Ranking the Best College Basketball Coaches Currently Without a Job

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2014

Ranking the Best College Basketball Coaches Currently Without a Job

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    Former UCLA coach Ben Howland is one of many notable names still in the unemployment line.
    Former UCLA coach Ben Howland is one of many notable names still in the unemployment line.Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The college basketball job market has shrunk down to slim-pickings levels, with only three Division I positions open as of Friday.

    None of the vacancies are considered prime cuts of occupational meat, though at least with Oregon State, there's the added value of being in a power conference. The Beavers lost all five starters from this season's 16-16 team, so a major rebuilding project would be in the works for whoever the school hires.

    The OSU opening has revived the offseason coaching carousel just as it was winding down, with former UCLA coach Ben Howland among the names mentioned in connection with the gig in Corvallis.

    Howland, who last coached in the 2012-13 season, is one of many former head coaches who haven't declared themselves as "retired" and therefore can be considered unemployed at this point.

    Here's our ranking of the 12 best former coaches currently without a head gig.

12. Billy Gillispie

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Career record: 148-108

    Most recent head coaching job: Texas Tech (2011-12 season)

    Billy Gillispie was once considered one of the hot, young up-and-comers in the college coaching ranks, a reputation that saw him quickly jump from UTEP to Texas A&M and then, after a Sweet 16 appearance with the Aggies in 2007, to Kentucky. But that's when the downfall began.

    Gillispie lasted just two seasons with the Wildcats, going 40-27 and making one NCAA tournament appearance before being let go after the 2008-09 season. Two years later, he was hired by Texas Tech, but that move ended up even more disastrous.

    Tech went 8-23 in Gillispie's only season as coach, with allegations of player mistreatment surfacing prior to his resignation in September 2012 for health reasons.

    While he may seem like damaged goods, coaches with bad reputations have been given second or third chances before. Gillispie might need to take the off-the-radar job route to get back into the game, but at 54, he's still young enough to coach effectively.

11. Ben Braun

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    Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

    Career record: 615-517

    Most recent head coaching job: Rice (2013-14 season)

    Ben Braun is facing the possibility of his first basketball season without a job since the mid-1970s after resigning from Rice in March after six seasons, only one of which ended with a winning record.

    Prior to coaching the Owls, Braun was at California, where from 1996 to 2008, he won 219 games and led the Golden Bears to five NCAA tournament appearances, including the Sweet 16 in his first season. He also got Eastern Michigan into the tourney three times in 11 years, and he remains that school's all-time winningest coach with 185 victories.

    Now 60, Braun has been a head coach since 1977, when he was hired by Siena Heights, an NAIA school in Michigan. He came to Rice after being fired at Cal, and after a failed tenure with the Owls, he might be done.

    Or he could find a smaller college willing to grab one of just 81 coaches with 600-plus career victories.

10. Jeff Bzdelik

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Career record: 160-179

    Most recent head coaching job: Wake Forest (2013-14 season)

    Jeff Bzdelik is coming off his best record as a head coach since 2006-07, yet that wasn't good enough to keep him off the unemployment line. So it goes for a man who came to Wake Forest along with high expectations but who never seemed to have fan support.

    Bzdelik resigned in March after four seasons with the Demon Deacons, going a combined 51-76 overall and just 17-51 in ACC play, never finishing better than ninth place in the conference. He was hired by Wake despite going 36-58 in three years at Colorado, a gig he took following his most successful coaching stint (50-16 in two seasons with Air Force).

    Non-existent fan support plagued Bzdelik at Wake, where billboards in Winston-Salem called for his firing in multiple seasons.

    At 61, Bzdelik is probably on the downward side of his coaching career, that began in the late 1970s as an assistant at Davidson and also included short stints in charge of UMBC and the NBA's Denver Nuggets. If he's going to get another head job, it will probably need to be further down the Division I food chain.

9. Buzz Peterson

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Career record: 267-227

    Most recent head coaching job: UNC-Wilmington (2013-14 season)

    The man born as Robert Peterson has an apropos nickname in "Buzz," because he's cut through a number of college jobs throughout the south over the past 20 years. He's held six positions at five different schools since 1996, with only two years of down time during that span. 

