College basketball coaching carousel preview - a look at the jobs that could open this spring
There's really no other way to put it, but the college basketball season has flown on by. It seems like only yesterday we were arguing about Duke vs. Kentucky heading into the Champion's Classic, and now, here we are, in mid-February about five weeks or so to Selection Sunday.
Where did the time go!?
Of course, while the season itself is heating up, behind the scenes, something else is starting to spin as well: The college basketball coaching carousel. Which is why, over the last few weeks I've gone ahead and reached out to a bunch of people I trust to gauge where we are in the carousel - and where it could go.
Obviously, it goes without saying that this is a fluid deal, and there are different circumstances for every school and job. At the same time, this is expected to be a busy cycle. And as we've learned over the last few years, big buyouts no longer seem to hold back schools from getting rid of coaches they don't want. Just ask Miami or LSU football, or Indiana basketball last spring.
What's especially crazy is, that with all the big jobs that could open, it doesn't appear as though there are a lot of obvious, big names to fill them. Remember just last year, schools like North Carolina, Indiana and Arizona opened, and none made a huge Earth-shattering hire (even though both Mike Woodson and Tommy Lloyd are having a ton of success this year.
With that said, let's get to the jobs that we expect to open this spring. For the sake of simplicity, we'll mostly stick with the Power 6 conferences, plus a few others we're hearing:
Before we get to the jobs that could open, let's get to the two that have already opened and what we're hearing.
Louisville: Obviously everyone knows the situation at Louisville, where Chris Mack agreed to take a reduced buyout to get out of the mess that he largely created at Louisville. The question now is where do the Cards go from here?
Admittedly, Louisville is a great job, but there are complications in this particular cycle - namely that the school currently has both an interim president and athletic director. Until that gets cleared up, it's hard to imagine any coach that currently has a good job leaving for Louisville.
Because of it, it's also hard to know who realistic candidates are. Right now the only name that we can confidently say that both Louisville would be interested in, and conversely, would be interested in Louisville, is former Cards player and current Knicks assistant coach Kenny Payne.
After that, it gets murky. Again, if I was Louisville, I'd focus on getting a President and AD in place, so you can attack the coaching search. Here are some candidates for once that happens though.
Maryland: Maryland was the first major job to open, after Mark Turgeon resigned just a few weeks into the season. And once that became official, a new conversation emerged: Just how good of a job is this? On the one hand, College Park is smack dab in one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the country and the program has a rich history. On the other, most of that rich history comes in the ACC, a conference the Terps are no longer affiliated with. Their facilities are also behind most of their marquee competitors. Maryland currently doesn't even have a basketball only practice facility, an insane note in the modern era of college athletics.
With that said, what I can confirm is that Maryland is that AD Damon Evans is approaching this search as if Maryland is an elite job. They're vetting the biggest names that might be available, in hopes of hiring an established, big-name coach to take over this program.
One name that continues to come up with this job (as well as others) is USC head coach Andy Enfield, who is from the Northeast and played college ball in Maryland at Johns Hopkins.
Now let's look at the jobs that could open in the coming weeks, going conference by conference:
Louisville: The Cardinals job is already open, so read above.
Miami: There's been speculation for years now that the 72-year-old Jim Larrañaga could retire, and that only ramped up in recent years as the Hurricanes have struggled on the court. They haven't made an NCAA Tournament since 2018.
But in 2022 the Canes appear to be a tournament team, so it doesn't seem likely that the school will make a move on him.
With a new, aggressive AD in place (ask Manny Diaz) you never know what could happen. But unless Larrañaga decides to retire, or the team completely collapses late, expect him to be the head coach in 2022-2023.
NC State: Search Kevin Keatts' name on Twitter during an NC State game and the results aren't going to be pretty. But despite the Wolfpack currently sitting at 10-14 overall and 3-10 in ACC play, AD Boo Corrigan appears publicly to be standing by his man, saying on local radio last week:
“Kevin Keatts is our guy,” Corrigan said. “Kevin Keatts is our basketball coach and I support Kevin Keatts.”
And while AD's have made statements like that before, it likely has some merit in Raleigh.
