The 2019 college basketball coaching carousel has not quite finished spinning — of this writing, there are two jobs that are still open: Howard and Morgan State — but barring something unforeseen, all of the relevant coaching changes have been made.
That means it is time for us to sit back and figure out who won, who lost and who was left out of this year’s carousel.
And more than anything, the most interesting part of the coaching changes that were made this season had to do with who was not involved instead of the guys that got new gigs.
WINNER: COACHES IN THE FBI’S CROSSHAIRS
To date, the only head coach that has lost his job as a result of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball has been Rick Pitino, and I think there is an argument to be made that Pitino would have kept his job had he not found himself in a second embarrassing scandal in the span of less than two years. Put another way, he was fired as much for having an assistant coach pay for hookers and strippers for players and recruits as he was for Brian Bowen getting paid.
It looks like the rest of the head coaches that were caught up in this mess are going to survive. Bruce Pearl got an extension last season, before he led Auburn to the 2019 Final Four. USC’s Andy Enfield has a ton of talent on his roster this season, and after missing the NCAA tournament last year, the Trojans look like they are in the mix to be a top 25 team again this season. Arizona’s Sean Miller had a rough 2018-19 season, but he’s bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in the country this year and looks like he’ll head into next season as a favorite to win the Pac-12 again. Like LSU’s Will Wade, Miller dodged a bullet as a judge ruled that he will not have to testify in the current trial happening in New York. Bill Self may have seen his Big 12 title streak come to an end as a result of this investigation, but if Kansas gets Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes back next season, they will enter 2019-20 as the favorites to start a new streak.
It’s not over yet, but at this point, it looks like all of those coaches are going to live to fight another day.
To date, there are 53 Division I head coaching positions that have opened up this spring, and of those 53, 51 of those jobs have been filled. Of those 53 jobs that opened up, 17 of them had a black head coach leave, either after getting fired or jumping to a better job. Take away the four HBCU programs that opened, and just three of the 13 programs that previously had a black head coach replaced them with another black head coach — George Washington, Georgia State and Kennesaw State.
All five high-major programs that fired a black head coach — Arkansas, Alabama, Cal, UNLV and Washington State — replaced them with a white head coach.
Compare that with the white head coaches that left their jobs. There were 36 of them, and 30 of those 36 programs replaced the previous white head coach with another white head coach, including seven of the 11 high-majors. St. John’s, Tulane, Temple and Vanderbilt were the only high-majors that fired a white head coach and replaced him with a black head coach.
In total, just eight of the 65 head coaches in Power Five leagues (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) are black. Every head coach in the Big Ten and the Pac-12 is white. That’s just 12.3 percent, significantly behind football, where 12 of the 65 Power Five head coaches are black.
Both the Big East and the American have embraced diversity, as half of the schools in both leagues have black head coaches, but even then, just 21.8 percent of the head coaches in the seven leagues that we can call high-major are black.
I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I feel pretty comfortable saying that percentage is significantly lower than the number of current and former high-major players that are black.
And don’t, for a second, think that the people discussing those numbers aren’t also discussing how the four assistant coaches that were fired as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college hoops corruption are all black and the five head coaches that have remained employed with their seven-figure salaries are all white.
WINNER: COACHES ON THE HOT SEAT
Pat Chambers has been the head coach at Penn State since 2011. He has not yet made an NCAA tournament, but he wasn’t fired this offseason thanks to an impressive surge at the end of the season from the Nittany Lions. Dave Leitao finished tied for last in the Big East again this season, but since DePaul finished with a winning record, he was brought back for a fifth season. Jim Christian missed his fifth straight tournament with Boston College and will now be asked to win without Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson, because he will be back on Chestnut Hill for a sixth year. Chris Mooney survived at Richmond. So did Josh Pastner, who has struggled at Georgia Tech and currently is dealing with an NCAA investigation into his program.
But perhaps the biggest name here is Danny Manning. He’s made one NCAA tournament in five seasons at Wake Forest, and has yet to finish above .500 in ACC play in a single season. In four of the five years he’s been in Winston Salem, the Demon Deacons have won five or fewer league games. He’s had talent on his roster, too — John Collins, Bryan Crawford, Devin Thomas, Codi Miller-McIntyre, Jaylen Hoard, Chaundree Brown.
Some guys on the hot seat lost their job — Steve Alford, Ernie Kent, Tim Miles, Chris Mullin, etc. — but it wasn’t the bloodbath some expected it to be.
LOSER: HIRES THAT MAKE GEOGRAPHICAL SENSE
Nate Oats grew up in Watertown, Wisconsin. He played at a Division III program in Wisconsin, then spent the first 22 years of his coaching career in and around the great lakes. Six seasons at the Division III level in Wisconsin, 11 years at the high school level in Detroit, six years at the Division I level at Buffalo. He was just hired to takeover Alabama from Avery Johnson. That is a weird, weird fit. I have little doubt that Oats will be able to do well with the players currently on the Alabama roster, but I do not know how he is going to be able to recruit. One source connected to high school recruiting in the south told NBC Sports he can’t know how Oats will do at that level “because I don’t know him. I’ve never even shaken his hand.”
The same can be said for Mike Anderson at St. John’s. Anderson has spent the last 37 years coaching in Alabama, Arkansas and Missouri, and now he’s heading up New York City to rebuild the Johnnies? That, too, is a weird fit.
(That said, I’ve come around a bit on this hire after talking to a couple of smart people. He’s going to need to make a hire that can get him on the right side of the power brokers in NYC, but I think the ’40 Minutes Of Hell’ brand might be able to work for St. John’s in the Big East. New York doesn’t have the greats that it has had in the past, but there is talent to be found and, an abundance of toughness and athleticism everywhere you look. I don’t know if that is a style that can win the league or get to a Final Four, but I do think it could be good enough to make the Johnnies relevant on an annual basis, and that’s not something that we have said in a long time.)
