Texas A&M Goes With Billy Kennedy

Posted by rtmsf on May 15th, 2011

The coaching carousel continued to spin this weekend in the domino-falling aftermath of Gary Williams’ retirement from Maryland ten days ago.  After swinging and whiffing on several names including Marquette’s Buzz Williams, Memphis’ Josh Paster, and former Knicks head coach and current broadcaster Jeff van Gundy (really?), Texas A&M has reportedly gotten its man — Murray State head coach Billy Kennedy.

Kennedy Moves on to Texas A&M

Northern Iowa’s Ben Jacobson was also in the running for the position, as both up-and-coming coaches interviewed with the school on Saturday.  Much like AD Bill Byrne’s last two hires for the Aggies, Kennedy is a coach who has put in his time in the lower reaches of Division-I basketball and demonstrated success at every stop along the way.  The 47-year old originally from Metairie, Louisiana, has spent the last five seasons at Murray State, keeping the Racer program among the elite of the OVC.  His MSU teams finished first or second in the conference regular season race all five seasons, and his last two teams — including 2010’s NCAA round of 32 entrant — played in the postseason.

The Texas A&M head coaching position has become a stepping-stone job under the steady hand and guidance of Byrne, as the last two coaches — Mark Turgeon and Billy Gillispie — parlayed their success in College Station to big-time basketball jobs at Maryland and Kentucky, respectively.  This is not to suggest, however, that Kennedy can’t have massive success at TAMU; the school’s athletic department budget ranks in the top thirty nationally, and its relative proximity to talent-rich Houston (two hours) and Dallas (three hours) make the program fully capable of moving beyond borderline top 25 status.  Kennedy may not have brought the enthusiasm that a brand-name hire would have, but so long as he keeps the program moving forward and breaks through to that elusive second weekend of the NCAA Tournament (Gillispie took the Aggies there once, in 2007), TAMU fans will be satisfied.

A big opportunity will await Kennedy in his first season in College Station next year.  The Aggies return five of its top seven players from a 24-9 (10-6 Big 12) team, and with conference powerhouses Kansas and Texas gutted by early defections this offseason, there’s a sense that A&M could be poised to move to the top of the Big 12 standings with its existing roster and a little good fortune.  Of the five returning players from the 2010-11 all-Big 12 team, Texas A&M is the only school with two — star forwards Khris Middleton (14/6) and David Loubeau (12/5).  If the perimeter players led by senior Dash Harris and incoming four-star recruit Jamal Branch come through in 2011-12, Kennedy may be in position to do something never before done in these parts: win a Big 12 basketball championship.

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Who Will Succeed Coach K At Duke?

Posted by nvr1983 on May 12th, 2011

Over the weekend, Duke announced that recently fired Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel had been selected to be its newest assistant coach. The announcement itself was noteworthy as Capel, who just two years ago was considered one of the hottest names in coaching, had fallen to the point where he was forced to take an assistant coaching position. The question of how Capel had fallen so quickly could be answered in several ways (most notably the departure of Blake Griffin and the disappointing performances of McDonald’s All-Americans Willie Warren and Tiny Gallon), but remains mysterious.

Capel will be returning to Duke (Credit: Bryan Terry/NewsOk.com)

Capel’s return to Durham also raises the more intriguing question of who is next in line to succeed Mike Krzyzewski when he eventually decides to retire, a possibility that was made more clear recently with the retirement of Gary Williams, one of his chief rivals in the ACC at nearly the same age as Krzyzewski. The first question is whether the Duke administration will want to pursue an internal candidate or would look at outsiders. We imagine that Krzyzewski would make a strong push to hire an internal candidate or at least someone with strong ties to the program, but the performance of most of the disciples from his coaching tree has been underwhelming to put it lightly. There have been a number of prominent head coaches (Mike Brey, Tommy Amaker, Johnny Dawkins, Quin Synder, and Capel) who have coached under Krzyzewski during his time at Duke as well as two others serving as associates alongside Capel (Steve Wojciehowski and Chris Collins).

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Mark Turgeon Heads To Maryland

Posted by nvr1983 on May 9th, 2011

After what appeared to be the beginning of a long coaching search Maryland is set to announce that Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon will be its next head coach. This Friday’s announcement that Terrapin legend Gary Williams was retiring shocked the college basketball world and put the program in a tough position of having to fill an opening in one of the premier coaching positions in America after many of the top potential replacements had signed extensions with their schools in the month and a half since the Final Four.

