USF Lures Orlando Antigua in Hopes of Bringing In Florida Talent

Posted by CD Bradley on April 2nd, 2014

USF has its man, again. The school on Tuesday announced the hiring of Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua as its new head coach, less than a week after it nearly hired Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello. “I think I was my wife’s second choice too, but that’s worked out; we’ve been together for 20 years,” Antigua said during an introductory news conference held during his brief stay in Tampa. Just hours after landing, he took off again, returning to Lexington for a practice ahead of this weekend’s Final Four. He will return to Tampa for good once the Wildcats’ season ends.

Orlando Antigua will try to bring a bit of his UK success to the top job at USF.

Orlando Antigua will try to bring a bit of his UK success to the top job at USF.

When he gets back to Florida, he will have something to work with despite USF’s back-to-back 3-15 conference records. Returning are two freshmen bigs – 6’10” John Egbunu and 6’8″ Chris Perry – and junior point guard Anthony Collins, who helped lead the team to two NCAA Tournament wins as a freshman but missed most of this season with a knee injury. The biggest reason Antigua got the job, though, is not because of what he’ll do with the players already in Tampa, but with the players he will be expected to bring to Tampa. Antigua has been a key recruiter for John Calipari over the last six years, one at Memphis and five at Kentucky (those stints follow five years on the staff at his alma mater, Pittsburgh, and some previous run as a Harlem Globetrotter). Some of those massive recruiting hauls included Floridian Brandon Knight, who led the Wildcats to the 2011 Final Four before being drafted by the Pistons. The Bulls’ talent deficit has been a major reason for it recent woes, and Antigua’s first job will be to close that particular gap with his AAC foes.

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Coaching Carousel a Thrill Ride for AAC Programs

Posted by CD Bradley on March 25th, 2014

While 16 teams remain alive in the chase for a championship – including AAC members UConn and Louisville – several other teams are chasing the new coaches that they hope might get them to the Sweet Sixteen some day. USF and Houston have now found their way onto this year’s coaching carousel, and their candidate pools say a lot about where the conference stands and where it’s going. USF fired Stan Heath after the AAC Tournament, and Houston announced Monday that James Dickey had stepped down to deal with a family matter. Reports on Tuesday morning indicate that Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello, fresh off a competitive round of 64 loss to Louisville and his mentor, Rick Pitino, has accepted the South Florida position.

Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello has emerged as a leading candidate for the USF job. (NY Daily News)

Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello has taken the USF job. (NY Daily News)

The USF job quickly was initially linked to some major names, including Buzz Williams (more on him in a moment), but Masiello appears to be the guy. The loss to Louisville was a particularly emotional one for Masiello, who was once a 12-year-old ballboy for Pitino with the Knicks, played for him as a walk-on at Kentucky, and served as an assistant at Louisville for six years before taking the Manhattan job. After the game, his old boss recommended he take the USF job, as he told the Tampa Tribune: “For you, it’s a grand slam.”

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“Fire Rick Barnes?” Not So Fast…

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 19th, 2013

One of the things college basketball observers thought they knew to be true heading into the 2013-14 season was that Texas coach Rick Barnes’ tenure was nearing its end. He was doomed to be fired at (or possibly before) the end of the season, was the thinking. It wasn’t a matter of if, but when. Last season, the Longhorns missed the NCAA Tournament and lost more games than they had won for the first time under Barnes. It was the second consecutive year his team didn’t post a winning record in Big 12 play – after finishing above .500 against league competition the previous 13 years. Texas hasn’t advanced past the round of 32 in the Tournament since 2008, and Barnes’ recruiting prowess had seemingly eroded to unthinkable depths; of Scout. com’s 21 top-40 recruits from Texas in the past seven recruiting classes, only one (2012 center Cameron Ridley) had signed to play with the Longhorns, according to Gary Parrish. There was plenty of talk that Barnes – who in the past had brought in such top prospects as Avery Bradley, Daniel Gibson, Damion James, Cory Joseph, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, D.J. Augustin, Myck Kabongo and Tristan Thompson — had lost the drive and energy to recruit top prospects as persistently as he once did. Sources who spoke to Parrish said, “Barnes became disenchanted with the off-court grind it takes to maintain a certain level of success.”

One of the biggest positive surprises early this season is 10-1 Texas (Getty Images).

One of the biggest positive surprises early this season has been 10-1 Texas (Getty Images).

