Big Ten Coaches on the Not-So-Hot Seat, Part IIPosted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on October 30th, 2013
Yesterday, we examined why John Groce, Tom Crean and Fran McCaffery are currently not in danger of losing their jobs. Today, we continue our examination of the conference’s coaching landscape. Specifically, we’ll explain why we expect the head men at Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue to be here next year. Here’s our take:
Richard Pitino (Minnesota): This is Pitino’s first year as a head coach in the Big Ten and second year as the head coach of anything. He spent one year at Florida International before accepting the job at Minnesota, but while at FIU, Pitino led the Panthers to their best conference record in school history. He seemed on the way to turning around a program that had won only 26 of 65 games under NBA legend Isiah Thomas. In April, he got an offer he couldn’t refuse: a chance to compete with the best in the business in the Big Ten. So he accepted and now is set to go through the ultimate learning experience as he coaches against the likes of Izzo, Matta and Ryan every week. Pitino will get the years of learning on the job he needs to try to build something special. Minnesota wouldn’t make this type of hire without knowing it’ll be marathon and not a sprint. He’s obviously fine right now.
Tim Miles (Nebraska): I wrote a post last week detailing the situation at Nebraska. In short, Miles has been given state-of-the-art facilities and the resources to secure top-tier assistant coaches that can deliver talented recruits. And while boosters will expect to see a return on the money they invested, they’re realistic about the task at hand and know it won’t happen overnight. It’ll be interesting to see how the Cornhuskers fare in this, Miles’ second year. If they are able to show noticeable improvement, he and his assistants can sell recruits on being a part of a “program on the rise.” Regardless, the administration is invested both in this program and Miles as the head coach — he’ll be given the appropriate time to turn the ship around.
Chris Collins (Northwestern): Like Pitino, this is Collins’ first year in the Big Ten, so the likelihood he’s fired next March is almost zero. While Collins has yet to coach a single game, he’s already got the Chicago-area fans and media buzzing. Most believe Collins is uniquely suited to make history and take the Wildcats to their first NCAA Tournament while in Evanston. For starters, he’s familiar with the Chicagoland recruiting scene from his days as a prep player there and his recruitment of the area while at Duke. Collins already has a recruiting coup under his belt with the commitment of four-star small forward, Vic Law. Additionally, he has the coaching pedigree as the son of former NBA head coach Doug Collins and a longtime assistant to Mike Krzyzewski for 13 years. Collins will have the next few years to live up to the hype.
Pat Chambers (Penn State): On some level, Chambers deserves sympathy. After 15 years of working his way up from an assistant at Division III to head coach at Boston University, he finally broke through when Penn State made him its new head coach in the summer of 2011. Five months later, the Penn State child sex abuse scandal broke, and all things Penn State, including the basketball program, were tainted. Last season, he lost all-Big Ten guard Tim Frazier for the season when he ruptured his Achilles tendon in November. So it’s fair to say that Chambers has faced some major headwinds in his first two years leading the Nittany Lions. But this might be the year Chambers’ luck turns around. He gets Frazier back in action and returns last year’s leading scorer, D.J. Newbill. That backcourt will be among the most dangerous in the conference. Barring a collapse, this should be Chambers’ most successful season and he should be back next year.
Matt Painter (Purdue): On March 30, 2011, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Matt Painter had accepted an offer to become Missouri’s head coach. Purdue fans were heartbroken. They had just lost an alumnus and Gene Keady disciple who won at least 25 games the previous four seasons and had the Boilermakers challenging for Final Fours. The story, of course, turned out to be false. Painter stayed in West Lafayette and signed a new eight-year contract paying him over $2 million annually. Since then (and the exodus of Robbie Hummel, Jajuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore), the Boilermakers have been stuck in basketball purgatory, finishing sixth and seventh in the Big Ten the past couple years. This year, Painter is hoping the Johnson brothers and AJ Hammons can lead them back to the NCAA Tournament and up the league standings. He still has the fans’ trust and, if anything, the size of his contract means Painter isn’t going anywhere regardless of what happens this season.