College Basketball 2011 Offseason: Coaching Carrousel Continues to Spin

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College Basketball 2011 Offseason: Coaching Carrousel Continues to Spin
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Gary Williams bids farewell, one of four ACC coaches to be leaving.

With the surprise retirement of Maryland’s Gary Williams, the ACC will be introducing four new coaches in 2011-2012. This is a bit stunning when you consider they just introduced three new ones last year.

Since the end of the 2010-2011 season, Georgia Tech has fired Paul Hewitt after 11 seasons and replaced him with Brian Gregory. NC State finally had enough of Sidney Lowe (technically he resigned) and replaced him with Mark Gottfried. Then Frank Haith left Miami, so they brought in George Mason’s Jim Larranaga. Lastly, when Gary Williams suddenly retired, the Terrapins went and got Mark Turgeon from Texas A&M.

A couple things stick out to me about this coaching carousel that’s been spinning the past two years.

Firstly, the ACC has gone from being one of the most diverse coaching fraternities to one of the least diverse. Just two years ago, there were five African-American coaches. Now Leonard Hamilton is the only one left. I’m not pointing this out to make any kind of statement, I just found it interesting.

Secondly, maybe the ACC isn’t what it used to be. Over the last two years, two coaches have left ACC jobs to go coach at what I would consider less attractive jobs. This past off-season, Frank Haith left Miami to go coach Missouri. This was not a shocking move. Haith had to know the end was coming soon, so why not jump before you’re pushed out.

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However, I was surprised last year when Oliver Purnell left Clemson to go coach a Big East cupcake in Depaul. They haven’t been relevant since the Reagan years.

Without question, this league is Duke, North Carolina, then everyone else. I don’t want to offend my friends at Florida State (who am I kidding, I don’t have any friends who go to Florida State), but it is going to be a long time before someone other than Duke or North Carolina’s wins an ACC crown.

Anyhow, let’s break down these new coaches:

MARYLAND

The most shocking change had to be Maryland’s. I simply didn’t see Gary Williams retiring, and I wasn’t the only one. He brought in a nice recruitment class the previous season and he had some more solid kids coming in next year. Yet, after 22 seasons, he decided to throw that sweaty suit into the wash one last time.

Maryland wasted no time finding their new man in Mark Turgeon. In fact, it took less than a week.

Now some are asking if Turgeon is a “below the radar” home run? It’s fair question to ask. The man has had no problem winning up to this point.

As a matter of fact, Turgeon has a little ACC blood in him. He played for Larry Brown (who played at UNC) at Kansas. He became an assistant after graduating and remained one under Roy Williams (also from UNC). In fact, he was on the bench when Duke beat Kansas for the 1991 championship.

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Mark Turgeon

After bouncing around Oregon and the NBA for a bit, he got his first head coaching job at Jacksonville State, turning a 10th place team into a third place team. He then moved back to the state of Kansas to coach Wichita state. In seven seasons, he produced three 20-win seasons, four post-season trips, including one trip to the NCAA tournament.

That year was 2006, when he took the Shockers to the Sweet 16, after beating 2-seed Tennessee in the second-round. They would end up losing to Jim Larranaga’s George Mason in the Sweet 16. Of course Larranga is now in Miami.

In 2007-2008, Turgeon the surgeon replaced Billy Gillspie at Texas A&M. In a tough Big 12, he produced some amazing numbers. He won at least 24 games in four seasons, yet the Aggies were never able to parlay that into tournament success. They never advanced beyond the second round.

I think in the end what shocks me about this hiring is not that they hired Mark Turgeon. He looks like he’s a solid coach. What surprised me is that after 22 seasons at Maryland, there was no heir apparent to Gary Williams. There was no assistant sitting next to him or former assistant ready to come back home again.

Some had mentioned Fran Dunphy as the replacement, a former Williams’ assistant and current Temple head coach, but he wasn’t an assistant at Maryland. He was with Gary Williams at American.

I think in the end, Terrapins got a man they can be happy about. In fact, he has the potential to produce better results if given time. Of course that isn’t a guarantee with this fan base. Remember, this is a group that was ready to chase out Williams just a few years ago.

GEORGIA TECH

Paul Hewitt was the head coach at Georgia Tech for 11 seasons. During that time, a ton of NBA talent came and went, including Chris Bosh, Jarrett Jack, Mario West, Thaddeus Young, Javaris Crittenton, Will Bynum, Anthony Morrow, Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors.

Yet, despite the talent, you’d have to call the Paul Hewitt era disappointing, right?

