It’s that time of year when athletic directors make critical decisions involving their programs, whether to deliver walking papers to their basketball coach or stick with them. Often, it’s a decision based largely on finances. Sometimes, the AD just wants to get their “own guy” in there.
That being said, this year’s hoops coaching carousel was shaping up to be slow, especially for the high-major schools, and the Coronavirus will save some guys that might otherwise have been jettisoned. That could always change as the penalties trickle in for the universities caught up in the federal investigation into college basketball’s corruption, but that’s not expected to happen until the heart of the summer.
We’ve prepared a handy Coaching Carousel Cheat Sheet that should keep you informed.
FOUR BURNING QUESTIONS
1) Does Texas open — and if so, who do they hire? About a year ago, I would have bet my house that Chris Beard leaves Texas Tech for Texas, where he served as a graduate assistant. I mean, who wouldn’t want to live in Austin? But I’ve now changed my tune after spending a few days in Lubbock earlier this year. During my visit, I realized that Beard, who reached the national title game last season, fits the program and the city, and now he’s getting high-level recruits, even McDonald’s All-Americans. My guess is the only way he leaves Tech is for a top-10 program, and Texas is not that. There’s also the chance that Longhorns AD Chris Del Conte waits another year to hire someone that will open their new facility.
2) Will John Beilein return to college hoops? The 67-year-old Beilein parted ways with the Cleveland Cavaliers at the NBA All-Star break, and now the question becomes whether he retires or comes back to college. From talking to several people close to him, my money is on him coaching again. Beilein, who took Michigan to the national title game in 2013 and 2018, will likely have his pick of anything that opens … if he wants it. “I don’t think he wants to go out this way,” said a source close to Beilein. “I think he’ll coach in college again.” Wake Forest and Boston College could be in play if they open.
3) Do Bill Self or Jay Wright land in the NBA? There’s been plenty of chatter about Self replacing Gregg Popovich in San Antonio whenever he opts to retire due to Self’s close friendship with Spurs CEO R.C. Buford. While that talk has escalated with potential sanctions looming for Kansas and Self, I’m skeptical that Self heads to the Spurs. Self also told me that there is no chance he’s coaching the Spurs. I think the odds are actually higher that Jay Wright ends up in the NBA — keep an eye on the Sixers if Brett Brown is cut loose.
4) What will the timeline — and fallout — be from the NCAA’s penalties levied against schools like Kansas, Arizona and Louisville (to name a few)? At the earliest, most of the timelines for imposed penalties by the NCAA won’t be announced until the middle of the summer, and they’re even more likely to be revealed in the fall. How hard will they all be hit? Will there be postseason bans for schools and show-causes for coaches, or just lengthy suspensions? Those are the million dollar questions.
THE SEAT IS HOT
1) Jim Christian, Boston College | He’s 75-119 in six seasons and has been unable to get to the NCAA tourney — even when he had the backcourt of Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman. Christian was extended in 2018 through 2022, but I had been told AD Martin Jarmond waas leaning towards making a move, especially since he doesn’t have to pay former football coach Steve Addazio after he landed a gig at Colorado State. Your guess is as good as mine regarding who’s next at BC, but maybe a guy like John Thompson III, URI’s David Cox, former BC assistant Bill Coen or Loyola’s Porter Moser would be a good fit. I’d make a run at Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard or see if Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley wants to come back east, but you’re gonna have to get some real money together and show that you’re invested in the program to even get one of those guys to listen.
2) Danny Manning, Wake Forest | Everyone loves Manning, but he just hasn’t gotten it done in Winston-Salem. He made the First Four in 2017, but he has just 15 ACC wins in his other four seasons prior to this year, and was 6-14 this season — which was tied for last in the 15-team ACC. Ron Wellman is gone, and new AD John Currie could make a move despite Manning’s extremely large buyout. John Beilein, Texas’ Shaka Smart, UNCG’s Wes Miller and maybe even Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard are a few names to watch here.
IT’S A COIN FLIP
1) Shaka Smart, Texas |Rick Barnes went to the NCAA Tournament 16 times in 17 years and was still fired. Smart then came in as the golden boy, but he’s gone to just two NCAA Tournaments in four seasons, and this year (19-12, 9-9) was mediocre. AD Chris Del Conte has a difficult decision, largely due to the hefty $10.5 million buyout (thanks, Steve Patterson). If a move is made, the first call will be to Lubbock and Chris Beard, but after that it gets interesting. I’m not sure John Beilein will want this one, and then where does Del Conte go?
