Ranking the Mountain West Coaches

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 30th, 2014

Any time you get around to comparing one coach to another, it’s a shaky situation. Isn’t the real decision about who is the better coach decided on the court? Sure, one coach may have more talent than another, but then again, isn’t pulling in talent part of the job description? So, prior to unveiling my rankings of the coaches in the Mountain West, lets offer up some criteria. For the most part, recruiting is excluded from this analysis. The question that we’ll attempt to answer instead is this: Pick any random team in the country — you don’t know its roster or its strengths and weaknesses — which Mountain West coach would give you the best chance over this and the next couple of seasons to get the most out of those players and leave the program in the best possible place at the end?

Well, here’s one man’s take, feel free to disagree.

Steve Fisher, San Diego State

The Dean Of Mountain West Coaches, Steve Fisher Is Among The Best In The Nation. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  1. Steve Fisher, San Diego State – The results speak for themselves. Not only are the Aztecs the best team in the conference this year, Fisher’s done the most unbelievable job of building a program in the conference. Seriously, his track record at SDSU may not deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as elite program-builders with national titles under their belts like Lute Olson and Jim Calhoun, but this trajectory is very, very close. Put it this way: There’s one sure-fire Hall-of-Famer in this conference and it is this man. He’s head and shoulders above the rest. The knock on him when he was at Michigan was that he could recruit well but wasn’t much of a teacher or a tactician. And earlier in his career at San Diego State, he struggled with some end-game scenarios (the 2006 NCAA Tournament First Round loss to Indiana still upsets me). But these days, his record in unimpeachable. He gets his players to improve from one season to the next and throughout their careers. Even while bringing in solid talent, he gets his team to exceed expectations. The team that he puts on the court is something that his supportive community can be proud of. Not only is Fisher far and away the best coach in the Mountain West, he’s on the very short list of the best in the nation. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 06.13.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 13th, 2013

morning5

  1. Another day, another mob with pitchforks standing outside the gates. ESPN.com‘s Darren Rovell reported yesterday that a group of former NCAA athletes has filed a $5 million suit in federal court against a company that sells photographs of college athletes without their express permission. Although the claim does not list the NCAA nor some 90 schools alleged to sell images to the defendant company, it wouldn’t be much of a leap to eventually go after them as well down the line. Under current NCAA rules, the schools have the right to promote their own games using player images, but the legal question will center around whether they also have the right to sell or transfer those images. This lawsuit is of course unrelated to the Ed O’Bannon likeness case also working its way through the system in federal court, but the underlying issue — that players are not compensated for their work and corresponding brand — is very similar.
  2. While on the subject of the mission of the NCAA and its member institutions, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a piece yesterday from a professor at Ohio State University named Steven Conn. Conn, an American history scholar, took his soon-to-be-former boss, OSU president Gordon Gee, to task not so much for his forced retirement based on a series of verbal gaffes; rather, for helping to create and propagate the ”athletic-industrial beast that defines higher education now.” The point he’s ultimately making is that college presidents nowadays have to spend so much time dealing with their athletic programs because of the money and prestige associated with them, that they’ve completely lost sight of what the true mission of an institution of higher learning is supposed to represent. Interesting read.
  3. With all the pressure on programs to succeed in the revenue sports, it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that the average D-I men’s basketball coach has been at his current job for a total of 38 months — just over three years. This information and plenty of other coaching longevity tidbits comes courtesy of D1scourse, Patrick Stevens’ site examining college sports in the mid-Atlantic area. Although it was news to us that only one coach has survived at one school since the ’70s (Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, 1976), and only seven since the ’80s, the real takeaway from his analysis is that over 55 percent of true seniors who signed a letter of intent in November 2009 have experienced a coaching change in their careers. And yet we continue to penalize them for transferring, why, again?
  4. While on that topic, a really odd situation has developed involving DePaul forward Donnovan Kirk, a player who spent the first two years of his career at Miami (FL) before transferring to Chicago for the last two seasons. Given Miami’s success under Jim Larranaga especially relative to the train wreck at DePaul, Kirk has now decided to use his graduate transfer exception to head back to Miami for his final season. That’s right: a double-transfer where he is ending up at the same school where he originally started. He only averaged 6/4 last season for the Blue Demons, but he’s a great leaper and was among the Big East leaders in blocked shots per game (1.6 BPG). He’ll move right into a lineup in Coral Gables that is extremely lacking in experienced size, so this appears to be a win/win for both parties.
  5. The fortunes next season for another major basketball school in Florida — not FGCU, sorry — are still somewhat up in the air at this early summer point of the offseason. There are always a number of players finishing up coursework and dealing with standardized test scores to become eligible for next season, but in the case of Florida’s Chris Walker, there are serious concerns about his eventual eligibility. Not only does he still need to pass the ACT, which he has now taken three times, but he has to finish three core course requirements over the summer before he can enroll at the university in Gainesville. With most players these days getting themselves on campus for the early summer term to start prepping for next season, it doesn’t appear that will be an option for Walker very soon, if ever.
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Winners & Losers On Draft Night: The College Perspective

