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Coaches on the hot seat

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It’s never fun to put together any sort of “hot seat” list.

In an ideal world, every college basketball coach in America would win enough games, and do enough with their programs, to justify keeping them all around for another season. But there are over 350 head coaching jobs in a highly-competitive, multi-million dollar sport. That’s just not the way things work in sports.

So, every year, we go over some of the big-name head coaches who could be in trouble if they have a bad season. Many years, some of the coaches on this list make us look dumb by having a big season and effectively “saving” their jobs. Other times, we can already see a program trending in the wrong direction, and things just aren’t going to change.

The hot seat doesn’t have nearly as many names on it this year. There isn’t an FBI scandal to keep certain seats warm. And given a lot of the coaching turnover of the past few offseasons, there are still many coaches who are in their first two years on the job.

But here are some coaches to watch for this season as they try to do everything they can to build positive momentum going forward.

DO NOT SIT DOWN

Steve Alford, UCLA: Coming off of another disappointing season in which they barely made the First Four, the pressure is, once again, on Alford to win at UCLA. Other programs would kill to have three Sweet 16 appearances in five seasons. But things are done a bit differently at UCLA. That fanbase expects Final Four runs and national championships. So Alford’s five-year stretch isn’t exactly cutting it. Alford’s 67.2 percent winning percentage is the lowest of any UCLA coach since Walt Hazzard’s 62.1 percent winning percentage in 1948. When you also factor in the off-the-court incident in China, and Alford needs a good season from his talented team.

Ernie Kent, Washington State: In four seasons at the helm, Washington State has never won more than 13 games in a season as the Cougars are only 47-77 and 18-54 in Pac-12 play under Kent. While Kent deserves some slack for having to manage one of the toughest jobs in the country, he’s clearly not the right guy for the job. Recruiting buzz for Washington State is nonexistent. The team doesn’t look like a major competitor in a mediocre Pac-12 either. If Washington State has another abysmal season, it could be time for a change.

Richard Pitino, Minnesota: After building some positive momentum with an NCAA tournament appearance in 2017, Minnesota and Pitino saw all of that come crashing down last season. One of the most disappointing teams in the nation last season, the Golden Gophers finished 15-17 and 4-14 in the Big Ten after returning most of its roster from the year before. Pitino has also seen his fair share of off-the-court incidents during his time at Minnesota. His players faced sexual assault allegations and an arrest for domestic violence. Pitino’s original AD that hired him, Norwood Teague, has also been ousted amid his own sexual harassment scandal. If Minnesota doesn’t have a serious turnaround season then Pitino could find himself looking for another job.

THEY COULD USE A BIG YEAR

Dave Leitao, DePaul: The second time around at DePaul hasn’t been very kind to Leitao. Although Leitao found success with the Blue Demons in the early part of the century when they were in Conference USA, the unforgiving Big East hasn’t been nearly as reasonable. DePaul is 9-45 in Big East play during Leitao’s most recent three-year tenure as they have an abysmal 29-65 overall. A shiny, new downtown arena has helped the Blue Demons recruit reasonably well given their recent basement-dweller status. But Leitao needs to start winning actual games and making some form of postseason in order to turn the corner and take the next step.

Danny Manning, Wake Forest: It’s crazy to think that at this time last year, Manning had the momentum of an NCAA tournament appearance and a first-round draft pick in big man John Collins. This list goes to show that things can change very quickly in one year. After a hugely disappointing 2017-18 that saw them finish 11-20 and 4-14 in the ACC, Manning and the Demon Deacons find themselves near the bottom of the league. Wake Forest does have a very solid recruiting class coming in that could re-energize the program. But Manning only has one tournament appearance while going 20-52 in the ACC over his four-year tenure. The results need to be more consistent for Manning to stay at Wake.

