The Top 20 College Hoops Jobs: An AnalysisPosted by rtmsf on May 12th, 2011
Much of the talk last week about Gary Williams’ replacement centered on the relative attractiveness of the Maryland basketball head coaching position. It was interesting to see where people fell on this. Some folks viewed the job as a borderline top ten slot, citing its rabid fan base, its top-tier facilities, its conference affiliation and its location in a recruiting hotbed as evidence supporting that contention. Others suggested that the position was really more in line with a top 25 ranking, a place where fans have unreasonable expectations and league affiliation (read: Duke and UNC) actually hinder the program’s status more than it helps. It’s an interesting debate, and it got us thinking about how we would rank the top twenty or so jobs in college basketball as of today.
After thinking about it for a few days, we broke the twenty out into five groupings, as shown below. We view the jobs within each grouping as roughly equal to each other, using the inexact criteria that coaches would be unlikely to jump ship within a grouping, but would be heavily enticed to do so in a grouping above theirs. Note the word, “inexact.” Each individual has different motivations and will make professional decisions on criteria distinct and separate from ours (e.g., Billy Donovan turning down Kentucky twice, and Jay Wright/Jamie Dixon turning down Maryland). But this analysis doesn’t take the current coach into consideration; this is meant to be an examination of the attractiveness of the job itself. Feel free to tell us how stupid we are in the comments below.
These five positions are destination jobs that guarantee big paychecks, huge followings, and, unless an elite NBA job comes calling, an expectation of long-term stability. They represent all but one of the top six programs of all-time, and the daily pressure on each of these fellows to succeed at the highest level is among the most excruciating in collegiate sports.
1. Duke. Possesses unbelievable facilities with a national brand synonymous with long-term, sustained success. Every college coach in America would give this job a glance if offered.
2. Kentucky. The only reason UK isn’t #1 is because dealing with the expectations of the always-rabid/sometimes-insane fanbase turns some coaches off on the job. Otherwise, everything you need to succeed is in place.
3. North Carolina. Only slightly less rabid of a fanbase than UK, but equally remarkable in resources, national support and pedigree. The only negative is a prevailing sense of the coach having to be a Carolina “insider” to succeed there.
4. Kansas. Certainly few complaints here, buf it the top four jobs were available in the same year and three elite coaches were in the running, KU would be the odd school out of that musical chairs equation.
5. UCLA. Sigh… this job is still elite regardless of a juxtaposed fan base that on one hand is apathetic while on the other expecting Final Four and national championship banners every year.
The Football Schools of Eternal Comfort
These three jobs are roughly interchangeable. They represent most of the amenities and professional respect of the above five positions with approximately 1% of the same pressure to perform. Their coaches make massive amounts of money, have great facilities and enjoy fertile recruiting bases, but basketball remains a distant second banana on these three campuses and is unlikely to change soon. So long as their teams don’t completely tank, they have better job security than just about anyone.
6. Ohio State. OSU moves ahead of the other two in this grouping because the fans are generally more supportive of its program than at UT or UF and everything else — resources, recruiting, etc. — is pretty much a wash.
7. Texas. Retirement job. The pipeline of talent is such that the Texas coach can win 20-25 games every year in perpetuity with an occasional NCAA run and the vast majority of UT fans will be satisfied, even happy, with their program’s success.
8. Florida. Why take a Kentucky job with ridiculous levels of expectation and pressure on an annual basis when you can coast with good teams year after year after year after year at Florida? The theme among all of the schools in this grouping is long-term comfort without constant pressure to win a national title.
The Third Tier of Hope & Optimism
This tier of all basketball schools wants very badly to break into the top five grouping, but for a number of structural, historical and competitive reasons, they are unlikely to do so. In most cases, a given coach at one of these six programs would have to give a long, hard look at an opening in the two groupings above them. It’s no guarantee that they’d leave, but given the resources, fan support and mystique of the above eight, they would all strongly consider it.
9. Louisville. This fanbase is larger than you think and its coach has the backing of a university in a veritable arms race with the school sixty miles to the east. It’ll never become “Big Brother,” but it’s a top ten job in this sport.
10. Syracuse. Far and away in the worst location of the top ten (perhaps even the top twenty), but its decades-long pipeline into NYC and its cachet as New York’s team has made the SU job very attractive to any future coach who might aspire to follow a legend.
11. Arizona. The fanbase is relatively small but very supportive, and the location is hard to beat for many coaches fond of playing golf year-round and enjoying a direct talent pipeline into the fertile SoCal prep training grounds.
12. Michigan State. Spartan basketball is much more than just Tom Izzo, and the connection to talent in Detroit and surrounding environs is one that makes this job highly desirable should it ever open again.
13. Connecticut. UConn has done very well to siphon off some of Syracuse’s support in the Big Apple, but its location in out-of-the-way Storrs makes it more difficult than it should be to sell this as a top-tier job.
14. Maryland. The Terp program has elite resource availability and a strong if not dominant fanbase, but its conference affilation with two of the top three jobs in all of college basketball make this a tougher pitch than it otherwise would be.
This is a special category for a job that was ranked among the elite but has been tainted by so much inconsistency and mediocrity over the last two decades so as to render it much less prestigious than it once was.
15. Indiana. The Indiana position simply doesn’t hold the same national weight that it once did, although if any school could find its mojo and quickly rise back up into the elite grouping, it’s obviously the Hoosiers.
This grouping of schools is interesting in that they’re all coveted jobs but each has at least one major weakness that makes them less attractive than the tiers above them. Some weaknesses are bigger problems to solve than others, but none can be ignored.
16. Georgetown. The Hoyas still have a significant but dwindling national recruiting presence left over from Hoya Paranoia and the Zo/Answer days, but its basketball facilities are frankly not commensurate with an elite job.
17. Villanova. VU is Georgetown without the national recruiting power, although its on-campus facilities are better than their Big East friends to the south. Like GU, though, playing in an off-campus NBA arena several miles away is not ideal.
18. Memphis. The only major problem that Memphis suffers is its affiliation with Conference USA. It’s a top-level program in terms of resources and support, but until it finds a major conference to attach itself to, there will remain issues of perceived irrelevance.
19. Purdue. Purdue suffers from a bit of “little brother” syndrome (with in-state Indiana ever-present) and has a reputation as a penny-pincher when it comes to paying their coaches and upgrading facilities (although Mackey is due to complete renovations in time for the 2011-12 season).
20. Gonzaga. We had to put a mid-major in here somewhere, and we chose GU over Butler and Xavier because the Zags have built such an avid national following and recruiting base (internationally, even) that this will be a plum destination position should Mark Few ever decide to leave it.
Honorable Mention: Pittsburgh, Illinois, Washington, Butler, Missouri.