2) Dave Leitao, DePaul |For a while there, Leitao looked as though he was headed towards an extension and that still may be the case. That’s what AD Jean Lenti Ponsetto has been telling people. DePaul was rolling in the non-conference slate, but the Blue Demons finished 3-15 — last in Big East play. The chatter is that Ponsetto could be out soon as well, but this one is probably all about timing. If a move is made here, Loyola’s Porter Moser is the frontrunner.
3) Tim Jankovich, SMU | He was the coach-in-waiting to Larry Brown, but wound up taking over a little earlier than expected with Brown parting ways after the 2015-16 season. Jank went 30-5 (17-1 in the AAC) in his first full season, but struggled in the two years after that. However, SMU was 19-11 and 9-9 in AAC play this season – which should be enough to keep his job. But it’s done a done deal.
SAFE … FOR ANOTHER YEAR
1) Brad Brownell, Clemson | The Sweet 16 appearance two years ago got hm an extension, but he went to the NIT last season and was 16-15 and 9-11 in a down ACC this year. He’ll get another season in Clemson because, well, he’s a high-character guy and has most of his group coming back.
2) Richard Pitino, Minnesota | Mark Coyle isn’t making a move on Pitino despite a 15-16 season and an 8-12 Big Ten mark. He won a game in the Big Dance a year ago, and has been to two NCAA Tournaments in six years.
3) Josh Pastner, Georgia Tech | Pastner was hired by Mike Bobinski, who bolted for Purdue shortly after grabbing Pastner from Memphis. Pastner went to the NIT in his first season, but has struggled for a couple years before . This season he was 17-14 and 11-9 (fifth in the ACC), and despite some NCAA-related drama, word is he should get another year — especially because most of his team is coming back.
1) Pat Chambers, Penn State | Nittany Lions AD Sandy Barbour remained patient, and it paid off in Year 9 of the Chambers era. The Nittany Lions were a lock to make the NCAA Tournament this season with a 21-10 overall record (11-9 in the Big Ten).
2) Chris Mooney, Richmond | He took the Spiders to the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and 2011 and finished at least .500 every season from 2012 to 2017, but there were just 25 wins combined during his last two seasons. However, Richmond won 24 games this year and was 14-4 in A-10 play, second in the league behind Dayton, and Mooney is slated to have just about everyone back next year.
3) Frank Haith, Tulsa | He got Tulsa to the First Four in 2016, but the Hurricane have been mediocre the last three seasons, finishing below .500 in league play twice. This season, Haith led Tulsa to a 21-10 mark and an 13-5 league record this season — which tied for first in the league and should keep him safe.
MID- AND LOW-MAJOR GUYS LIKELY OUT THE DOOR
1) Jeff Neubauer, Fordham | It was a strange hire back in 2015 when the former John Beilein assistant came from Eastern Kentucky. It started strong with a 17-14 record in his first season in the Bronx, but it’s gone downhill ever since. The Rams were 9-22 this season and won just a pair of A-10 games.
2) Terry Porter, Portland | It’s been a tough go for the former NBA star in the college coaching ranks. Portland is probably the worst job in the WCC, and Porter hasn’t really gained any momentum. He was 28-69 overall entering this season and finished 9-23 overall and 1-15 in league play this year.
2) Donyell Marshall, Central Connecticut State | The long-time NBA player and former UConn star began his coaching career as an assistant at George Washington in 2010, and also held assistant spots at Rider and Buffalo before getting the Central gig in 2016. This is his fourth season and the Blue Devils were just 4-27 overall and last in the NEC at 3-15 this year.
HIGH-MAJOR COACHES TO WATCH
1) Shaka Smart, Texas | There’s a good chance that Smart gets out prior to a move being made at Texas, or is able to land quickly even if he is let go. Keep in mind that Smart was an assistant at Clemson from 2006-08, while Wake Forest, Boston College and even DePaul could also all be in play if they open.
2) Kevin Willard, Seton Hall | He spurned Virginia Tech a year ago, but we’ll see if something more attractive comes his way this offseason. Not only will Willard, who was set to go to his fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament, lose Myles Powell from a top-15 team, but Seton Hall is not an easy job. He’s basically maxed it out.