Top-ranked 2014 point guard Emmanuel Mudiay’s commitment to SMU in August was seen less as a promising development for Mustangs hoops than an indictment of Barnes’ inability to recruit in-state talent. Not only did Mudiay, who is projected as the fifth overall pick in DraftExpress’ 2015 mock draft, spurn Texas – he didn’t even consider the Longhorns one of his final choices. Things looked even bleaker when former Texas Director of Athletics DeLoss Dodds, long an ardent supporter of Barnes, announced on October 1 he was stepping down. A week later, Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel released a comprehensive report on the state of Texas’ athletic department that included quotes from Dodds and an anonymous high-ranking athletic department official that seemed to add credence to the widespread speculation that Barnes’ job was in danger. “I worry more about basketball,” Dodds told Thamel. “If I were going to pick one [program] to worry more about, I worry more about basketball.” Said the official, “I can’t imagine [Barnes] turning it around.” Another reason why Barnes’ job security appeared so tenuous heading into the season? His top four-scorers from 2012-13 (Kabongo, Sheldon McClellan, Julien Lewis, and Ioannis Papapetrou) had, either by way of transfer or signing professional contracts, left the program. The writing was on the wall for Barnes. His long and mostly successful stint as Texas’ coach had run its course, it seemed. He had virtually no hope of turning things around.

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Calipari, CAA’s Connection to NBA Storyline to Watch

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 22nd, 2013

Most coaches never love their teams as much as you do. This is an important fact fans rarely consider when coaching changes occur. They condemn smart, aspirational, full-grown men for leaving to pursue a better opportunity. They yell and shake their fists and go on message boards and commiserate with each other about feeling “betrayed.” They try to rationalize the move by telling themselves their former coach will fail at his new job, or that his replacement will be just as good or better than the former coach ever was. Really, though, coaching changes are a lot less complicated than that. When coaches leave jobs of their own volition (but for a few exceptions), they are typically acting in their own best interests (financial and otherwise). Doing what’s best for their careers. Untying emotion from an important professional decision. Making a smart, rational choice. So when it seems like a coach would never, ever, leave his current job – that he’s such a good fit, no other job offer would ever tempt him – think again. Coaches, like most of the rest of us, have proven over time that they are always looking for the next best move.

John Calipari

Will John Calipari be on the move again? (Kentucky Athletics)

Which brings us to Kentucky coach John Calipari. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com wrote an interesting column yesterday suggesting Calipari is a logical candidate to become the next head coach of the New York Knicks. Before we get to Kentucky’s wildly popular coach, a few words the Knicks’ convoluted front office situation:

For those of you who don’t follow the NBA, know that the Knicks are more reliant on one player, Carmelo Anthony, than any other team in the league (you can make an argument for the Lakers and Kobe, or the Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving). Since trading for the former Syracuse star in February 2011, the Knicks have tried to improve their roster by adding players that best complement Anthony’s skills. He is the centerpiece, the superstar, the main attraction. Without him, the Knicks would be an afterthought in the Eastern Conference. The prospect of Anthony leaving the Knicks through free agency this summer, when he can opt out of his contract, makes Knicks fans shudder. It would also be a huge blow to the Knicks’ chances of competing for an NBA championship, the goal owner James Dolan had in mind when he allegedly strong-armed former GM Donnie Walsh into compromising the team’s future by trading multiple draft picks and young players for Anthony. So the Knicks are doing everything in their power to make sure Anthony is happy in New York – that he won’t consider opting out and joining a different team this summer, even if it means a clearer path to an NBA Championship.

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Is Rick Barnes a Dead Man Walking at Texas?

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 10th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

By the start of next college football season, two of the sport’s most high-profile jobs will have new coaches. One of them (USC) already fired its former coach, Lane Kiffin, and has presumably begun searching for a replacement. The other (Texas) has yet to dump longtime coach Mack Brown, but unless the Longhorns can engineer a miraculous midseason turnaround and win the Big 12 – and even that may not be enough to save Brown’s job – it’s all but guaranteed he too will be gone by the end of the season. That seems even more likely after former Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds, a longtime supporter of Brown, resigned last week. Both of these job searches will be fascinating to observe; it’s been a long time since two true titans of the sport have undergone head coaching changes. We’re more concerned about the college hoops side of things here, but that doesn’t mean we need to stop talking about coaching turnover. USC hired a new head coach, Dunk City orchestrator Andy Enfield, in April, and Texas enters the season with Rick Barnes’ coaching hot seat simmering. That was the general consensus following Texas’ 16-18 finish (and NCAA Tournament miss) last season, but the possibility seems even greater after comments published in Sports Illustrated reporter Pete Thamel’s recent article on the Texas athletic department shined a critical light on Barnes and Longhorns basketball. One damning assessment came from an unnamed high-ranking Texas official: “I can’t imagine [Barnes] turning it around.”