Turgeon has some big shoes to fill

The Terrapins initially went after Sean Miller, Brad Stevens, and Mike Brey, but all three turned them down with Miller and Brey getting contract extensions as a result of Maryland’s pursuit. At that point it appeared like Maryland might be headed for a coaching search that would mirror NC State‘s albeit without the theatrics of a Debbie Yow-like character. In the end, they turned to the state of Texas where they were able to land a solid coach in Mark Turgeon, who might lack the “wow” factor of some other candidates (particularly Stevens), but has managed to compile an impressive resume at Wichita State and Texas A&M. After serving his time as an assistant coach at Kansas and Oregon followed by a short NBA stint, Turgeon’s head coaching career began with an unimpressive start at Jacksonville State, but he quickly recovered to turn Wichita State into one of the best mid-major teams in the country culminating in a Sweet 16 appearance in 2006. Although Turgeon was unable to get the Aggies to a Sweet 16, he did manage to maintain the program at the level that Billy Gillispie brought it to before his ill-fated move to Kentucky and keep it as one of the best in the Big 12.

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Gary Williams Stuns The College Basketball World

Posted by nvr1983 on May 6th, 2011

The announcement out of Maryland that Gary Williams would be stepping down from his position as head coach to become a special assistant to the athletic director is one of the most stunning pieces of news we have come across this offseason. In any other offseason we would say it was the most stunning piece of news, but the Missouri coaching search saga probably trumps it due to its sheer lunacy. Still, the fact that Williams, who while not at the top of his game (that was back around 2000-02), would step down when he appeared to be building up the Terrapin program after a recent rough patch, is jarring.

 

Williams has been a large presence on the Maryland sideline

Much of the talk regarding retirement this off-season has centered around UConn coach Jim Calhoun, who also has more well-documented history of medical problems, an impending three-game suspension looming, and, of course, the ability to go out at the absolute top of the game having just won a national championship. Looking at the announcement in retrospect it does make some sense as Williams is 66 years old and has accomplished just about everything that a coach could imagine accomplishing at this point in his career, but it still seems strange. Although his numbers might not seem like much in the era of huge win totals like those amassed by Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith, Calhoun, and Jim Boeheim, when you look at them in a larger historical perspective they are very impressive. While most fans associate Williams solely with Maryland, his career is more extensive. It includes stops at the following schools:

  • American: 72-42 including two trips to the NIT (at a time when the school couldn’t automatically qualify for the NCAA Tournament)
  • Boston College: 76-45 including two trips to the Sweet 16
  • Ohio State: 59-41 (the only blemish on his coaching resume)
  • Maryland: 461-248 (1 NCAA title, another Final Four appearance, and another five Sweet 16s along with two ACC Coach of the Year awards)

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Miami Goes The Safe Route With Jim Larranaga

Posted by nvr1983 on April 23rd, 2011

Over the past three weeks we have heard all kinds of speculation about why Miami opted not to pursue Kansas State coach Frank Martin. He would need too much money. A statement that Martin refuted as his base salary was essentially the same as Frank Haith‘s base salary at Miami and was only made higher due to the fact that Martin’s teams won enough to hit performance-based incentives. His demeanor turned off Miami officials at a game at this season’s Orange Bowl Classic. A fair criticism if you are looking to run a youth league team, but some of the biggest coaching names in college basketball are well-known in media circles for their foul language. Do you think that Miami officials wouldn’t love Mike Krzyzewski on their sideline (ignoring what would likely be an astronomical salary to get him to leave Duke)? He was caught cheating at Miami Senior High. Perhaps the only fair criticism as Martin’s championship team, which featured Udonis Haslem and Steve Blake, had its 1998 state championship vacated due to recruiting violations related to using players zoned outside the school’s area. It is worth noting that Martin was never formally accused on any wrongdoing, but in the eyes of many in the Miami-Dade basketball community he was culpable.

Miami opted to go the safe route with Larranaga (Credit: Nick Wass/Associated Press)

 

Now Miami has opted to go with George Mason coach Jim Larranga, a fine coach to be sure and one who has actually advanced further in the NCAA Tournament than Martin ever has (Final Four versus Elite Eight), but you would be hard-pressed to find a pundit who would argue that Larranaga was a better fit for Coral Gables than Martin. This is not intended to minimize Larranaga’s accomplishments at George Mason, which are laudable as he not only made the Final Four (2006), but also made the NCAA Tournament four other times including this year where his team was considered a borderline top 25 team late in the season.

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Could Miami Hire A Coach Without Contacting Frank Martin?