3) Bobby Hurley, Arizona State | He was on track to take the Sun Devils to the NCAA tourney for the third consecutive season, which is something that hasn’t been done since the early 1960s. I’m not sure exactly where Hurley would land, but he’s an East Coast guy who played in the ACC — and there could be a couple ACC jobs open.
4) Randy Bennett, Saint Mary’s | Yes, I’m calling the Gaels a high-major even if they don’t necessarily have the resources of high-majors. Bennett doesn’t get enough credit for what he has built in Moraga. I’m not sure where he goes, maybe if Grand Canyon pays him crazy money ($2 million or so), it could be intriguing enough (remember, he’s from the Phoenix area). But with Bennett’s overseas connections and his ability to develop players, more high-majors should give him a close look.
5) Pat Chambers, Penn State | He’s the lowest-paid coach in the Big Ten, and made the Nittany Lions relevant. Maybe someone steps up and gives him more money. If not, he’ll ink an extension and finally be able to exhale.
6) Richard Pitino, Minnesota | He’s been on and off the hot seat. Will he leave on his own accord if something intriguing enough fits hm elsewhere?
MID-MAJOR COACHES TO WATCH
1) Steve Forbes, East Tennessee State | He’s won 130 games in five seasons at ETSU, and now has a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances on his resume. He’s recruited at the high-major level, has coached in the JUCO ranks and has both southern and midwestern ties. Forbes will be a hot name for just about any opening this carousel.
2) John Becker, Vermont | He deserves a bigger job after what he’s done in Burlington. Becker has won 70 percent of his games, and took Vermont to the NCAA tourney two of the past three seasons and has dominated the America East.
3) Craig Smith, Utah State | He came out of nowhere last year in his first season in Logan and won the Mountain West Tournament. The Aggies beat San Diego State to win the MWC tourney, so that’s 2-for-2 for Smith at Utah State.
4) Porter Moser, Loyola Chicago | He reached the Final Four a couple of years ago, and while the Ramblers didn’t make the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons, they did win a total of 41 games. Moser seems like the easy pick if/when DePaul opens.
5) Wes Miller, UNCG | He’s obviously enjoyed plenty of success in the SoCon, and it doesn’t hurt that he played at North Carolina. He’s a heck of a coach. But what could give him an advantage over everyone else at Wake Forest is that the Deacons’ practice facility is the Miller Center — named after Wes’ father, Ken.
6) Chris Jans, New Mexico State | The guy can coach. Period. He’s gone to the NCAA Tournament each of his first two seasons in Las Cruces, and went 16-0 in the WAC this season.
7) James Jones, Yale | He was headed to the Big Dance for the third time in the last five years. If Boston College opens, he should be on the short list.
6) Damon Stoudamire, Pacific | The former NBA point guard worked his way into a head-coaching job with assistant stops at Rice, Memphis and Arizona. He’s won 23 games this season with Pacific – and finished in a tie for third with Saint Mary’s in the WCC.
9) Mike Jones, Radford | He took the Highlanders to the NCAA tournament last season, and has won at least 20 games in five of the last seven seasons. Don’t be shocked to see Jones as the frontrunner for JMU.
10) Kyle Keller, Stephen F. Austin | There’s more than just the huge upset in Cameron against Duke earlier this season. Keller went to the NCAA tourney in 2018, and the Lumberjacks have been dominant this season with a 28-3 record and a 19-1 league mark.
11) Bob Richey, Furman | He’s done a tremendous job in his three seasons in Greenville, and also gave me some great food and drink spots down there when I was with my wife for her birthday. He’s won 72 games in his three years, and has established himself as one of the best mid-major guys in the country.
12) David Richman, North Dakota State | Three NCAA tournament berths in six years. That’s a strong resume.
UNEMPLOYED AND LOOKING*
1) John Thompson III | He’s been working for the Wizards for the past year, heading up the athlete development and engagement department, but the former Georgetown head coach could be in the mix for a job like Boston College. He reached the NCAA Tournament eight times in 13 years with the Hoyas, including a Final Four appearance in 2007.
2) Tim Miles | He was let go by Nebraska last season, has been doing TV this year and should be able to get back into the coaching ranks this offseason. Wyoming is a spot that could make sense for Miles — or maybe New Mexico a year from now if Paul Weir can’t turn things around.