Will Rick Barnes last beyond this season? (Getty Images)

Will Rick Barnes last beyond this season? (Getty Images)

There were other harsh statements regarding Barnes included in Thamel’s piece (along with a number of unquoted characterizations from Thamel himself), and taken together, they seemed to paint a picture of a program in desperate need of a coaching change. Over 15 seasons at the school, Barnes has led the Longhorns to three Big 12 regular season championships, made four Sweet Sixteens, two Elite Eights and one Final Four. He has brought in elite high school players like Kevin Durant, Avery Bradley, Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph and Damion James. His teams almost always – even last season, when it ranked sixth in effective field goal percentage defense – play some of the toughest defense in the country. As C.J. Moore of Basketball Prospectus points out, Texas has finished in the top 10 of Ken Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency rankings in 10 of the last 11 seasons. If that’s all true, why have the Longhorns struggled so much lately?

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Dereck Whittenburg Back At NC State: Does Player Returning as Coach Work Out?

Posted by BHayes on August 2nd, 2013

North Carolina State announced earlier this week that Dereck Whittenburg, one of the heroes of the 1983 Wolfpack NCAA Championship squad, would be returning to the basketball program as an assistant coach. On paper, as it almost always does in these circumstances, the move looks great. Whittenburg’s arrival helps maintain a connection to NCSU’s past glory years, with his mere presence on the staff providing a constant reminder to players, fans, and most importantly, recruits, that the NC State program has summitted the mountain before. Pack fans must admit that this all sounds pretty good, but wait — haven’t they heard this one before? And didn’t it actually not go so well? Mark Gottfriend has done his best to erase the memories of the five-year Sidney Lowe era that preceded his hiring, but the half-decade with the former Pack star (and teammate of Whittenburg on that 1983 title team) at the helm was far too ignominious to have already slipped the consciousness of the Raleigh faithful. Now, of course, we needn’t note that Whittenburg is not running the program as Lowe did, which should figure to make this a far lower-risk hire. But with another Pack star returning to the PNC Arena sideline next season, it begs the question: Is the college star-returning-as-coach really the slam dunk hire fans believe it to be?

Can Dereck Whittenburg Lift NC State To Similar Glory As An Assistant Coach?

Can Dereck Whittenburg Lift NC State To Similar Glory As An Assistant Coach?

Lowe’s failures aside, you don’t have to scan the country long to find examples of alums returning to their old program and succeeding – both as assistants and head coaches. Most notable among current head men is Fred Hoiberg, who in 2010 took over the helm of the Iowa State program he starred at in the early 1990s. Early returns have been good for “The Mayor” in Ames, as Iowa State has won an NCAA Tournament game in each of the last two seasons. Other recent successful examples at the head coach level include Bob Huggins (West Virginia) and Sydney Johnson (Princeton).

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For Better or Worse, Steve Alford and UCLA Are Now Tied at the Hip

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 10th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The merits of college coaching hires take years to assess. Coaches need time to develop their players. Recruiting strategies need to be overhauled. Fans need to buy in. Alumni need to be convinced their monetary contributions are being funneled to the right man with the right vision and the right process to lead their program to future success. All of these things require variously large stretches of time to take hold. For the black sheep among new hired coaches, maybe it never happens.

There shouldn't be any head coaching changes in Westwood over the next few years (AP).

There shouldn’t be any head coaching changes in Westwood over the next few years (AP).

But everybody at least deserves a chance, right? No matter how putrid a coach’s first few games are, no matter how many fans are calling for his head, no matter how many disparaging internet memes are created to popularize his dishonor, one can typically find reason to give him (or her) the benefit of the doubt. UCLA fans will have to do more than just that with new coach Steve Alford, who had the contents of his contract publicly explored by the Los Angeles Times Monday night. College basketball coaches at blue-blood programs make gobs of money, which Alford does. He also, thanks to a $10.4 million buyout clause (four times his annual pay, according to the Times), isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

By saddling Alford with such a large buyout — more than 10 times what it would have been had he stayed at New Mexico — UCLA is essentially making it impossible for him to do to Westwood what he did to Albuquerque.

