Conference affiliation no longer determines job quality?

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It’s a trend that certain BCS programs have become all to familiar with in the last couple of years.

The gold standard for coaching is no longer landing a gig running a program in one of the power six conferences. If it was, than Illinois and SMU would have had no problem filling their head-coaching voids during the 2012 edition of the coaching carousel. Oregon wouldn’t have gone more than a month trying to find a replacement for Ernie Kent when they fired him back in the spring of 2010. VCU’s Shaka Smart and Butler’s Brad Stevens would trying to find a way to better a middling program in the Big Ten or the ACC instead of shoring up the loose ends of a favorite in the CAA and the Horizon League, respectively.

As Jason King of laid out on Wednesday afternoon, conference affiliation is no longer the determining factor for changing jobs.

King spoke to the three mid-major coaches in the highest demand over the last couple of years — Smart, Stevens and Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall — and based on the quotes the three coaches gave, their reasons for staying put can be summed up in four words: as Marshall put it, “You can’t buy happy.”

Coaching changes tend to get simplified. How much more money will they make? How much easier will it be to make the NCAA tournament? How good can the program be in the future?

What that line of thinking ignores is the fact that the men running these programs are not simply robots built for coaching basketball. They have families just like the rest of us. Just because a banker gets offered a raise to take a job with a different company doesn’t mean he is willing to uproot his family to move across the country. Maybe his kids love the school they attend. Maybe he loves the boss he works for. Maybe his wife has a great job that she’s not willing to leave. Maybe they love the community they live in. All of that plays a factor as well.

It doesn’t hurt that each of those three coaches currently have a contract worth seven-figures annually with at least seven years remaining. They aren’t exactly on welfare, and they are coaching in a place where they will never be fired. The expectations for the head coach at Nebraska are much different than that of the head coach at Wichita State, and there is a valid argument to be made that the Shockers are a better basketball program (and a better job) and the Huskers.

Marshall won’t start feeling the pressure if he can’t make it out of the first weekend coming from the Missouri Valley. The same cannot be said when you run a program in the Big Ten. Nothing kills the buzz surrounding a hotshot young coach quicker than a couple of consecutive losing seasons at a big-time program. Just ask Jeff Capel.

And that’s before you factor in the ugly side of the recruiting process.

“Recruiting at the high-major level is extremely complicated and, in many cases, corrupt,” one coach from a mid-major school told King. “If I was to take a high-major job, I could be entering myself in all sorts of scenarios that I can usually avoid where I am now. That’s a factor for certain people. … If you go to that level and you go about it the ‘right way,’ the deck could be stacked against you.”

Stevens, Smart and Marshall are all in a position where they can wait for their dream job to open up.

And if it never does, being the next Mark Few and building the next Gonzaga doesn’t sound too bad.


Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.