First off, while Keatts has only made one NCAA Tournament, he's probably been better than most realize at NC State. He is 89-61 overall, and after making the NCAA Tournament in Year 1, the Wolf Pack were the first team out in 2019 and were squarely on the bubble in 2020 before the tournament was cancelled. This will be the first season with a losing record for Keatts in five years at the school. He has done it all while dealing with an ongoing NCAA investigation that finally just wrapped.
More importantly, his team has been ravaged by injuries this year, with five key players missing significant time this season. The injuries have especially decimated the front court, where in several games, the Wolf Pack haven't had a player taller than 6'7 healthy enough to play.
As someone in the industry told me, "It only takes one booster to write a buyout check," but my guess is that Keatts is back for another season, with an understanding that it's "NCAA Tournament or bust" in 2022-2023.
Pittsburgh: There really is no other way to put it, but the Jeff Capel era at Pitt has been a disaster. In his four years at the helm, the Panthers have finished tied for 14th, tied for 13th and 12th in the ACC, and currently sit at 8-15 overall and 3-9 in league play.
As importantly, most of the marquee recruits Capel has signed have ended up transferring, most notably Trey McGowens (Nebraska) and Au'Diese Toney (Arkansas).
Still, in a recent profile in the Athletic, Pittsburgh AD Heather Lykes dropped an interesting statement, saying:
“Continuity of the right coaches matter,’’ Lyke says. “I don’t believe this about our team, but in basketball, I think there is an individual nature about the sport that’s grown. Everyone has their own shooting coach, their own trainer. But Jeff does an extraordinary job of focusing on the team concept. His philosophy and his relationship with his players are going to do the right things over time. But it’s not an immediate fix.’’
She had similar comments on Monday, following another loss over the weekend to Virginia Tech.
Whether it's because Lykes hired Capel (and a firing looks bad on her) or because an extension she gave him through the 2027 season means a massive buyout, it doesn't appear as though Capel is going anywhere right now.
Butler: It's been an up-and-down five years at the school for Jordan.
On a positive note, he made the NCAA Tournament in Year 1 with Chris Holtmann's players and had an NCAA Tournament caliber team during the 2020 season in which the Big Dance was cancelled. Unfortunately, he's also finished below .500 in his other two seasons, and is trending that way again this year, causing some speculation that this one may in fact open up.
Ultimately, Jordan is a Butler alum so any decision won't be easy. The hunch here is that barring a total collapse down the stretch, Jordan gets one more run at things next season.
Georgetown: We are now in Year 5 of the Patrick Ewing experiment, and at this point there's no way to sugarcoat things: It simply hasn't worked out. Ewing is 68-74 overall and 26-54 in Big East play. Had it not been for a four-day run last March at the Big East Tournament, the Hoyas wouldn't have a single postseason appearance under his watch.
The frustrating part is that Ewing - as we saw last March - has the X's and O's part of the job down. But from Day 1 he never had a real, sustained recruiting philosophy, and even on the rare instances he did sign high-profile players (or developed them) they transferred, with James Akinjo (Arizona, then Baylor), Mac McClung (Texas Tech) and Qudus Wahab (Maryland) all leaving via the portal.
At this point it's fair to wonder if Ewing even wants the job, and considering he made well over $100 million playing basketball in his career (let alone endorsements, coaching salaries etc.) he certainly doesn't need the stress.
It's hard to imagine Ewing back for another season following this one.
The only question is whether the school can legitimately fire him, or whether they mutually agree to part ways.
Maryland: The Maryland job is already open, so read above.
Nebraska: If you want to know how goofy the coaching carousel and cycle can be, just think about the Hoiberg to Nebraska hire in the spring of 2019. The hire was universally praised. Virtually no one thought that Hoiberg, who revived the Iowa State program and had NBA playing and coaching experience was anything other than a home run for the school.
Then Hoiberg got to Nebraska and three years in, it's been a complete disaster. The Cornhuskers are 20-62 under his watch and a staggering 5-46 in the Big Ten. That includes a current 0-12 mark in the Big Ten, including a 24-point home loss to Northwestern (which also has a coach on this list on Saturday).
Add in middling attendance and the personal leave of lead assistant Matt Abdelmassih and there's no real reason for optimism or excitement going forward either.