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Brandon Miller Is An Excellent Choice To Replace Brad Stevens at Butler: What Happens Next?

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 8th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Familiarity and tradition has worked for Butler when executing coaching changes in the past, and it will have to work once more after watching Brad Stevens take an immense NBA leap of faith in agreeing to become the next head coach of the Boston Celtics. Butler wasted no time hiring Stevens’ replacement; shortly after his departure was made official Wednesday night, two candidates–Michigan assistant LaVall Jordan and Butler assistant Brandon Miller–were identified as the only two candidates with any conceivable shot at actually landing the job. Jordan was seen as the frontrunner, and for good reason: he is widely respected in Big Ten coaching circles, played and coached at Butler and was seen as the biggest guiding hand in elevating Trey Burke to First Team All-American/Lottery pick status.

The Bulldogs moved quickly to hire Miller. Navigating their conference jump won't be quite as simple (AP).

The Bulldogs moved quickly to hire Miller. Navigating their conference jump won’t be quite as simple (AP).

In the end, Butler went with what has worked in the past. Miller is the fourth consecutive Butler coach to be promoted from within, a quintessential Bulldogs hire. And not only did Miller play and coach for the Bulldogs, he is also, like Stevens, Matta, and Lickliter before him, getting his first opportunity as a college head coach at the school. Fortunately for him, this job likely would have gone to former assistant Matt Graves, the current South Alabama head coach and star Butler guard widely presumed to be Stevens’ successor whenever the possibility of Stevens leaving – which was basically, like, any time a high major job opened up over the past three seasons – cropped up. Miller returned to the Bulldogs bench once Graves left for South Alabama, and unwittingly positioned himself for a promotion few college basketball people saw coming at this stage of the offseason. His profile aligns with everything Butler has sought in its recent coaching hires, but this time, the stakes are even higher, and Miller has a more difficult mandate than the other in-house hires that preceded him.

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Butler Destabilized by Brad Stevens’ Move to the Boston Celtics

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 4th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Burying news breaks in the lead-up to major work holidays or weekends is a totally normal thing. It almost never fails: use the benefit of most people’s designated R&R time to stanch the quick-spreading news cycle and prolonged Interweb shelf life. Snip the story at the bud before it has a chance to grow. Classic. Except that tactic might not work with Wednesday night’s news, dropped mere hours before our country’s biggest patriotic celebration – at least not among college hoops fans – that Butler coach Brad Stevens is no longer. Indeed, the baby-faced, cool-mannered, whiz kid Bulldogs sideline boss is leaving college basketball for the NBA. And not just any professional coaching job: Stevens is replacing Doc Rivers just in time to lead the 17-time champion Boston Celtics through a massive franchise rebuild. For all the classic cases of college coaches failing to translate their success to the next level, Stevens feels like the perfect hire for where the Celtics are as a franchise and the general direction the NBA is moving as it embraces a larger presence of analytics-savvy decision-makers in high-ranking positions.

The implications in the wake of Stevens' move for Butler and the Big East are difficult to divine (AP).

The implications in the wake of Stevens’ move for Butler and the Big East are difficult to divine (AP).

But Stevens is so much more than your average KenPom frequenter. In the process of lifting Butler from its Horizon League perch to a brief one-year stint in the Atlantic 10 to the new Big East, Stevens showed what comparatively lightly-recruited talent, empowered by tactical wizardry devised to maximize that talent’s best individual and collective attributes, can become. The height of his tenure, needless to say, were the back-to-back national title runs Stevens presided over in 2010 and 2011, each win over each powerhouse program coach more mind-numbing than the one before it. That’s when Stevens’ Bulldogs became so much more than the plucky Horizon league stalwart most college hoops fans had acknowledged for years. Butler became a national story, and its head coach the envy of any major program looking to replace its fired one.

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Forget Dunk City, Andy Enfield Is Off to a Great Start at USC

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 17th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

For all the high-flying showmanship and unexpected brilliance of Florida Gulf Coast’s NCAA Tournament run, and the commensurately growing coaching legend of Eagles head man Andy Enfield, there were skeptics, and most of those skeptics brought forth the same boring but altogether legitimate grievance. Are we really supposed to believe a one-week wonder from Fort Myers, Florida has all of a sudden, by virtue of a fluky Cinderella run, morphed into a prime candidate for a high-profile power conference job? Who made Enfield the next great on-court tactician, something more than a laissez faire personality who unleashed a group of young and brash and under-recruited athletes on an unsuspecting NCAA Tournament? Wasn’t Dunk City more about Brett Comer and company than Enfield himself?

