College Basketball Hot Seat: Coaches in Danger After Rough StartsNovember 21, 2018
College Basketball Hot Seat: Coaches in Danger After Rough Starts
The 2018-19 men's basketball season is barely two weeks old, but it's never too early to start wondering which coaches are on the brink of termination.
One important distinction before we dive in: There's a fine line between the hot seat and a hot take. For instance, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, Villanova's Jay Wright and West Virginia's Bob Huggins can't be happy about their respective (and surprising) 2-2 starts, but those guys aren't going anywhere.
But the following six coaches are in danger of losing their jobs.
Some of them probably just need to avoid further embarrassing losses in order to remain in place, but most of these coaches might as well start packing up their offices if they don't turn around things in a hurry.
They are listed in alphabetical order by school.
Jeff Neubauer, Fordham
Fordham is 4-1, which sounds nice until you look at the schedule.
All four of the wins came at home. One was against City College of New York, which isn't a Division I program. The other three were by a combined margin of 13 points against teams outside of KenPom.com's top 200. The most recent win necessitated five points in the final seconds for a minor miracle of a comeback.
Worse, the loss was to Houston Baptist, which is otherwise 0-2 with a 30-point loss to Arizona and a 37-point loss to Wisconsin.
Jeff Neubauer is trying to get wins against a schedule that makes Georgetown's 2017 nonconference slate look daunting, but we're not buying it. Neither is KenPom. In spite of the record, Fordham has dropped eight spots since the preseason rankings, now sitting at No. 248.
Granted, 4-1 is a lot better than 0-5, but it doesn't obscure the fact that this program is worse than it was three years ago. With a roster mostly comprised of Tom Pecora's recruits, Neubauer won 17 games in his first season (2015-16). But that number dropped to 13 the following campaign and nine last year.
More disturbing than the win total, though, is the inability to keep players on the roster.
In the two-week window between firing Pecora and hiring Neubauer, Fordham lost Eric Paschall, who has since become a star at Villanova. It's impossible to pin that one on the new guy. But of the six underclassmen who averaged better than 3.0 points per game in Neubauer's first season with the Rams, all but one (David Pekarek) eventually transferred.
Fordham lost Christian Sengfelder to Boise State, Jon Severe to Iona, Antwoine Anderson to Connecticut, Nych Smith to Winthrop and Joseph Chartouny to Marquette.
Combine those losses with the 5-25 record against KenPom's top 100 teams over the past three-plus seasons, and it's going to take more than a few wins over Columbia and Youngstown State to avoid a coaching change.
Maurice Joseph, George Washington
Let's first credit Maurice Joseph for handling a near-impossible situation two years ago.
When George Washington fired Mike Lonergan following an investigation into verbal abuse of players, things could have gotten really ugly for the Colonials. They were already going to need to replace four seniors and one key transfer, and now they had to do so with a first-time head coach who inherited the job less than two months before the season began.
GW was understandably worse than it had been the previous three years but not disastrously so. The Colonials still managed to win 20 games.
But they dipped to 15 victories the following year, and this season is quickly devolving into an abject disaster.
George Washington started on a high note, jumping out to a 22-0 lead over Stony Brook in the season opener. However, it's been all downhill since then.
The Colonials somehow lost that home game as well as the following one against Siena. To nobody's surprise, they didn't come close to beating Virginia or Michigan. But Sunday's 90-55 loss to South Carolina said a lot about the current state of this program.
This is George Washington's first five-game losing streak since February 2012, and it's the first time the team has started a season 0-5 since going 1-27 in 1988-89. Last year's No. 192 KenPom ranking was George Washington's worst since 2001-02. Its current No. 242 ranking would be the worst in the site's history.
If the tide doesn't turn soon, Joseph might be out after just three seasons.
King Rice, Monmouth
Unless things get completely out of hand, I don't believe Monmouth would consider firing King Rice. This program used to be a disaster, averaging 9.6 wins in the five seasons before his arrival. And after a few rebuilding years, he put the Hawks (and their bench mob) on the national map with 28 wins in 2015-16 and another 27 the following year.
Just to confirm suspicions, I even texted a friend on that beat to ask if it's something the school would consider, and his response was, "Nah, no way."
Monmouth is 0-6 and has lost all of those games by a double-digit margin. The Hawks put together a relatively tough nonconference schedule that includes games already played against West Virginia and Saint Joseph's, as well as a road game against Kentucky next Wednesday. But they weren't even competitive in 24-point losses to Lehigh and Cal State Fullerton, neither of which figures to be anything close to an at-large candidate in March.