It led Nebraska AD Trev Alberts to make some pretty striking comments over the weekend. While NC State and Pitt's AD's have publicly defended their coaches, Alberts did the exact opposite saying:
“You don’t have to win every game. You really don’t,” Alberts said. “But you better have a team that competes every night, you better have a team that’s fundamentally sound, you have to have a team that plays together, that will never ever quit, does things the right way and represents the values and ideals of Nebraska and our alumni.
“There have been stretches of this season where our play hasn’t necessarily reflected those very important cultural ideals that Nebraskans hold near and dear."
The big problem for Alberts is, according to the article above, Hoiberg has a monster buyout in the $18 million range. That obviously will make it hard to move off Hoiberg, should he decide he wants to keep coaching and fight for every penny of that buyout.
Still, at this point you've got to wonder if, like Ewing above, Hoiberg has made enough money in his career, where he wants to fight. If he doesn't, a reduced buyout seems like a logical conclusion to this marriage.
If not, Hoiberg probably gets a fourth season in 2022-2023.
Northwestern: Incredibly, this is already year nine for Chris Collins at Northwestern, and after the highs of the school's first ever NCAA Tournament bid in 2017, it's basically been all downhill since then. Over the last four years, Northwestern has never finished above .500 or better than 10th in the league standings.
And more than anyone, the Wildcats may have been hurt by the league going to 20 conference games, as in the three years since, Northwestern has gone 4-16, 3-17 and 4-15 in league play, the final coming during the Covid year a season ago. Considering the team is 11-10 overall and 4-8 in league play, things aren't looking much better this year.
The issue with Collins is that following that tournament run he was given a massive contract extension - it goes through 2025 and pays him $3 million a year. Even now, five seasons after that NCAA Tournament run, it won't be cheap to fire him. But with a new AD hired last summer and TV money football rolling in, it isn't inconceivable either.
Like so many other guys on this list, the question becomes: How do you sell bringing him back if 2022 results in a fifth straight losing season?
Kansas State: The Big 12 is the best league in college basketball top-to-bottom, and because just about everyone is good. Add in the fact that three schools - Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech - have first year head coaches, and there isn't expected to be a ton of movement if any.
The only real place where we could see a coaching change is at Kansas State. The Wildcats won the Big 12 regular season title just four years ago, but it's essentially been all downhill since, with finishes of 11-21 (10th in the Big 12) and 9-20 (9th in the Big 12) in 2020 and 2021 respectively. This year things aren't significantly better, as the Wildcats sit at just 12-10 overall.
Bruce Weber is 65 years old, so at this point it seems likely he'd simply retire and allow the school to move on than go through a firing.
Arizona State: The Pac-12 is in a weird spot where several jobs could open up, or none, and Arizona State is the weirdest and most interesting of them all.
On the one hand, Bobby Hurley did bring credibility to the program, making the NCAA Tournament in 2018 and 2019 and would've made for a third straight year in 2020 had an NCAA Tournament been played. Then again in those two tournaments seasons the Sun Devils started hot and floundered late, limped into the tournament and lost in the play-in round. Not exactly a way to inspire a fan-base.
Then there's what's happened the last two years, as the Sun Devils entered last season as a preseason Top 25 team only to finish 11-14. This year things aren't any better at 7-13 overall. To make matters worse, there doesn't appear to be any real plan in place, as the Sun Devils took big swings in the transfer portal last off-season that mostly haven't worked out.
Where it gets interesting though is whether Arizona State will, or even can, fire Hurley or not.
One, the athletic department finds itself in quite a predicament right now, as it deals with the ongoing Herm Edwards saga on the football side. Multiple assistant coaches have been let go (including Edwards' right-hand man Antonio Pierce last week) and it seems like figuring out football is the more pressing issue in Tempe at this moment.
Beyond that, there is a messy off the court accusation from Hurley aimed at athletic director Ray Anderson from a few seasons ago. You can read the details here.
At this point, it seems like the relationship between the coach and school isn't really fixable, but it's also not totally clear if the school can fire him. The solution might be for Hurley to pursue other opportunities somewhere else, especially where he's from in the Northeast. Would he make sense at Seton Hall for example, if Kevin Willard took the Louisville or Maryland job?
Cal: Mark Fox won a grand total of zero NCAA Tournament games in nine years at Georgia, which made his hiring pretty questionable three off-seasons ago. And three years later, the hire went exactly like most anyone who cares about this stuff expected: Not well at all.