    His most recent job, a four-season stint at UNC-Wilmington that ended with his firing in March following an 8-23 record that dropped his mark there to 42-82. Peterson came to the school after one season at Appalachian State, the program he began his coaching career with in 1996.

    In between were stops at Tulsa (one season), Tennessee (four seasons) and Coastal Carolina (two seasons), with another two years spent in the front office of the NBA's Charlotte Hornets.

    A member of North Carolina's 1982 National Championship team alongside Michael Jordan, Peterson's name has always carried a lot of...buzz when taking a job, though in most instances, he hasn't lived up to the hype. Ironically, the job he's twice held before—at Appalachian State—is again open, if both sides want to go down that route again.

8. Bill Carmody

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Career record: 284-245

    Most recent head coaching job: Northwestern (2012-13 season)

    Bill Carmody's resume includes a very conflicted nugget of employment information, as he's arguably the most successful coach ever at the only Division I school in a power conference never to have made the NCAA tournament.

    In 13 seasons at Northwestern, Carmody went 192-220, including the only two 20-win campaigns in program history in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Those were the second and third of four straight Wildcats teams to make the NIT, but then after a 13-19 mark in 2012-13, Carmody was let go and replaced by former Duke assistant Chris Collins.

    Carmody went 92-25 in four seasons at Princeton prior to his arrival at Northwestern, a stint that included two NCAA tourney appearances and one victory. His success there gave weight to the idea he could be the one to get Northwestern over the hump, but that never panned out.

    Northwestern was a thankless job, but Carmody did as well as anybody could have realistically expected. Given another chance at a school in a mid-major league, he could make some waves.

7. Mike Jarvis

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Career record: 422-313

    Most recent head coaching job: Florida Atlantic (2013-14 season)

    Mike Jarvis was one of the hottest coaching names in Division I about 15 years ago, when after taking George Washington to four NCAA tournaments in eight seasons, he landed the St. John's job. Jarvis remained among the elite, getting a Red Storm team that featured Ron Artest and Erick Barkley into the Elite Eight in 1999.

    He also won a Big East title in 2000 and an NIT Championship in 2003 at the school, but he was fired early in the 2003-04 season following a series of off-the-court incidents involving his players.

    Jarvis resurfaced in 2008 at Florida Atlantic, and he spent the past six seasons there before resigning following a 10-20 mark this year.

    Though 69, Jarvis' statement to the media after his resignation indicated he wanted to "explore other opportunities," which could indicate he wants to find one last job.

6. Stan Heath

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Career record: 209-206

    Most recent head coaching job: South Florida (2013-14 season)

    It might be unfair to say Stan Heath's coaching career peaked far too early, but if you look at his resume, that's how it may seem.

    Heath made his debut as a head coach in 2001-02, taking over at Kent State after Gary Waters left for Rutgers. He led that team to 30 wins, the third-most in Division I history by a first-year coach, and he reached the Elite Eight before falling to Indiana.

    That one season with Kent landed him the Arkansas job, where he went 82-71 in five seasons but was fired despite getting the Razorbacks into the NCAA tourney in his final two years. From there, he ended up at South Florida, where he managed just two winning records (and one NCAA berth, in 2011-12) in seven years before getting fired in March

    Despite the downward trajectory of his coaching career, the 49-year-old Heath has managed to get every program he's been at into the NCAAs. Might there be a school out there looking to be his fourth different tourney entrant?

5. Kevin O'Neill

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Career record: 216-241

    Most recent head coaching job: USC (2012-13 season)

    Kevin O'Neill hasn't had much success as a head coach, but in some ways it hasn't been entirely his fault.

    Take a look at his last two jobs, at Arizona and USC. With Arizona, where he'd been an assistant under Lute Olson in the 1980s, he was brought on staff again before the 2007-08 season, but just before the season began, he became the interim coach after Olson went on an indefinite leave of absence.

