Pac-12 Burning Questions: Who’s Your Coach?Posted by AMurawa on January 18th, 2012
Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week:
“If you were starting a program from scratch, which current Pac-12 coach would you target to kick start your program?”
Connor Pelton: There’s really no question in my mind about who I would want as the coach of my “start from scratch” program; Oregon’s Dana Altman. Just look at his first one-and-a-half seasons in Eugene. In year one, Altman led Oregon to 21 wins, a 17-point upset of UCLA in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament, and a CBI championship. That was with Ernie Kent’s players. His first step of year number two was to add some of his own players to the mix, so he recruited both high school seniors and transfers to Eugene. The result was three superb transfers in Olu Ashaolu, Devoe Joseph, and Tony Woods, not to mention freshmen Brett Kingma, Jabari Brown, and Bruce Barron. Of course, Brown and Barron left the team earlier this season, but Altman and the Ducks have been fine without the pair. Now Oregon is 13-5 and fresh off a sweep in the desert.
However, the main reason I would want him as my coach is his ability to take a bunch of individuals with large egos and turn them into a team. When Altman took over the Oregon job, the Ducks were in the midst of a serious identity crisis. It seemed as if everyone was just playing for themselves and their futures, with no regard to the team whatsoever. Obviously, Altman has changed that attitude and perception completely around. That’s what makes him the strongest candidate to lead my start from scratch team.
Andrew Murawa: There are some very good coaches in the Pac-12, but if there was any question before, the last year or so should have cleared it up: Sean Miller is the best coach in the conference. When he arrived in Tucson, he was to be the program’s fourth basketball coach in as many years, yet the Wildcats had managed to keep alive their 25-year streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Combine that with the fact that Miller would be, in essence, taking over for legendary Arizona head coach Lute Olson, and Miller’s success in his first three years in Arizona has already shown his ability to handle the pressure of his job.
Arriving in Tucson, he found a roster wracked by years of subpar recruiting, leaving him with Nic Wise, Jamelle Horne and not a lot else. However, Miller was able to take advantage of the Tim Floyd mess at USC to snap up Derrick Williams, Momo Jones and Solomon Hill during the spring, proving he is a coach capable of making the most of an opportunity. That opportunistic recruiting class combined with the 2012 class, currently ranked #1 in the nation, cements Miller’s status as an elite recruiter of talent.
After a year of growing pains, including a missed NCAA Tournament in 2010 that he took the fall for without complaint, last year Miller turned his youthful team into an Elite Eight squad, giving eventual national champion Connecticut arguably their best game of the tournament before seeing a couple potential game-winners just miss. Throughout the year, Miller and his staff showed their ability to develop talent and to game plan with the best of his sport’s coaches. In short, not only can Miller bring players to his program, he can coach ‘em up when they get there. Not only has Miller proven that he can rebuild a program on the fly, but he’s shown that once the rebuilding job is underway, he can coax that little bit extra out of his players to have his team perform above their expectations.