Overall, Fox is 31-47 at the school and 12-33 in Pac-12 play and to make matters worse, just about the only bright spot in the program, All-Pac-12 guard Matt Bradley, transferred out last off-season. As things stand in 2021-2022, Cal is currently on a 10-game losing streak and sitting at 2-11 in Pac-12 play.
It's worth noting that should Fox be fired this year, it appears as though he would have a buyout in the $3 million range. That's not a lot at most places, but it might be at Cal, one of the most cash-strapped athletic departments in the country. Beyond that, firing now would admit failure for AD Jim Knowlton, the man who hastily fired Wyking Jones in the spring of 2019 and hired Fox. If Knowlton couldn't get the last hire right, will the administration allow him to make another?
Because of it, Fox could get a fourth year. Still, after his predecessor got just two years, it's hard to totally justify.
Stanford: As mentioned above, every school and circumstance is different, and that's especially the case with Stanford. It isn't often that a coach is in Year 6 at a program, has yet to make an NCAA Tournament, and yet there compelling case can be made to bring him back for another season.
Yet that is where we are with Jerod Haase at Stanford.
To his credit, Haase took over a tough situation on the Farm and slowly rebuilt it, making an NIT in Year 2. Then, when all the pieces came together last year and the Cardinal looked like a preseason NCAA Tournament team - highlighted by Ziaire Williams, one of their most high-profile recruits in decades - Covid hit. The Cardinal started hot. But Covid restrictions kept them off campus for months at a time, and they eventually wilted, finishing 14-12 overall.
So again, this situation isn't unique, especially when you factor in a few other things. One, Haase is recruiting about as well as anyone can at Stanford, signing Williams in 2020 and Harrison Ingram last year, both Top 20 prospects and first round NBA picks. Two, the Cardinal are playing decently this season, with a 14-8 record overall, which includes a pair of wins over USC.
Whether Haase will get to Year 7 remains to be seen. But at a school like Stanford (not exactly the easiest place to recruit) it probably makes sense to give Haase another year, rather than pulling the plug and starting over.
Washington: Mike Hopkins made the NCAA Tournament with Lorenzo Romar's players in 2019, but it has slowly been downhill since then. In 2020, a team which began the year in the Top 25 crashed and burned, finishing 12th in the Pac-12 with a pair of NBA Draft picks (Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels). Things weren't any better last year, when the Huskies finished 5-21 overall, and in 11th place in the Pac-12.
Still, unlike just about everyone on this list, things appear to be trending up for Hopkins and the Huskies. After trying the "one and done" game with Stewart and McDaniels, Hopkins may have found a niche in the other direction. Four of his top five scorers are transfers from the Seattle area who started their careers elsewhere and decided to return home.
It's resulted in a team that's been playing pretty well of late, with six wins in their last eight games. Add in that the school is paying buyout money to former football coach Jimmy Lake and it seems like Hopkins will be safe for another year.
Florida: They say in the SEC "It just means more" and that appears to be the case this year on the coaching carousel, where several jobs could open, just one year after zero did across the conference.
The most intriguing situation may be at Florida, where Mike White is a living, breathing embodiment of the old saying "You don't want to be the guy to replace a legend."
To his credit White is currently 138-83 at Florida (that's a 62 percent win percentage), has won 58 percent of his SEC games and has made the NCAA Tournament each of the last four years the NCAA Tournament has actually been played.
Not bad. But it's not great when you consider that he's the guy who replaced Billy Donovan, who won two titles and made three Final Four's in Gainesville.
Beyond that, while the numbers look good, the devil remains in the details. White's best run came back in 2017 with mostly Donovan's players, and the 2018, 2019 and 2020 seasons included records of 21-13, 20-16 and 19-12 overall. Not exactly inspiring. Nor are his slow starts to the season (which generally take the wind out of the sails of the team's fan-base) before late-season rallies sneak them into the side-door of the tournament. Plus, there are seemingly 3-4 truly inexplicable losses every season, like this year when the Gators lost to Texas Southern at home.
Maybe most importantly, White has tried two different philosophies to build a winner and neither has worked. After spending years recruiting high-end high school talent and largely flopping (Tre Mann, Scottie Lewis and Andrew Nembhard among others), this year he hit the transfer portal hard - only to end up with the same results.