Chris Mullin, St. John’s: St. John’s was hoping that this prized alum could help restore the program’s former glory. That hasn’t been the case. While Mullin and his staff have recruited some talented top-100 talents who have put up some decent individual numbers, the winning hasn’t followed. In three season, St. John’s is only 38-60 and 12-42 in the Big East during Mullin’s time in charge as they’ve been slightly better than DePaul during that stretch. There is no arguing Mullin’s impact on St. John’s as a player. He is probably the greatest player in program history. He just doesn’t look like the right guy to coach his alma mater.

Pat Chambers (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

JUST DON’T BE TERRIBLE, OK?

Pat Chambers, Penn State: The Nittany Lions just finished a solid season in which they won the NIT. It’s also very notable that Chambers is the only high-major head coach that is currently employed despite missing the last seven NCAA tournaments at their current job. With star guard Tony Carr leaving for the pros this offseason, the NCAA tournament might not be realistic for Penn State this season. Is that going to be an issue for Chambers as he was just starting to turn the corner with this group?

Fran McCaffery, Iowa: After eight seasons at the helm, it is going to take a lot for Iowa to move on from McCaffery. He’s a great basketball coach, and he has multiple high-caliber sons who will play for the Hawkeyes in the next few seasons. But last season’s disappointing 4-14 finish in the Big Ten has some fans getting restless. McCaffery only has three NCAA tournament appearances in those eight seasons at Iowa, as the fanbase would love more consistency. McCaffery has a lot of young talent at Iowa. Now is the time to turn that into yearly postseason trips.

Tim Miles, Nebraska: The Cornhuskers were actually one of the biggest surprise teams in college basketball last season, but they managed to come up short of the NCAA tournament. That means Miles has fallen short of the sport’s biggest stage in five of his six seasons as head coach. Nebraska is going to have reasonable expectations once again this season. As long as the Huskers don’t bottom out, and make the postseason, Miles should not feel any legitimate heat.

 

Four-star 2019 forward flips commitment from Big Ten to SEC program

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Four-star 2019 forward Tray Jackson flipped his verbal commitment from Minnesota to Missouri on Friday night.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decommitment from the Golden Gophers on Twitter and then announced a commitment to Missouri a little more than two hours later. Regarded as the No. 96 overall prospect in the Class of 2019, Jackson reclassified from the Class of 2018 and saw his recruitment blossom in the summer.

While decommitting happens in basketball recruiting semi-frequently, flipping a commitment to a new school within a matter of hours is a very uncommon practice. Typically associated with football recruiting, Jackson’s switch is a big deal for Missouri.

His pledge gives head coach Cuonzo Martin an athletic and versatile frontcourt player with upside as Jackson could play multiple positions. The Tigers missed on E.J. Liddell, but Jackson is a nice prize to land instead. Missouri now has two four-star prospects in the Class of 2019 as Jackson joins four-star guard Mario McKinney.

Minnesota needs to replenish its recruiting efforts as they are now without a commitment in the Class of 2019. With head coach Richard Pitino facing pressure to win this season, this isn’t good for the future of Golden Gopher basketball either.

West Virginia lands five-star 2019 center Oscar Tshiebwe

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West Virginia pulled in a major commitment on Saturday as five-star 2019 center Oscar Tshiebwe pledged to the Mountaineers.

A late-developing, high-motor big man who ascended into a national recruit this summer, the 6-foot-8, 230-pound Tshiebwe represents an important grab for West Virginia. Tshiebwe represents a potential replacement for Sagaba Konate in the middle as the Mountaineers beat some pretty impressive programs to land him. That includes Baylor and Kentucky.

Tshiebwe is quick off the floor and a good athlete, as he could be a very dangerous player in Bob Huggins’ system because of his brand of basketball. Regarded as the No. 21 overall prospect in the Rivals Class of 2019 national rankings, Tshiebwe also took official visits to Baylor, Illinois and Kentucky during the recruiting process.

Tshiebwe joins three-star guard Miles McBride in West Virginia’s 2019 recruiting haul.

