Looking Forward: Which coaches will enter 2016-17 on the Hot Seat?

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The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone. Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season. The coaching carousel, which ended up spinning a bit faster than initially expected, has come to a close for all of the major programs. 

In other words, by now, we have a pretty good feel for what college basketball is going to look like during the 2016-17 season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at who could spark the Coaching Carousel next season.

Richard Pitino, Minnesota: Pitino has the hottest seat in the country at the high-major level, and it’s not just because of what’s happened on the court. The issue is off the floor, where the Gophers just cannot figure out a way to stay out of trouble. In the last three months alone, a player has been arrested over a sexual assault allegation and three players were suspended after a sex tape was tweeted by Kevin Dorsey. Players have been dismissed for violating team rules and, 18 months ago, a player named Daquien McNeil was kicked out of the program after allegedly assaulting his girlfriend. Should I mention that Pitino went $175,000 over budget on private jets as well?

But that’s not it. Pitino went 25-13 his first season and won the NIT, but has since followed that up with 18 wins and, last year, an 8-23 finish and a 2-16 record in the Big Ten. The Gophers have no where to go but up next season, but how big of a leap will Pitino have to make for the new Athletic Director to overlook his team’s transgressions. The good news? That $5.7 million buyout won’t be easy to raise money for.

Steve Alford, UCLA: Pitino was the easiest name to put on this list. Alford is the most intriguing name here. It’s no secret that UCLA fans are not happy with their head coach or the way the program is heading. Whether it’s Daddy Ball or disappointing regular seasons or whatever, the Bruin faithful have been clamoring for a change. There have been multiple instances of UCLA fans paying for planes with “Fire Alford” banners to fly over UCLA’s campus. Alford returned a one-year extension he received to try and appease the fan base. And all this is happening when the Bruins are bringing in a loaded recruiting class headlined by a freshman named Lonzo Ball, who is a potential top ten pick and, depending on how the season plays out, a candidate for All-America this season.

The Bruins have the potential to win the Pac-12 next season. They also have the potential to totally implode. Pauley Pavilion certainly won’t be short on drama or story lines this season.

     RELATED: Eight programs on the rise | And seven on the decline

UCLA head coach Steve Alford, second from right, watches action against Cal Poly with his assistant coaches in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Baker)
UCLA head coach Steve Alford (AP Photo/Michael Baker)

     RELATED: Next year’s Breakout Stars | Winners, Losers of Coaching Carousel

Kim Anderson, Missouri: In hindsight, hiring a 60-year old that had spent the last 12 seasons in the Division II ranks probably wasn’t the best move for Missouri as they tried to find their footing in the SEC. Since Anderson took over, he’s gone 19-44 and won six SEC games in two seasons where the Tigers have finished in 14th in the league. Of the 12 players that were signed in the 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes — kids that should be juniors and seniors next season — 11 transferred out of the program or were dismissed. Keanau Post, a JuCo transfer that graduated last spring, is the only one that left in good standing.

Bruce Weber, Kansas State: We touched on this yesterday, but if Weber didn’t lose the fan base with a losing record the past two seasons, including a 13-23 mark in the Big 12, he probably did when the Wildcats faithful had to watch an alum and a former assistant in Brad Underwood take a job with league rival Oklahoma State.

John Groce, Illinois: Groce entered the 2015-16 season on the hot season. He had won an average of just over 20 games in three seasons, reaching one NCAA tournament and amassing a record of 24-30 in the Big Ten. Last year was a big year for him, and the Illini went 15-19 with a 5-13 Big Ten record, only finishing ahead of train wrecks Rutgers and Minnesota. But Illinois’ roster was obliterated by injury last year, and that earned Groce a stay of execution. Can he turn things around in 2016-17?

Jim Christian, Boston College: This will be Christian’s third season in Chestnut Hill, and his tenure with the Eagles has not really been all that impressive. That’s putting it mildly. He won 13 games and went 4-14 in the ACC in his first season with the Eagles and followed that up with a 7-25 season where BC went winless in league play, a year so bad that senior Dennis Clifford told reporters that his best memory as a college basketball player was “going out to eat“. Christian also loses two of his top three scorers to graduation. He does returns Jerome Robinson, who will be an all-ACC player down the road, and he had nine freshmen on the roster last season, which may be enough to earn him another season.

Johnny Jones, LSU: Jones failed to reach the NCAA tournament in a season where he had the No. 1 pick on his roster, flanked by enough talent to arguably make them the best team, on paper, in the SEC. That’s a bad look, one that could have justifiably cost him his job after this past season. If Jones isn’t able to turn things around this year, they may be looking for a new basketball coach in Baton Rouge.

     RELATED: Looking Forward Big 12 | ACC | A-10 | Big East | Big Ten

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Mike Anderson, Arkansas: Anderson won 27 games in 2014-15, reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament on the backs of Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls. But those two both bounced for the NBA, and Anderson won just 16 games last year. He did get some good news with Moses Kingsley returning to school, and it’s hard to fire someone that has spent a total of 23 years at the program, but at some point, winning has to be a priority. He’s been to one tournament in five years.

Brad Brownell, Clemson: Brownell is entering his seventh season with the Tigers, and is now six years removed from his only trip to the NCAA tournament. He’s never won more than 10 ACC games and has lost at least 12 games every season.