In true White fashion, the team seems to be rallying late, with a three-game win streak to get them at 15-8 overall entering the week, and right now if I had to bet, I'd say that he will be back.
But for the first time in his tenure there's real buzz that the big boosters - the ones needed to buy out his contract - might be willing to pony up the dough to get rid of him. White needs to win big down the stretch this season to feel comfortable coming back.
Georgia: While most of the guys on this list can seemingly do something to survive another year, the same can't be said for Crean. Barring Crean essentially winning every game left on his schedule, rallying to win the SEC Tournament and make the NCAA Tournament, he won't be back next year.
First there are the stats, which are pretty bad. Georgia is currently 47-66 overall under his watch and 15-49 in the SEC. That includes a season where he finished in 13th place in the league with the eventual No. 1 pick in the draft (Anthony Edwards) and a current record of 6-17 overall and 1-9 in the SEC.
To make matters worse, it's clear that Crean - a hard-driving coach who isn't exactly relatable - isn't going to thrive in the transfer portal era. Basically, every player of substance off last year's team elected to leave once the one-time transfer was ultimately passed. The fact that Sahvir Wheeler and KD Johnson are playing at an All-SEC level in the same league as the Dawgs certainly doesn't help things.
I could go on and on, discuss AD comments or give buyout details. But the bottom line is, Crean isn't coming back next year. It's simply a formality.
Missouri: We are somehow only in Year 5 of the Cuonzo Martin era, even though it feels much longer. And unfortunately, the school simply isn't getting the return on investment they expected when they gave him a seven-year, $21 million deal in the spring of 2017.
Once in Columbia, Martin immediately made waves by signing the No. 1 player in the country Michael Porter Jr., but unfortunately only got a few games out of him due to injury. It led to a first round exit from the NCAA Tournament in 2018, two losing seasons in 2019 and 2020 and a season last year where the Tigers again made the Big Dance, only to whimper out with another first round exit. This year the Tigers currently sit at 9-13 overall and have lost six of their last eight. It also can't be easy for Missouri fans to see coaches who came in after Martin like Nate Oats and Eric Musselman have immediate success.
So what's next? Well, with a $6 million buyout owed to Martin it won't exactly be easy to fire him. And because of it, he might get another year.
Then again, it only takes one booster - as long as it's the right one - to write a check. And it's also worth noting that the AD who hired Cuonzo Martin (Jim Sterk) is no longer at the school, and he was replaced by Desirae Reed-Francois from UNLV. Reed-Francois was known as aggressive during her time at UNLV, firing basketball coach Marvin Menzies after four seasons.
South Carolina: Put simply, Frank Martin has one of the strangest resumes in recent college hoops history. He is now in Year 10 at South Carolina with one NCAA Tournament bid on his resume. Of course, that one NCAA Tournament came in 2017, when the Gamecocks... made the Final Four.
Oh, it's real, but it feels like this season might finally be the end of the line for Martin. The Gamecocks are 13-9 overall, 4-6 in the SEC and haven't finished better than 18-13 in any season since their Final Four run in 2017.
Like Bruce Weber above (the man who, ironically, replaced Martin at Kansas State), Martin might choose a quiet retirement over the alternative of a public firing.
Memphis: Things clearly haven't gone well this season at Memphis, and Penny Hardaway certainly didn't help his cause snapping at the media a few weeks ago. Still, the Tigers are playing better ball of late, and the bottom line is that - like Patrick Ewing at Georgetown - Memphis simply isn't going to fire its favorite.
Therefore, it seems like for all intents and purposes, Hardaway will be back next season.
He did flirt with the NBA last summer, but based on the season he's currently in the middle of, it's hard to envision the professional ranks having much interest in him. Expect him back with the Tigers for 2022-2023.
Tulsa: We're now in Year 8 of the Frank Haith era, and all he has is one "First Four" appearance in 2016 to show for it. While Haith got an extension last off-season, it came only after he took a pay cut a few years earlier.
At 7-14 this season and nowhere close to the NCAA Tournament, it seems like Tulsa - which has been coached by some of the sport's greats including Nolan Richardson, Tubby Smith and Bill Self - is ready to move on.
One name that could get some buzz if Haith is let go is St. John's coach Mike Anderson, who played for Richardson at the school. That would obviously create another domino in the Big East.
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