Rating the Pac-12 Coaching Hot SeatsPosted by Andrew Murawa on October 31st, 2013
As a whole, it is pretty easy to see that the Pac-12 is on an upswing, with talent abounding and more than half of the conference teams optimistic about their chances this season. But in four spots around the conference, there are coaches in dire need of success in order to keep their jobs. Last year at this time, there were six coaches whose seats we deemed at least warm. Of those six, two are now gone, while the other four remain seated on toasty chairs. We’ll take a look at those four coaches and tell you just how worried they should be about their jobs this season, then go through the other eight schools briefly and tell you the state of the head coaching position there.
Johnny Dawkins, Stanford – Scalding. Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir made it quite clear last season that, while Dawkins would be returning for his sixth season on The Farm, there would be heavy expectations – namely, make the NCAA Tournament or else, something that Stanford has failed to do since the year before Dawkins arrived. The good news for Dawkins is that he’s got a fine team. The bad news is that this fine team is made up of mostly the same players who limped home to a 19-15 record last season.
Ken Bone, Washington State – Scorching. Last spring, Bone had to wait almost three weeks after his season ended to finally get confirmation from athletic director Bill Moos that he would be returning to coach the Cougars in 2013-14. In four seasons on the Palouse, Bone has compiled a tepid 70-65 overall record, winning just 26 of WSU’s 72 conference games over that span. In fact, the only reason Bone may still be around for this year is that Moos’ predecessor gave Bone a seven-year contract that would have required a $2.55 million buyout. With all-conference type Brock Motum gone, Bone will need to get significant improvement out of a guard-dominated lineup in order to stick around past this season.
Craig Robinson, Oregon State – Sweltering. Robinson showed up in Corvallis in 2008-09 and immediately took a team that was 0-19 against Pac-10 opponents the year before (under Jay John) to a .500 overall record and conference relevance. Since that time, however, the Beaver program has been unable to turn the corner. There is some talent on this team, but unfortunately, in a year when Robinson really needs to win, two of those guys will start out the season serving suspensions. And, if this team winds up finishing around where we expect them to finish (somewhere south of ninth in the conference), the fact that Robinson has a marginally influential brother-in-law may not save him.
Herb Sendek, Arizona State – Toasty. Sendek begins his ninth season in Tempe. Quick quiz – how many times has a Sendek-coached Sun Devil team made the NCAA Tournament? Yeah, I thought it had been more than once also, but it has not. Thankfully, Sendek does have sophomore point guard Jahii Carson coming back for what everyone (including Carson and Sendek) believes will be his last year in college. But with Carson’s best running mate from last year, Carrick Felix, gone to the NBA, Sendek will have to find enough punch elsewhere on his roster to provide the help that Carson needs to get this team to the NCAA Tournament. Despite the contract extension that Sendek received in 2011, if ASU is NIT-bound or less, they could be searching for a new coach this offseason as well.
Lorenzo Romar, Washington – Warming. Scenarios where Romar is not coaching Washington in 2014-15 are hard to come by. But, after making three straight NCAA Tournaments in 2004-06 and then again in 2009-11, the Huskies are in danger this season of possibly missing the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season for the first time in Romar’s UW career. And with Romar swinging big but ultimately striking out on some recent high profile recruits, his tenure at Washington is somewhat tenuous. Still, let’s be clear: Romar ain’t going anywhere soon.
Larry Krystkowiak, Utah – Pleasant. For a coach who is just 21-43 overall and 8-28 in conference play in two years at a basketball-mad school, Krystkowiak still has plenty of leash. He inherited a program that was trashed and has had to completely rebuilt this roster from scratch. Utah fans and administrators understand this. And the fact that Krystkowiak has begun landing some talented homegrown recruits means that optimism is the theme of the day for the Utes.
Steve Alford, UCLA – Tingly. Let’s get this out of the way post haste: Alford is at UCLA for the foreseeable future; the terms of Alford’s contract guarantee that. Still, with an unsatisfactory opening to his UCLA career, a fan base that hasn’t shown itself to be all that reasonable, a couple of early strikeouts on the recruiting front and a guy across town creating some buzz, Alford will feel pressure to win immediately.
None of the rest of the coaches in the conference are even remotely in danger of losing their jobs. Really, if anything, guys like Andy Enfield and Dana Altman and Sean Miller and Tad Boyle are more likely to be hired away by other programs than they are to have their contracts terminated by their schools anytime soon. And then there’s Mike Montgomery, the dean of the Pac-12 coaches who, at age 66 and with nothing more to prove, might be the only guy in the conference with retirement somewhere on the nearing horizon. But don’t get too excited; he’s shown no indications of slowing down just yet.