Mark Fox, Georgia: Fox has been with the Bulldogs for seven seasons, reaching two NCAA tournaments and two NITS in that span. He’s won 20 games each of the last three seasons, meaning Georgia has been good, just never really relevant beyond a fight for a spot on the right side of the bubble each February. Is that enough to keep his job at a school where basketball is the fourth-most important sport behind football, football and football?

Tim Miles, Nebraska: Miles was able to turn around the first two Division I programs that he coached at, making North Dakota State one of the better mid-major programs in the country before taking Colorado State from seven wins his first season to the NCAA tournament five years later. He looked like he was on the same path with the Cornhuskers, winning 19 games and getting an at-large bid his second year in Lincoln. But things have stagnated, as Nebraska was under .500 and went just 11-25 in the Big Ten the last two seasons.

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

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The days of postseason bans and crippling scholarship reductions to punish schools for breaking NCAA rules appear to be winding down.

Memphis was placed on three years of probation earlier this week with a public reprimand and fined for NCAA violations related to the recruitment and short college career of James Wiseman, who is about to start his third season with the Golden State Warriors. The NCAA also wrapped up an investigation of Air Force football for breaking the COVID-19 recruiting quiet period.

No postseason bans or scholarship reductions in either case. The Independent Accountability Review Panel, the NCAA’s outside arm of enforcement, said in its decision in the Memphis case that it did not want to punish current athletes.

That sentiment is widespread in college athletics these days, even with millions of dollars suddenly flowing to athletes from various sources for their celebrity endorsements amid concerns over improper inducements. In fact, it is on the way to being codified: Last month, the Division I Board of Directors adopted three proposals to change the infractions process.

The board also committed to “identifying appropriate types of penalties and modifying current penalty ranges, including identifying potential alternative penalties to postseason bans.”

Trying to predict what those alternatives will be is difficult, but if the goal is to avoid harming athletes and others who were not involved in the violations the options are limited.

“I emphatically believe it’s the wrong direction to go,” said Nebraska law professor Jo Potuto, who spent nine years on the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“If you’re going to deter, the punishment has to fit the offense, right?” Potuto added. “You’re not going to deter serious violations with penalties that are not perceived to be really serious.”

Since January 2020, there have been at least 45 major infractions cases decided by the NCAA. Of those, at least 15 involved Level I allegations, the most serious and those carrying the most severe penalties; six cases resulted in some kind of postseason ban, with four of them self-imposed.

The Memphis case went through the IARP, which was created in response to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball corruption but is now being discontinued. Sunsetting the IARP was among several recommendations put forth by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee earlier this year and recently adopted by the board.

As college sports moves toward less centralized governance by the NCAA and deregulation in general, the hope is to create a more streamlined enforcement process.

If justice is swift, the thinking goes, it is more likely to be applied fairly.

“The reality is the current system is broken,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips, a member of the transformation committee. “I think everyone in the association, in the enterprise, understands it. When (an investigation) takes the amount of time that it does now and you start to penalize young men and women that were high school, if not middle school-age (when the violation occurred), it’s not an effective process.”

The IARP is still handling cases stemming from the FBI probe involving Louisville, Arizona, Kansas and LSU. Those have been in the NCAA enforcement pipeline for years. A related case against Oklahoma State did not go through IARP and the Cowboys did end up with a postseason ban.

David Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University and former compliance director for several schools, said even though the IARP failed, NCAA enforcement would be best handled by an independent organization.

“No system is perfect, but if you’re going to have an enforcement system at the end of the day you need to provide basic due-process protections and then you have to be able to consistently punish people,” he said.

In the Memphis case, Wiseman received $11,500 from Hardaway in 2017 while Hardaway was coach at a local high school. Hardaway was hired as Memphis’ coach in March 2018, and Wiseman committed to the Tigers in November 2018.

The NCAA accused Memphis of four Level I and two Level II violations, including lack of institutional control, head coach responsibility and failure to monitor. In the past, those types of allegations could strike fear into athletic directors but probation and fines seem much more likely to be the outcome now instead of the sweeping scholarship sanctions, vacated victories and postseason ban that Southern California received in 2010 for the Reggie Bush improper benefits case. Those penalties set USC football back years.

In the end, the IARP essentially reduced the charges against Memphis and cleared Hardaway of wrongdoing.

While the NCAA is losing sway in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, with more power being shifted to its member conferences, it also remains clear the schools still want the association to handle enforcement.

But what exactly is being enforced?

Athletes can now be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals and college sports is still waiting on and hoping for help from federal lawmakers to regulate name, image and likeness compensation.

Plus, as revenue skyrockets for schools at the top of major college sports, the NCAA is trending toward fewer restrictions on what financial benefits can be provided to athletes.

“Until we have clarity and certainty on what schools and boosters and athletes can and can’t do, I think many recognize that it’s dangerous to hand down significant punishments when it’s not clear what you can and can’t do,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane. “And I think unless you have clear rules, it’s hard to harsh punishment.”

Still, punishments directed at schools (fines) and coaches (suspensions) could become steeper and longer, Feldman said.

Potuto said with so much money flowing into the top of college athletics, it is doubtful fines could be large enough to be a true deterrent. While she understands the desire to not have current athletes pay for the sins of previous regimes, loosened transfer rules could mitigate the potential harm.

“I will make one prediction: If there is a move to impose penalties much less frequently in five years there is going to be a move to put them back in,” Potuto said.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.