Posted by EJacoby on June 29th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft has come and gone in what was a fairly quiet night in terms of trades around the league, but Thursday could also become an historic draft given how deep the pool of talent was. We may look back on this draft as one of the great ones in recent history, but that remains to be seen. For now we can take a look at the immediate winners and losers, and we’d like to run down which schools made the biggest hits and suffered big misses on draft night. For instance, which teams sent multiple lottery picks or were responsible for the biggest risers in the draft? Which teams saw their prospects slip out of the first round or not get drafted at all? Here’s our list of the top five winners and losers last night from the college game.

Tony Wroten, Jr. and Terrence Ross (right) from Washington were both selected in the NBA Draft’s first round (AP Photo)

WINNERS

  • Kentucky – No, John Calipari didn’t get to see six first-round picks this year, as only four of his players cracked the top 30. Marquis Teague slipped considerably and Terrence Jones didn’t make the lottery. Yet all in all, what an historic night it was for the Wildcats. With UK’s Anthony Davis going #1 and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist selected #2 overall, it’s the first time ever that college teammates became the top two picks. And when Darius Miller was scooped up at #46 overall, that also became a record with a sixth Wildcat drafted – the most in NBA draft history since the format shrunk from seven rounds to two back in 1989.
  • Washington – The Huskies failed to qualify for last year’s NCAA Tournament, which looks even more shocking now than it did in March. Two Washington players were selected in the first round, including one in the top 10 when the Raptors picked Terrence Ross #8 overall, the third shooting guard to come off the board. Tony Wroten, Jr., landed at #25 as the third point guard selected. A great night for Lorenzo Romar and the program, but remind us again how this team was playing in the NIT last year?
  • The One-And-Dones – Nine college freshmen declared for the NBA draft, and eight of them cracked the first round. Only Quincy Miller slipped, shockingly dropping all the way down to #38, but he still was a high second-round selection. Usually we see at least one or two mistakes from the ‘one-and-done’ crowd (see: Jereme Richmond last year), but all the frosh were good choices. Five of the top 10 picks were from this group.
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Morning Five: 06.08.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 8th, 2012