Posted by nvr1983 on April 11th, 2011

When Missouri shocked the college basketball world with its announcement that it had selected Frank Haith to replace Mike Anderson most writers believed that the Miami administration would instinctively look to Manhattan, Kansas to find a replacement for Haith in Frank Martin, who grew up in Miami and still has strong ties down there. It was widely expected that the Hurricane administration would make a hard push at bring the Kansas State coach to Coral Gables where he could rejuvenate a program that has had few bright spots in its uninspiring history. Hurricane fans, long a fickle fan base even in football where they had a 20-year run that rivals anything done in that sport, even expressed a modicum of excitement at the possibility that their basketball program could finally become relevant even if it would take some work to catch ACC stalwarts like Duke and UNC. Yet it has been a week since Haith left Miami and according to Martin they have not even contacted him or anybody representing him.

We can't believe Miami hasn't contacted you either, Frank

Much has been made of the fact that Martin reportedly made significantly more than Haith ($1.55 million per year vs $1 million per year for Haith), but according to Martin that figure is if he hits all of his incentives and his actual base salary is “only” $1.1 million per year, which is essentially the same as Haith’s salary. The Miami administration has a well-earned reputation of not being willing to open up their checkbook for big-name coaching hires and the fact that they are without an athletic director at the present time (their prior athletic director Kirby Hocutt left for Texas Tech) may limit their ability to spend a few extra dollars even if they wanted too. In the end, that–either Miami’s incorrect assumption on Martin’s salary or inability to offer up more money without an athletic director–may end up costing the Hurricanes a golden opportunity to become relevant as they reportedly have their sights set on Tommy Amaker and have offered him “roughly $1.1 million for five years”, the same as Martin’s base salary. Amaker is said to be interested in the job, but has some reservations due to the effect it might have on his wife’s career (she is an Instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School). Amaker has clearly done a good job turning around the Harvard program from 8-22 to 23-7 and brought them to the verge of the school’s first NCAA Tournament bid, but you would have hard time finding someone connected with basketball who would put Amaker at the same level as Martin.

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N.C. State Goes With Gottfried

Posted by jstevrtc on April 5th, 2011

The coaching carousel is really gaining momentum now that the season has ended, and Mark Gottfried has decided to turn in his ESPN mic-plates for North Carolina State colors.

Gottfried Takes On the NCSU Coaching Job -- And a Whooooole Lot Of Headaches

Ending a long and frustrating coaching search, the Wolfpack announced the hiring of Gottfried within the last hour. Gottfried’s last gig was at Alabama, where he coached for ten seasons and part of an eleventh (1998-2009). He posted a 210-132 (0.614) overall record and an 84-83 record in SEC play as leader of the Crimson Tide, taking his team to the NCAA Tournament for five straight seasons from 2001-02 to 2005-06. His 2003-04 team made the Elite Eight before losing to the eventual champion Connecticut Huskies. Gottfried left in January of the 2009 season after star guard Ronald Steele decided to jump ship, and hasn’t coached since.

Before his time at Alabama, he coached three seasons at Murray State from 1995 to 1998, taking the OVC crown all three years, and making NCAA Tournaments in his last two seasons there. He was 68-24 (40-12) at MSU. Gottfried also won a  national championship in 1995 in his last of seven seasons at UCLA as an assistant under Jim Harrick.

The initial reaction to this hire appears to be to compare it to St. John’s’ taking on Steve Lavin last year, since, like Lavin before him, Gottfried most recently worked as a color commentator and studio analyst as part of ESPN’s college basketball coverage. To us, though, the hiring of Gottfried in Raleigh is more a product of how many coaches at smaller programs — for example, guys like VCU’s Shaka Smart and Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, two targets of the NC State search — are choosing to live by the Valvano Doctrine of “don’t mess with happiness” and stay at programs at which they’re already successful, as well as hoping that they can mimic Brad Stevens‘ recent successes at Butler. With what Stevens and his Bulldogs have achieved in the last two years, if you’re a coach at a mid-major program, it makes staying at your smaller school a lot more attractive of an option than, say, the prospect of going up against Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski at least four times a year on the court and fighting them for local stud recruits off of it. What also can’t be ignored is the reluctance that some coaches may have had to work with NC State athletic director Debbie Yow, whose stormy relationship at Maryland with coach Gary Williams was well-publicized.