If there are any misgivings about USC hiring Enfield, he's on the right track toward proving why the Trojans made the right choice (Getty Images).

If there are any misgivings about USC hiring Enfield, he’s on the right track toward proving why the Trojans made the right choice (Getty Images).

It is easy to see how Enfield could get tabbed with the “one-week wonder” label. The NCAA Tournament can accomplish many things. One of the most timelessly pervasive is the elevation of otherwise lesser-known coaches into consideration for more prominent jobs. Steve Alford’s No. 3 seed New Mexico lost to Harvard in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament; UCLA paved the way (forcing Alford to renege on his 10-year contract extension almost immediately) for his arrival. Florida Gulf Coast beat Georgetown and San Diego State; Enfield got a pay raise, a basketball program with promise (if not actual historical success) and a new California lifestyle to boot. March is a magical time.

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Did Minnesota Make a Mistake In Firing Tubby Smith?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 26th, 2013

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of RTC. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g. 

After six seasons in Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota fired its head basketball coach Tubby Smith. The firing certainly comes as a surprise to the hoops world because the Gophers just finished their best season under Smith: an overall record of 21-13 with a convincing win over UCLA in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. Smith led the Gophers to the NCAA Tournament during three out of his six seasons there but only won once in the Big Dance and never finished in the top four of the Big Ten during the regular season. A 124-81 record (60%) may not seem to support the firing but a closer look at Smith’s six seasons and the future of the Big Ten shows that the Gophers could stand to benefit with a coaching change. The following are three reasons why this move is a beneficial one for the Gophers.

Tubby Smith, Minnesota

Tubby Smith is out at Minnesota after six seasons.

  • The Big Ten regular season matters just as much as the postseason. Three appearances in the NCAA Tournament and a finalist in the NIT last season may work for many programs but the Minnesota athletic department has clearly sent a message that it expects to be at the top of the best conference in the nation. Smith finished with a record of 46-42 within conference play, and his teams were never a consistent threat to win the league. Big Ten programs take pride in winning the regular season championship and perennial contenders such as Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State are household names every year from January through mid-March. Without a more competitive team in league play, the Gophers will never be able to shed an image of a bubble team that frets on Selection Sunday.
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What’s In Store For UConn Without Jim Calhoun? The National Media Weighs In…

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 14th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

Over the past 26 years, Jim Calhoun has morphed the Connecticut men’s basketball program from a middling Yankee Conference ensemble to a plucky Big East upstart to a nationally-revered hoops powerhouse. He did it without the normal built-in advantages of most successful programs, without historical precedent, without strong administrative or financial support, without favorable geography, or a rich pool of high school players to recruit from. What Calhoun accomplished at UConn is truly remarkable; his legacy is forever intertwined with the program’s foundation and rise to prominence. The situation UConn now finds itself in – transitioning away from a legendary leader – is not completely unique. Arizona, UCLA, and North Carolina, to name a few, have all weathered the departures of sideline legends deftly, sustaining their national relevance and competitiveness with new coaches. The challenge for UConn is finding the right coach to succeed Calhoun, to prolong and advance what the three-time national title winner engineered in Storrs. While Calhoun believes two-year assistant Kevin Ollie is the perfect fit, it’s unclear whether new AD Warde Manuel will stick with Calhoun’s preference in the long run. But the timing of Calhoun’s departure has forced Manuel’s hand: Ollie is assured one season on the Huskies’ sidelines, a test run to prove himself as the long-term solution.

UConn’s basketball success is tied to Calhoun’s legacy (Photo credit: AP Photo/Jessica Hill).

With UConn ineligible for the postseason in 2013 and a depleted roster to work with, Ollie faces a tough road in the upcoming season. Whether or not he is the best choice to lead the Huskies out of the Calhoun glory days is an open question, but the national media has opined in droves over the fate of UConn’s program now that it has lost its foundational architect. Here’s a sampling of some of the best Calhoun retirement-related pieces I’ve come upon in the wake of yesterday’s official announcement, with a brief pull-quote summary of how each writer believes the Huskies will march on without Calhoun.

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