He went 189-160 overall, but just 72-104 in the ACC. He never finished higher than 3rd in conference. He took his squad to five NCAA tournaments and is best remember for somehow making it to the NCAA Finals in 2003-2004.

If you’re a Duke fan like me, that year still has to frustrate you. To know that the Blue Devils blew an eight-point lead with three minutes to play against Connecticut, now knowing Georgia Tech would be the competition if we won. I’m getting mad thinking about it now.

Anyhow, the problem with Hewitt wasn’t getting the talent, it was keeping the talent and things really started to cave in the last four years. In fact, the Yellow Jackets had produced three losing seasons over the last four years. It was time for him to go.

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Brian Gregory

I love the decision Georgia Tech made to go get Brian Gregory.

He’s was the head coach at Dayton for the last eight years, going a solid 172-94 overall. He’s crashed the NCAA tournament twice and the NIT tournament three times.

Obviously, he walks into the ACC with one big plus on his resume…a championship win over Roy Williams and North Carolina.

Remember, it was his Dayton Flyers who beat North Carolina in the 2010 NIT championship.

MIAMI

It didn’t shock me to learn that the Miami Hurricanes would be looking for a new coach this off-season, but it did shock me to learn that Frank Haith quit. The man should have been fired the day after the season ended.

After seven seasons and only one trip to the NCAA Tournament, the man didn’t deserve the job anymore. Yet, somehow he found another Division 1 school to want him. I’m still shocked.

Once Haith was gone, the big name that kept popping up in the coaching search was Frank Martin. The rumor was, the Kansas State head coach was dying to take his talents to South Beach.

I’ll be honest, I thought he’d be a great hire. A big name with a big personality was just what this program needed. Yet, Miami’s Athletic Director didn’t agree with him (never does).

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Jim Larranaga

Instead, they went and got themselves a true veteran in George Mason’s Jim Larranaga. Now a lot of “BCS” schools go down and steal coaches from the mid-majors, but those coaches are usually young pups ready to move on to bigger and better thins.

Jim Larranaga is not a young pup. In fact, he was drafted in the sixth round of the NBA draft way back in 1971. He never played a professional minute, choosing to coach instead.

In the late 70’s he was the head coach at American International College. While there he defeated Northeastern, led by a little known coach named Jim Calhoun.

Like Maryland’s Mark Turgeon, Larranaga has some ACC in his blood, but his is thicker. He was actually an assistant coach at Virginia, arriving the same year as Ralph Sampson. He was there seven full seasons, including both of Virginia’s Final-Four run. He would later become head coach at Bowling Green for 11 seasons.

Of course Jim Larranaga’s legacy comes from his time as the man in charge at George Mason. If you remember, they were the original Cinderella story back in the 2004 NCAA Tournament. He led his Patriots to an improbable run to the Final Four as the 11th seed.

The reality is, I’m not shocked that Miami would skip on a young stud for someone like Larranaga. Instead I was shocked that Larranga would leave George Mason now and go to Miami. He’s 61 years old. While I’m sure Miami would be patient with Larranaga, how much time does he really have left to coach?

NORTH CAROLINA STATE

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Mark Gottfried

Sidney Lowe seemed like the perfect hire back in 2006. Not only was he a former NC State player, but he walked into the job with a ton of NBA experience (as an assistant). Yet, five years later, Lowe resigned without every sniffing the NCAA Tournament.

Unlike Maryland, Miami and Georgia Tech, who all brought in current, active, winning coaches, NC State decided to go a different route.

You see Mark Gottfried was unemployed last season, after resigning mid-season the year before. Maybe we should back up a bit.

As a college player, Gottfried played for Alabama back in the mid-eighties. He was pretty good too. The Detroit Pistons drafted him in the 7th round of the 1987 draft, but he never played. Instead, he headed over to UCLA where he became an assistant coach under Jim Harrick.

He got his first head-coaching job at Murray State and he had great success. He produced three straight 20-win seasons and three post-season trips, including two to the NCAA Tournament.

In 1998, Alabama came calling and he would remain there until the 2008-2009 season. He did win a lot of games there (210 in fact) and he took the Tide to five straight NCAA Tournaments. The highlight was Alabama’s run to the Elite Eight in 2004. Yet, the Crimson Tide are a greedy bunch and after two and half sub par seasons, Gottfried walked away mid-season.

In the end, I don’t think Wolfpack nation was happy with the Gottfried hire. They desperately wanted something sexy, someone like Shaka Smart. I can understand. I just don’t think the NC State is that sexy right now. With Coach K and Roy Williams right down the street, why would anyone want to leap into that fire right now?

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