VIDEO: Marshall’s Taevion Kinsey easily clears three teammates on ridiculous dunk

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Marshall freshman Taevion Kinsey put down one of the preseason’s best dunks on Friday night. With the Thundering Herd hosting Herd Madness, the 6-foot-5 Kinsey put down a ridiculous dunk that easily cleared three teammates.

Most dunkers use an arm on the shoulder during the dunk. Kinsey didn’t need any sort of help as he glided over his teammates.

Kinsey is going to be a dunker to keep an eye on in the future. His teammates certainly think highly of his dunking ability, as most of them projected Kinsey to win the dunk contest before the event even started.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson impresses Duke fans in Cameron Indoor debut, downplays link to trial

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Duke freshman Zion Williamson made some ridiculous dunks look effortless in his Cameron Indoor Stadium debut on Friday night. As part of Duke’s annual “Countdown to Craziness” event, Williamson took part in a scrimmage against his Blue Devil teammates.

That included Williamson going head-to-head with fellow freshman R.J. Barrett in a scrimmage. And more absurd dunks in the warm up line.

But besides for the on-court action, Williamson was also asked about his family’s link to the college basketball corruption trial. On Tuesday, a transcript of calls was read to the New York courtroom that allegedly included Williamson’s stepfather on FBI tapes asking for money and a job from Kansas men’s basketball coaches. The tapes were not admitted as evidence.

“Honestly, I’ve paid no attention to it,” Williamson said to reporters, including ESPN’s David M. Hale, about the trial. “I’m just a college kid, out here having fun with my classmates, looking forward to stuff like Countdown and our first game. You only get one chance at the college experience, and I want to enjoy it.”

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski also downplayed Williamson’s link to the trial, pointing to the NCAA eligibility center’s “exhaustive” process to vette incoming recruits.

“They have an eligibility center now that these kids and their parents go through — and they go through everything,” Krzyzewski said. “We feel very comfortable with him and all our freshmen.”

We’ll likely hear more about Williamson, Kansas and this trial, as time goes on. Williamson also might legitimately not know much about this if it was his stepfather on the call. For now, Williamson is making a huge impression with Duke fans every time he steps foot on the floor.

(H/t: Lawrence Davis III and Duke men’s basketball)

Louisville lands commitment from Irish basketball star

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For the sixth time since Chris Mack took over the Louisville program, the new Cardinal head coach has landed a commitment from a member of the Class of 2019.

On Friday, it was Aidon Igiehon, a top 50 recruit, that announced he will be playing his college basketball for the Cardinals.

He followed in the footsteps of fellow four-stars Samuell Williamson, David Johnson, Jaelyn Withers and Josh nickelberry, not to mention three-star forward Quinn Slazinski.

And all this has happened over the course of the last five months.

Mack got the job in April, after he finished his final run with a Xavier program that he had been in charge of for the last nine years. That came just six months after Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino was fired for a series of scandals that had enveloped the university in the last few years, not the least of which was their involvement with the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball.

That may be the most impressive part of all of this.

No one really knows what is going to happen with Louisville and the NCAA as a result of the way that they were able to entice Brian Bowen on campus. What we do know is that while Louisville was on probation due to the fact that a member of their coaching staff was paying for strippers and sex workers for players and recruits, an agreement was made for Adidas to pay the family of Brian Bowen $100,000 to get him to enroll at Louisville. Bowen’s father said under oath that, in addition to that money, he also accepted at least one $1,300 payment from former Louisville assistant Kenny Johnson.

Those are NCAA violations committed while the program was on probation.

And those are the kind of things that the NCAA does not take lightly.

Everyone involved with the reason that Louisville was on probation and that actually committed those violations has moved on, but that hasn’t stopped speculation that the Cardinals could be facing even more punishment from the NCAA, which is what has made this recruiting job by Mack so impressive.

He’s filled up an entire class of prospects before he’s even coached a game for the program all while this nonsense is swirling around his program.

Was there ever any doubt that the Cardinals hired the right guy?