  1. ESPN.com released its list of the top 10 coaching jobs in college basketball yesterday. This article was a capstone piece to a week’s worth of solid analysis evaluating the best-to-worst coaching jobs in each of the six power conferences, and the overall best/worst mid-major positions as well. Just over a year ago we did a similar analysis here at RTC, ranking the top 20 coaching jobs at the time, using the general criteria of attractiveness of the position to potential suitors. This is a bit of a flash point to many fans of top programs who generally go through life with the attitude of ‘what’s not to like?’ without considering that choosing among the elite schools is a bit like dating Miss America candidates. To paraphrase a line from Garrison Keillor, everyone is above average — the differences are really at the margins. With that said, we believe that ESPN is seriously underrating Duke in terms of its job attractiveness. We understand the point about Coach K as the heart and soul of the program, but that doesn’t make the job any less enticing. What K has built there over three decades is a brand synonymous with elite college basketball — this indisputable fact alone makes the job better than the sixth best in the country. At worst, Duke should be listed as third behind Kentucky and North Carolina; but behind Indiana? Now, that’s just silly.
  2. Earlier this week we learned that Mark Madsen is headed back to the college basketball world to join Johnny Dawkins’ staff as a new assistant coach at Stanford. Mad Dog led the Cardinal to its last Final Four in 1998, and won two NBA titles as a benchwarmer with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001 and 2002. The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg caught up with Madsen on Wednesday and published this entertaining interview that discusses such disparate topics as his world championship dance moves, recruiting, and the Zen Master, Phil Jackson.
  3. Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes was one of the best surprises of the 2011-12 conference season, quite literally walking from high school on to the Volunteers’ roster at midseason and immediately becoming the team’s best player in a matter of weeks. This week, he and 22 of his fellow 18-and-under friends are competing for 12 spots on the Team USA Under-18 national team, and his experience of playing in a major collegiate environment for half a season gives him a distinct advantage over the others (all of whom are either still in high school or just graduating). Mike DeCourcy writes that the powerful young player is clearly a “star in the making” for Tennessee, and the additional experience he gains this summer will no doubt give him even more of a leg up on the rest of his contemporaries who have never seen the speed of high D-I basketball.
  4. Luke Winn had better step away from the excel spreadsheets for a while to get ready for the London Olympics next month, because when he starts writing columns about the Herfindahl Index (HHI) to explain trends in college basketball, we know that he’s gone certifiable. It’s certainly not that it doesn’t make any sense — it certainly does — it’s just that we’re worried about the guy. Regardless of his mental health, the HHI is a business analytical tool that typically measures market share concentration, but Winn uses it in his latest column to study offensive balance among national championship teams over the last 16 seasons. Perhaps the most interesting finding from his analysis was that the two Kentucky champions covered in this period (1998 and 2012) also happened to be the most balanced teams of the era — a quirky truth separated by 14 years, a couple of coaches, and quite a bit of talent and experience. Interesting post.
  5. Is NCAA head honcho Mark Emmert on the way out? Sports by Brooks reported on Thursday that it had information on good authority that Emmert was in discussions with LSU (where he served as their chancellor a decade ago) to become a combined president/chancellor with considerable power and prestige under the new position. Emmert, through a spokesman, called the report “complete nonsense,” but it brings up an interesting thought that the pull to become a president of a major state university could be considered a step up from the presidency of the NCAA. We have to admit some ignorance on this point, but LSU isn’t Michigan, and we would think that as president of an organization with a billion dollar budget the likes of the NCAA would be a better gig than whatever Baton Rouge might offer, but maybe we’re just admittedly out of touch on this point. It’ll be interesting to see regardless of whether there’s any fire with this smoke.
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Morning Five: 10.20.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 20th, 2011