This comes on the heels of last year's 11-20 campaign, which ended with the Hawks ranked 183rd in KenPom—more than 100 spots below where they had finished the previous season (81st). And 2018-19 is already much worse. Monmouth started the year at No. 175, but it has already dropped all the way to No. 252 (out of 353).
If the Hawks finish there, it's still an improvement upon where they were before Rice. However, it's looking like those two great seasons were a Justin Robinson-fueled flash in the pan rather than the birth of a MAAC juggernaut.
If they don't win Saturday's home game against Princeton, there's a legitimate possibility the Hawks won't win until January. An 0-6 start probably isn't enough to begin the buyout conversation, but 0-14 might do the trick.
Bill Herrion, New Hampshire
New Hampshire has never been to the NCAA tournament, and Bill Herrion has been the head coach of the Wildcats since 2005.
Why would they suddenly decide to make a change at the end of this season?
Well, after eight years of building up the program, Herrion finally had something for a little while. New Hampshire won at least 19 games in three consecutive seasons from 2014-17. However, it never earned a share of a regular-season America East title, nor did it win a conference tournament.
And since that not-much-of-a-peak, things have gone downhill quickly.
New Hampshire went from a 20-win campaign in 2016-17 to a 10-win season the following year, plummeting from No. 182 to No. 278 in the KenPom rankings. And the Wildcats are down another 50 spots already this year, sitting at No. 328.
In other words, they're right back to where they were prior to that brief surge, as Herrion and the Wildcats sputtered to a 6-24 record in 2013-14 with a KenPom rank of 328.
New Hampshire entered play Tuesday with a 2-2 record, but neither of those wins came against D-I schools. The losses were by 29- and 24-point margins against Massachusetts and American, respectively—and neither of those teams is expected to amount to much this year.
If the Wildcats end up even worse than last season, the school will need to decide if it is disinterested enough in basketball to be OK with sitting through another long rebuilding process with the same coach.
Chris Mooney, Richmond
Almost a decade ago, Chris Mooney led Richmond to its best season in program history. The Spiders finished the 2009-10 season in the AP poll for the first (and still only) time, and the No. 7 seed they received in that NCAA tournament was the school's highest ever.
The following season was even more memorable, as Richmond reached the Sweet 16 as a No. 12 seed and set a program record for wins in a season (29).
But that was eight years ago.
What have you done for Richmond lately, Mooney?
After that Sweet 16 appearance, the Spiders were mired in mediocrity for six straight years. They finished at least .500 each season, but they also suffered at least 13 losses each campaign, failing to reach the NCAA tournament in any of them.
Fans were already growing sick and tired of the team failing to live up to expectations prior to last year's 12-20 debacle. It's more than a little surprising that Mooney was able to avoid the chopping block this past spring.
The way things have gone thus far, he won't be so lucky after this season.
Richmond lost its home opener to Longwood, and it hasn't inspired much hope since then. The Spiders only beat IUPUI by single digits, and they got blown out in the second half of Monday's loss to Loyola of Chicago. Without having even played a league game, the Spiders are already looking like they'll be one of the four worst teams in what is a down year for the Atlantic 10.
Danny Manning, Wake Forest
The good news is this year has started out better than last year for Wake Forest.
The Demon Deacons opened the 2017-18 season with three consecutive losses to Georgia Southern, Liberty and Drake, setting the stage for an awful 11-20 campaign. That team wasn't terrible, though. Of the 20 losses, 14 were by single-digit margins, including close calls against solid opponents like North Carolina, Clemson, Houston and Notre Dame.
Still, 20 losses are bad, and it was the third time in four seasons that Danny Manning's Demon Deacons suffered at least 19. Even including the year that Wake Forest sneaked into the NCAA tournament as a No. 11 seed, Manning is 20-52 in ACC play. Only Boston College (13-59) has been worse during that stretch.
The bad news is that "better than last year" still isn't good.
Wake Forest wasn't that impressive against North Carolina A&T in the season opener before getting lambasted by Saint Joseph's in the first round of the Myrtle Beach Invitational. Once in the losers' half of the bracket, the Demon Deacons were still unimpressive, eking out single-digit margins of victory over Cal State Fullerton and Valparaiso.
To be fair, this is a young team—330th nationally in experience, per KenPom. The primary six-man rotation consists of three freshmen, two sophomores and a junior, and the freshman class is probably Wake Forest's best since 2006. This team should get a lot better as the season progresses.
If it doesn't, though, and this ends up being another sub-.500 season in Winston-Salem, the 2019-20 roster situation would be an ideal one for easing in a new head coach.
All recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports. Advanced stats from KenPom.com and Sports Reference.
Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.