    He was tabbed as the coach-in-waiting for Olson during that season, which resulted in a 19-15 record and an NCAA tournament bid. But when Olson returned to the job (only to eventually retire before the next season), he let O'Neill go.

    Then, in 2009, he got the USC job after Tim Floyd resigned amid allegations of paying former player O.J. Mayo. O'Neill inherited a team that saw many players go pro or leave the program, and midway through his fourth season, he was fired.

    Other college gigs included stints with Marquette, Northwestern and Tennessee, though only the Marquette job (his first as a head coach) proved to be successful.

4. Darrin Horn

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Career record: 171-112

    Most recent head coaching job: South Carolina (2011-12 season)

    Darrin Horn's career path has taken the route that many former hotshot coaches have gone in college basketball. A fantastic job at a mid-major stepping stone leads to a more high-profile gig in a power conference, but the success doesn't follow.

    Horn won 111 games in five seasons at Western Kentucky, capped by a Sweet 16 appearance in 2008. That effort got him hired at South Carolina, but after going 21-10 in his first season, the records just kept getting worse, and by 2011-12 he was out following a 10-21 record that included going 2-14 in the SEC.

    Horn has since worked for ESPN as an analyst, but at 41, it's unlikely his coaching career is over unless he wants it to be.

3. Seth Greenberg

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Career record: 378-283

    Most recent head coaching job: Virginia Tech (2011-12 season)

    Seth Greenberg didn't have much hair to begin with when he arrived at the college basketball wasteland that is Virginia Tech, but he was really bald by the time his nine-year tenure in Blacksburg, Va. ended two seasons ago.

    His Hokies team held a constant place on the NCAA tournament bubble, only making it in once (in 2007) despite reaching nine or more wins in the ultra-tough ACC four times. How hard is it to win at Virginia Tech? The school fired Greenberg's predecessor, James Johnson, after just two years in order to hire Buzz Williams away from Marquette.

    Greenberg, who coached at Long Beach State and South Florida prior to Tech, has since established himself as a pretty adept studio analyst for ESPN's college basketball coverage. But so did Bruce Pearl, and he came off the unemployment pile this offseason when Auburn reached out, so what's to say Greenberg won't get a call sometime soon?

2. Rick Stansbury

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Career record: 293-165

    Most recent head coaching job: Mississippi State (2011-12 season)

    When Rick Stansbury "retired" in 2012 following 14 seasons at Mississippi State, the departure felt quite strange. Not just because he'd had only one losing year during that span, one that included six NCAA tournament appearances, two SEC tournament titles and one regular-season crown, but also because he was only 52 years old and hadn't cited any health issues.

    So it wasn't a surprise when AL.com's Kevin Scarbinsky reported in March that Stansbury was interested in the just-opened Auburn job. The gig went to Bruce Pearl, but Stansbury's desire to get back onto the court was evident after a two-year absence.

    Stansbury will be coaching again next season after joining Billy Kennedy's staff at Texas A&M as an assistant; it was announced Wednesday. The move is a bit peculiar, given Stansbury's pedigree, but it might also serve as a chance to get his bearings again before picking up another head coaching job.

1. Ben Howland

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Career record: 399-208

    Most recent head coaching job: UCLA (2012-13 season)

    Ben Howland returned UCLA to as close to the pinnacle of college basketball as it had been in decades when he led the Bruins to three consecutive Final Fours from 2006 to 2008, losing in the title game in 2006. That was just his third season, but the turnaround he'd constructed from the ashes of Steve Lavin's dismal run was phenomenal.

    But after the Final Four run, Howland's teams seemed to continually underachieve, failing to make it out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament again and missing the tourney altogether on two occasions.

    A 2012 expose by George Dohrmann of Sports Illustrated detailed internal problems with Howland's program, and a year later (despite having won the Pac-12 tournament a week before), he was let go.

    Howland's name has been mentioned in conjunction with most power conference openings this offseason, which isn't a surprise considering the success he's had at every stop (including Northern Arizona, Pittsburgh). At this point, it seems more a matter of when Howland will return to coaching instead of if.

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.