Perhaps the biggest example of this is Mick Cronin. A Cincinnati native that has spent his career coaching in Ohio and Kentucky, Cronin is heading out west to take over California’s flagship program, UCLA. Not only is it a weird fit geographically, but stylistically, too. Cronin is a screamer, he’s intense and he built a consistent winner with the Bearcats based on defending and rebounding. He’s like Ben Howland, only smaller and angrier. Howland did make three Final Fours, but he angered enough people in SoCal to get himself fired after winning a Pac-12 regular season title.
We’ll see if it works out better from Cronin.
WINNER: THE STATE OF TEXAS
Let’s start with the obvious: The best hire of this year’s carousel was the one that was probably the longest in the making — Texas A&M bringing in former assistant Buzz Williams to take things over. Buzz is a Texas native that had built Marquette and Virginia Tech into top 10 teams before heading to College Station, and I fully expect him to find a way to do the same thing with the Aggies.
That said, the biggest winner in this year’s carousel was probably Houston, who held off Arkansas and kept Kelvin Sampson as their head coach. Sampson has led the Cougars to back-to-back NCAA tournaments, and they came within a possession of knocking off Kentucky and advancing to the Elite Eight this season despite the fact that they lost Rob Gray. He’s a terrific basketball coach, one that will keep Houston at or near the top of the AAC as long as he is on the sidelines. The same can be said for Chris Beard, who will be returning to Texas Tech, where he led the Red Raiders to the Big 12 regular season title and the Final Four, next season.
Also worth mentioning: Jamie Dixon and UCLA couldn’t work their way around his buyout, so he is still at TCU. And not that he was going anywhere, but Scott Drew is still at Baylor.
The level of coaching in the collegiate ranks in the state of Texas has never been higher …
LOSER: THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS
… and that’s not necessarily a good thing for Shaka Smart, who has yet to find the level of success at Texas that he had at VCU. That was weighing on the minds of many within the coaching industry this year, as there was plenty of speculation that Shaka would try and find a way out of Texas before Texas sent him packing. And the heat isn’t going to get turned down at all any time soon, not with the competition that he has in his own state these days.
SIX MORE WINNERS
NEBRASKA: Nebraska fired Tim Miles after what felt like half-a-decade on the hot seat, replacing him with Fred Hoiberg. Miles was a good coach that had some bad luck in his final two seasons, but I’m not sure there is a better fit for Nebraska that Hoiberg. The job isn’t all that different from Iowa State — same part of the country, same passionate fanbase, same homecourt advantage — which is where The Mayor had a ton of success before jumping to the NBA.
MIKE YOUNG: Young has been a basketball coach for 33 years of his life, and 30 of them were spent at Wofford. This past season, as the Terriers head coach, Young led his team to the best season in program history before replacing Buzz Williams at Virginia Tech. He’s the first coach since 2003 to go from the SoCon to a power five program, and it’s a job in the heart of Southern Virginia, where Young’s roots lie.
CINCINNATI: Losing Mick Cronin is a tough blow for the Bearcats. He led them to nine straight NCAA tournaments, and that is nothing to scoff at. He’s a really good basketball coach and was a perfect fit for that program. But Brannen is a solid replacement, a guy that led Northern Kentucky — a recent addition to Division I — to two NCAA tournaments in the last three years. He has roots in Kentucky and Ohio as well. He’ll do well there.
WASHINGTON STATE: Kyle Smith is the first coach since Jan Van Breda Kolff in 2001 to leave the WCC for a better job in a bigger league, as he left San Francisco for Washington State. Before that, he led Columbia to the best season they’ve had in the KenPom era. He’s won at tough jobs, and Wazzu might just be the toughest high major job in college basketball.
THE SEC: Buzz Williams taking over Texas A&M is the obvious big name here, but Rick Barnes remaining at Tennessee because UCLA wouldn’t pay his buyout is huge for the Vols. Eric Musselman replacing Mike Anderson is probably an upgrade, and while Nate Oats in Alabama is a weird fit, he should be able to, at the very least, get the job done with the group currently on the roster. LSU and Auburn look like they won’t have to fire Will Wade and Bruce Pearl, at least not yet, and while Jerry Stackhouse is an outside-the-box hire at Vanderbilt, he’s replacing a guy that didn’t win a league game last season.
GEORGE WASHINGTON: The Colonials went out and made a really nice hire to replace Maurice Joseph, hiring Jamion Christian away from Siena. Christian is one of the brighter young coaches in college hoops, having taken Mount St. Mary’s to two NCAA tournaments in five seasons before getting the job at Siena.
TWO LOW-KEY HEAD-SCRATCHING HIRES
SOUTHERN MISS: Doc Sadler spent five seasons at Southern Miss, winning 20 games this part year and just about erasing the memory of the NCAA sanctions that were left over from Donnie Tyndall’s tenure. Then Sadler left to become an assistant at Nebraska, a school that fired him, and instead of hiring Mark Adams — the man responsible for Texas Tech’s defense and a legend in the Texas JuCo ranks — Southern Miss hired Jay Ladner, a guy that went 17-16 at Southeastern Louisiana last year.
NEVADA: Nevada’s decision to replace Eric Mussleman with Steve Alford isn’t a terrible hire by any means. Alford had quite a bit of success as the head coach at New Mexico before taking over at UCLA. The head-scratching part is the fact that he got a 10-year deal from Nevada.