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Pat Knight Headed To Lamar

Posted by nvr1983 on April 5th, 2011

While most of the media’s attention was directed at NC State‘s curious decision to hire former Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried another school was making a significant hire. Lamar will likely never command the same attention that an ACC school like NC State does, but the Cardinals appear to be set to announce that former Texas Tech coach Pat Knight will be their next coach in a press conference this afternoon. Although much of Knight’s reputation comes from his much more successful father (do we even have to name him?), the addition of a coach who has experience at the Big 12 level is a significant pick-up for a team in the Southland Conference.

Pat Knight will have lower expectations, but it is time for him to make a name for himself

Knight took over the reins at Texas Tech during the 2007-08 season when his father abruptly retired. The Red Raiders struggled to a 4-7 finish that season, but did show some signs of life including an 84-75 win over 22nd-ranked Kansas State in Knight’s third game as head coach and an 83-80 win over 5th-ranked Texas a few games later. Unfortunately for Knight the highlights in Lubbock were few and far between. In his three full seasons at Texas Tech he only finished with a winning record once (19-16 in the 2009-10 season when he made his only postseason apperance winning one game in the NIT before bowing out in the quarterfinals) and compiling a record of 50-61 overall and 16-42 in the Big 12 never finishing higher than 9th (he did finish 7th in the season he partially coached).

As for Lamar the school does have some basketball tradition having won the Southland several times (most recently in 2008), but the team finished 13-17 last year and just 7-9 in conference (tied for second to last). The team does return some firepower in Mike James (12.5 PPG, but with 52 in a game against Louisiana) and Anthony Miles (11.9 PPG with a more consistent scoring pattern than James) as both will be seniors next season. The question is whether Knight can turn around this program with significantly lower expectations than he had in Lubbock and help resurrect his career. The issues of location (let’s be honest Lubbock isn’t the most desirable location for most players) shouldn’t be as much of a disadvantage in the Southland Conference where Beaumont, Texas won’t be as relatively unattractive and Knight will not have more traditional powers competing for the same players as he has. Knight will probably get several more attempts as a head coach even if he fails here because that is just the way that athletic directors work (safer to hire a failed coach than to hire someone who hasn’t failed), but if he wants to build his own legacy apart from his father

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Missouri Casts Its Lot With Frank Haith

Posted by jstevrtc on April 4th, 2011

Like most of the college basketball world, Frank Haith was in Houston over the weekend. After taking in some Final Four action, it looks like he’ll come back with a sweet souvenir: the head coaching job at the University of Missouri.

On Monday, he’ll fly back to the University of Miami and tell the team he just left about his decision. We think they probably already know.

Haith took the reins at Miami before the 2004-05 season as the Hurricanes began play in the ACC. His best season came in 2007-08 when he led his team to an overall 23-11 record and an 8-8 mark in the ACC that tied them for fifth in the league. They lost to Texas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament that season. Miami was his first head coaching job after working nineteen seasons as an assistant at six different schools.

Haith Is Now the Main Man In Columbia

Missouri’s hire of Haith — which was announced less than an hour ago, as of this writing — raises several questions. Just days ago, Missouri was supposedly close to wresting Matt Painter from Purdue, but he ended up inking a new eight-year deal to remain a Boilermaker. Painter has been a head coach for seven seasons, fronting Southern Illinois for the 2003-04 season, leading the Salukis to 25-5 overall, a 17-1 Missouri Valley Conference mark, and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Since he took over at Purdue before the 2005-06 season, Painter has made the Tournament each year except for his first, making the Sweet 16 twice, and has built a 130-61 (0.681) record, 59-37 in the Big Ten. Haith’s predecessor at Missouri, Mike Anderson, who just left to take the position at Arkansas, has been a head coach for nine seasons, leading the way at UAB for four campaigns before becoming a Tiger in 2006. Anderson posted a 111-57 (0.661) career in Columbia, tallied 43-37 in the Big 12 in his five seasons there, and made the NCAA Tournament the last three years. These numbers suggest the sort of coaching market in which Missouri should find itself.

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If UConn Wins The Title Will Jim Calhoun Retire?

Posted by nvr1983 on April 1st, 2011

As he nears the conclusion of his 39th consecutive year as a coach at the Division 1 level and 25th at UConn a single question looms above Jim Calhoun and the program that he helped build: What will he do?. After sanctions were handed out against against UConn and Jim Calhoun a month ago stemming from the Nate Miles fiasco there was quite a bit of speculation that Calhoun’s days in Storrs might be coming to an end particularly given his numerous health issues over the past few years. Less than a month later UConn’s surprising run through the Big East Tournament and now the NCAA Tournament has shifted the focus and now instead of calling for Calhoun to step down the media has been heaping praise upon Calhoun calling this year the most impressive coaching job of his career. With his Huskies sitting just two games away from Calhoun’s third national title, which would tie him with Bob Knight in fourth place for most NCAA championships for a coach, the question has become whether this would be the ideal time for Calhoun to retire when he is at the pinnacle of the sport.

