hamilton IV joining him on the All-Rookie team.
DePaul has an opportunity to make headway in the new, smaller Big East, but that improvement needs to come soon. Purnell will return for the fifth year of his seven-year contract, and escaping a seventh straight year with at least a share of last place would qualify as progress.
A new arena is set to open in Chicago's South Loop in 2016, but can Purnell survive to lead the first team onto its floor?
Craig Robinson, Oregon State
Every piece written on Oregon State coach Craig Robinson is obligated to mention that he's President Obama's brother-in-law. That's partially Robinson's own fault, because he has yet to snap the Beavers' 24-year NCAA tournament drought.
In six seasons, only one of Robinson's teams has finished above .500. The 2013-14 Beavers looked bound for another ignominious stagger to the finish after an early-season loss to Coppin State and an 0-2 start in Pac-12 play.
A funny thing happened from there, however. OSU split its 16 remaining conference games, including victories over eventual NCAA tournament teams Stanford, Oregon, UCLA and Arizona State. That run of form made for a nice story, until the Beavers squandered all that good will in a CBI loss to Radford.
Considering that Robinson inherited a 6-25 team and improved it to 18-18—with a CBI championship, no less—in his debut season, he's shown he can make immediate progress. As this longform piece from Buzzfeed's Joel Anderson discusses, he's become the true mentor to some of his players that all coaches claim to be.
What he hasn't shown is that he can push a team into the top half of the Pac-12 standings and into the big dance. At this point, it's anyone's guess which will last longer: Robinson's stay in Corvallis or his sister's residence in the White House.
Mark Turgeon, Maryland
The last time Maryland went four years without reaching the NCAA tournament was during the transition from Bob Wade's disastrous tenure to a new coach named Gary Williams. That drought ended more than two decades ago.
Mark Turgeon's first three years have seen no invitations to March Madness, and they join with Williams' final season to form that dreaded four-year famine.
The class of incoming Terrapin freshmen is ranked ninth in the country by Rivals and includes Virginia guard Melo Trimble, Maryland's first McDonald's All-American since Mike Jones in 2003. That's the good news.
Maryland's moving to the Big Ten in 2014. That's the bad news.
Good news: Several Big Ten powers—Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State chief among them—will be dealing with major roster change next season.
Bad news: Maryland lost the top recruits from each of its last three classes—Nick Faust (2011), Shaquille Cleare (2012) and Roddy Peters (2013)—to transfer earlier this week.
Good news: Turgeon now has two open scholarships to fill with veteran transfers.
More good news: The Terps are the only team discussed in this slideshow projected into next season's tournament field by Joe Lunardi's way-too-early 2015 Bracketology.
There's a lot of good news here. But if the returning players can't improve enough to truly show the newcomers how this college game works, and the Terps are once again left out on Selection Sunday, all this optimism will become an albatross very quickly.
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