  1. In yesterday’s M5 we mentioned that a poll of media facilitated by the Syracuse Post-Standard found that Syracuse and Connecticut were essentially viewed as equals at the top of the Big East this year.  Wednesday’s survey of Big East coaches at Media Day came to the same ultimate conclusion.  The Huskies had more first-place votes (seven) than the Orange (five), but more coaches chose SU second or third than UConn, which accounts for the difference.  Louisville received three first-place votes (Rick Pitino took shots at the votes too), while Pittsburgh received one.  The Panthers’ Ashton Gibbs was chosen as the preseason Big East POY, with UConn’s Jeremy Lamb, Syracuse’s Kris Joseph, Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom, WVU’s Kevin Jones, and Notre Dame’s Tim Abromaitis rounding out the first team.
  2. Down on Tobacco Road, the ACC was simultaneously holding its Media Day Operation Basketball, and the proceedings generally read like a Carolina love-fest.  UNC received 57 of the 59 first-place votes from the media, and the Heels’ Harrison Barnes was a unanimous selection on the preseason all-ACC first team along with teammates Tyler Zeller and John Henson (incidentally, Luke Winn breaks down Barnes’ 2010-11 progression here).  The last time that a single school had three selections on the preseason all-ACC team was a decade ago, when defending national champion Duke brought back Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer.  In no surprise whatsoever, Duke was picked to finish second, with Florida State third.  The remaining all-ACC choices were Duke’s Seth Curry, Miami’s Malcolm Grant, and Virginia’s Mike Scott, with Duke’s Austin Rivers selected as the preseason ROY.  More on Operation Basketball later this morning on our ACC microsite.
  3. We never contemplated a Wake Forest to USC pipeline developing, but if Jeff Bzdelik’s few talented players continue to get into trouble in Winston-Salem so that they ultimately transfer to Southern Cal, we’re sure that Kevin O’Neill will be happy to take them.  After Wake forward Ari Stewart transferred across the country in May to spend his final two years at USC, guard JT Terrell (whom Stewart hosted on his official visit to Troy) has also decided to re-surface as a Trojan.  Terrell is spending this season at a junior college in Washington, but the talented sophomore who averaged 11.1 PPG as a Demon Deacon frosh has announced that he will sign with O’Neill’s club during the early signing period in November.  Between Alex Stepheson (UNC to USC), Larry Drew II (UNC to UCLA), Travis and David Wear (UNC to UCLA), Stewart, and now Terrell, there’s something weird going on here.
  4. Is Billy Gillispie ready to turn around the basketball fortunes at his third Texas destination in his somewhat short collegiate coaching career?  After very successful stints at UTEP and Texas A&M, followed by a disastrous one at Kentucky, Gillispie says that he’s sober and back on track at his new school, Texas Tech.  What was lost amidst all the chaos that surrounded Gillispie in his two years in Lexington is that he had completely rebuilt moribund programs in both El Paso and College Station very quickly, his teams employing a hard-nosed, defensive style that mimicked the coach’s somewhat infamous and notorious work ethic.  Texas Tech seems like a great fit for him not only because he’s back in his home state surrounded by his people, but the expectations and pressures at a school like TTU are incredibly tame in comparison with one of the nation’s flagship basketball schools.  Even during the Bob Knight experiment, getting to the Sweet Sixteen was cause for celebration.  It says here that Gillispie will do well in Lubbock.
  5. We’ve already mentioned the heartbreaking story of Arizona’s Kevin Parrom in this space earlier this week.  Jeff Goodman caught up with him recently and the drive and fortitude that the Wildcat junior continues to show in the face of such adversity — losing his grandmother, his mother, and getting shot in the hand and leg in the span of several months — is nothing short of remarkable.  Rather than feeling sorry for himself, it’s clear in reading his quotes that he considers himself lucky to not only be alive, but also to have the opportunity to get an education on a basketball scholarship, something his mother made sure he put above all else.  And that, my friends, is what good parenting is all about.  Continued best of luck to Parrom as he works through these emotional and physical issues — we’re rooting for ya, kid.
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Dana O’Neil Opens Eyes With Poll of Coaches

Posted by rtmsf on July 23rd, 2010

As we mentioned in today’s Morning 5, Dana O’Neil’s enlightening piece exposing the raw perceptions that coaches have on their peers in the world of college basketball and the sport in general is fascinating stuff.  It’s obvious that she knew it too, as the bulk of the article was filled with direct quotes from anonymous high-major coaches telling the truth as they saw it.  There is a lot of meat to this article — numerous raise-your-eyebrow statements that had us questioning and hopeful for more.  So we thought it might be interesting to cherry-pick the nine quotes that we thought were the most compelling and do what we do (make inappropriate comments and wildly speculate about things).  Enjoy.

Dana O'Neil Sheds Light on Unseen Areas of the Game

Regarding fraternity among coaches:

“It’s sad,” another coach said. “I grew up in this game with an idea of what I thought it was or what I thought it should be. Now I see it’s not like that at all. You have low- to mid-major guys aspiring to move up who will do anything to get there and you have guys who, once they get used to a certain lifestyle, will do whatever it takes to keep it.  There’s less of a brotherhood here than there is in football and that bothers me,” another added. “We have more guys stabbing each other in the back or using you guys [the media] to go after their agenda. That’s a big problem.”

We found this quote somewhat surprising in that we figured that competition among football coaches would be even more intense given the structure of their system, where the pyramid is extremely top-heavy and the small schools have virtually no chance to get there. 

On gender roles:

Along with the coach who called the women, “the gestapettes,” another said, “If the NCAA was serious, they’d hire someone who knew what they were doing, not these women out here trying to get a husband.”