Calhoun has a lot to think about

 

Having coached at the college level since 1972 when he first arrived at Northeastern Calhoun has compiled an exemplary resume only finishing below .500 on four occassions with the last occurring during his first season at UConn (1986-87). Since that time Calhoun has only failed to guide his team to the post-season once (in the 2006-07 season when the Huskies finished a disappointing 17-14), but that doesn’t mean his career has not been through its share of ups-and-downs. One of Calhoun’s defining characteristics has been his resiliency as demonstrated by the fact that he rebounded from a first round exit in the NIT in 1993 to make 3 straight Sweet 16s or another NIT bid in 1997 to make an Elite 8 the following season before winning his first NCAA championship the following season with a histroically underated team led by Richard Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin.

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Sidney Lowe Leaves And NC State Fans Rejoice

Posted by nvr1983 on March 15th, 2011

The day that many NC State fans have been waiting years for finally came today as Sidney Lowe announced that he would be would be offering his resignation after another disappointing season in which the Wolfpack finished 15-16. In his five seasons as head coach Lowe was 86-78 overall and 25-55 in the ACC. After succeeding Herb Sendek who left the school to go to Arizona State Lowe never finished higher than 9th in the conference and only made the NIT twice, which was a point of considerable consternation amongst NC State fans given the success of in-state rivals Duke, UNC, Wake Forest (ok, maybe not this year), and even Davidson.

With Lowe gone NC State will begin its search

The next step for NC State will be to find someone to take the reins of a floundering program. According to current Athletic Director Debbie Yow the school has a list of potential candidates that she declined to specify, but stated was single digits and would be a coach who has made the NCAA Tournament consistently. While many NC State fans looked forward to Lowe’s resignation with the hope of getting a coach similar to the one that Yow describes they may be less than thrilled with the actual result. When Lowe was offered the job it was only after the school was unable to land several bigger name coaches.

Given the profile that Yow describes, NC State’s lack of recent success, and the ridiculous concentration of basketball tradition/success within the state it seems likely that NC State will be relegated to repeating history in their coaching search unless they stumble upon someone from a relatively big school that happens to want to go back to North Carolina. Otherwise they should probably be willing to look for through the mid-major ranks for a star wanting to go to “the next level” or an assistant at a successful program who wants to be calling the plays himself.

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Oklahoma Fires Jeff Capel

Posted by nvr1983 on March 14th, 2011

Earlier today Oklahoma announced that it had fired Jeff Capel after two unsuccessful seasons following the departure of Blake Griffin. The firing of Capel shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who have followed the Sooners’ struggles over the past two seasons after going 30-6 and reaching the Elite 8 in 2009 before losing to eventual champion UNC. Despite the departure of Griffin the Sooners were expected to be competitive in the Big 12 and make another run in the NCAA Tournament as they had Willie Warren returning after an outstanding freshman season and had a strong incoming freshman class. Unfortunately for  Capel the Sooners were never able to get on-track and stumbled to a 13-18 season. This year the Sooners had considerably lower expectations, but finished in a similar fashion going 14-18 with their last game (and Capel’s last game as head coach of Oklahoma) being an embarrassing 20-point loss to rival Texas in the Big 12 Tournament that illustrated just how far the Sooners had fallen.

Capel will leave Norman with a sour taste in his mouth

In the end, Capel’s downfall boiled down to his inability to get significant production out of the four McDonald’s All-Americans that he landed in the past five seasons and the lack of interest that the Oklahoma fan base had for the team by the end of this season. Capel leaves Norman with a respectable record of 96-69 in five seasons at Oklahoma, but he went 27-36 leading to the Oklahoma administration to decide to terminate him even though he still has five years left on a recent extension and the school will have to reportedly pay between $2 and $3 million to buyout his contract. Despite his recent struggles, we expect to see Capel on the sidelines of a major program in the very near future (at least as an assistant) given his pedigree (coming from Duke under Coach K) and his prior success (the aforementioned Elite 8 appearance). This firing also adds to the list of solid jobs (Arkansas being the other prominent one) that would be highly coveted by many mid-major coaches and could lead to significant movement over the next few months.

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