3) Andy Kennedy | Spent a dozen years at Ole Miss, where he went to a pair of NCAA Tournaments and six NITs. A.K. has been working for ESPN the past two years. If UAB opens, Kennedy should be the frontrunner.
4) Bryce Drew | He was fired after just three seasons at Vanderbilt, including an NCAA tourney appearance in his first season in Nashville. Drew is working for ESPN this year, but he wants to get back in and should be able to get a quality mid-major gig. Grand Canyon is a legit possibility.
*I did not include Thad Matta because he’ll be incredibly selective if he decides to return.
YES, WE’RE HIRING!
1) Air Force | Dave Pilipovich had one of the most difficult jobs in the country, and made it eight-plus seasons before a move was made. He left with a 110-151 career mark. Former Air Force coach Joe Scott could be in play here.
2) Grand Canyon | Dan Majerle’s record in seven seasons was an impressive 136-89, but he was paid a lot of money and wasn’t able to get GCU to the NCAA tourney. Look for the Antelopes to go big with their next hire. One name to watch is former Vandy coach Bryce Drew.
3) IUPUI | Jason Gardner resigned just prior to the start of the school year following an arrest for OWI, and Byron Rimm took over on an interim basis. AD Roderick Perry is searching for a permanent replacement.
4) James Madison | Louis Rowe was let go after four seasons and a 43-85 mark, and there are plenty of names in the mix for this one – including Radford’s Mike Jones, TV analyst Seth Greenberg and Furman’s Bob Richey.
5) Loyola Marymount | Mike Dunlap was jettisoned after six seasons and a 81-108 record, and there will be no shortage of quality candidates.
6) Samford | AD Martin Newton parted ways with Scott Padgett after six seasons and a 84-115 mark.
7) Southeast Missouri State | SEMO parted ways with Rick Ray after five seasons and a 51-104 record.
8) UAB | Alum and former Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy is the frontrunner to replace Robert Ehsan – who was let go after a 76-57 mark in four seasons.
9) UIC | AD Michael Lipitz made a move on Steve McClain after his fifth season and a 76-93 mark.
10) Western Illinois | WIU made a move on Billy Wright after six seasons (53-115) and a 5-21 mark this season.
11) Western Michigan | Steve Hawkins was let go after 17 seasons at the school. He was 291-262 overall, but just 22-43 the last two years.
12) Wyoming | The Cowboys parted ways with Allen Edwards after four seasons and a 60-76 record. Northern Colorado’s Jeff Linder could be in play for this one.
OFF THE MARKET
1) Central Arkansas – Anthony Boone |Russ Pennell was forced out in mid-December, the middle of his sixth season with the Bears. Associate head coach Anthony Boone took over, the team finished 9-11 in league play and Boone was given the gig on a full-time basis.
2) Evansville – Todd Lickliter | Walter McCarty was fired for off-court issues and Lickliter got the job and a multi-year deal to replace McCarty. The former Butler and Iowa head coach gives stability to the program.
3) Idaho – Zac Claus | Don Verlin was fired last June and Claus was given the interim tag. The Vandals are 8-23 this season and 4-16 in league play, but the administration decided to remove the tag earlier this week and give Claus the gig.
4) Iona – Rick Pitino | Pitino takes over for Tim Cluess – who resigned due to health issues. Pitino has been out of college for the last three years after he was fired by Louisville. The Hall of Famer will wait and see whether he gets hit at all by the NCAA this offseason.
5) UNCW – Takayo Siddle | C.B. McGrath was fired in mid-January by AD Jimmy Bass, who hired him 2 ½ years ago, and was replaced by Siddle — who was an assistant under Kevin Keatts at both UNCW and NC State.
1) Shane Burcar, Northern Arizona | When Jack Murphy left to join Sean Miller’s staff at Arizona, Burcar was given the interim tag. The former Mesa High head coach has the Lumberjacks at 16-13 overall and 10-10 in Big Sky play — which is a step up from the last four years in which NAU averaged just seven overall victories per season.
Jay Joyner, North Carolina A&T | He isn’t officially gone, but Joyner was suspended indefinitely in late-December, and he was responsible for a 3-10 record at the time of his suspension. Assistant Willie Jones has taken over on an interim basis and is 13-5, and should be a lock to get the job permanently.