Sexist caveman coaches, for the win!  Dana must have especially enjoyed hearing those quotes as the only nationally-focused female college basketball writer of note in the industry.  Ridiculous, and we’d happily buy her a Cosmo if she would tell us who these cretins were (see what we did there?). 

On recruiting to name-brand schools:

Here’s what I think happens a lot — a team loses a kid to someone else and all of a sudden that someone else is cheating. Every time North Carolina loses a kid, someone else is cheating. It’s like there’s so much arrogance with them; they can’t believe someone would rather go somewhere else, so the other team has to be cheating.

We hear this from fans of the major schools (like UNC) all the time.  Seriously – ALL the time.  But it was enlightening to hear it coming from the coaching ranks as well.  We guess nobody is excused from the tendency to blame extraneous factors when things go wrong.  Not even coaches. 

On expense accounts:

One of my players [who left early for the draft] was working out with another top-five draft pick.  They got to talking and my kid said something about not having money or whatever on campus. The other kid said, ‘My coach set up expense accounts all over town for me. Yours didn’t?”

We discussed this one on the M5 and in the comments.  If we assume that the coach in question was talking about the most recent NBA Draft (fresh on his mind), then we’re talking about four schools here — Kentucky, Ohio State, Syracuse or Georgia Tech.  One commenter pointed out that DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors worked out together in New Jersey before the draft.  Connecting a few dots together, we can make some further assumptions about which school was setting up expense accounts and which school wasn’t.  Or, we could just admit that this is nothing more than rumor and means absolutely nothing. 

Regarding phone call violations: 

I get a kick out of the phone calls. Who gets caught with that anymore? It’s a joke. They’re out there catching the guy with the one phone. How about the guy with two and three bat phones?

This quote really makes the UConn assistant coaches and Kelvin Sampson look stupid, right?  Even low-level drug dealers and amateur terrorists  know that you should use burners for any illicit calls. 

Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 06.24.10

Posted by rtmsf on June 24th, 2010

  1. It’s NBA Draft day, which means we get one last chance to talk about players such as Tiny Gallon, Jerome Randle, Manny Harris and Derrick Caracter before they fade off into basketball oblivion.  Be sure to check out our mock draft and each of our draft profiles for the projected first round collegians to get ready for tonight.
  2. The NCAA’s Basketball Focus Group: an interesting idea.  Just give it some teeth, gumshoes.
  3. Just to ensure that Texas the remaining Big 12 doesn’t get too big for its britches, Oklahoma president David Boren confirmed yesterday that the Sooners had an invitation on the table to join Texas A&M as members of an expanded SEC.  Boren said that the school wanted to stay with its group and keep its traditional rivals Oklahoma State and Texas nearby (keep your enemies closer, perhaps?), though, so they turned down the offer.
  4. This is a pretty strong article from New York magazine that just came to our attention recently about the last great basketball scout, Tom Konchalski.  For some reason, in the real-time twitter/blogger/facebook era, the fact that his scouting only comes via US Mail on paper is cool, in a retro sorta way.
  5. YABB’s the State of Coaching post is out, and very well done as always.  Seriously, spend fifteen minutes with this thing and understand what he’s doing there.  It’s very good stuff.
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SEC Diversity = Blondes and Redheads?

Posted by rtmsf on April 24th, 2007

One of the most amusing anecdotes in a book about Greek life in the South called “Pledged” goes something like this:

State U. is a pretty liberal, relatively tol­erant school and when one sister at State U. was asked if there was diversity in the [sorority] house, she responded: “Oh sure, we’re di­verse, we have blonde, red and a lot of brown-haired girls. I think we also have a Spanish girl.”

Sorority Girls

As anyone who has ever lived there recognizes, racism in the South is a lingering unspeakable that infests itself into nearly every situation (good and bad) whether you want it to or not. College athletics is no different, and in fact, team sports push the issues to the fore in ways that they otherwise would never be. Life in the modern SEC has fostered a peculiar “working relationship” between blacks and whites in that environment. The largely black football and basketball teams are expected to perform on the field and court, while the largely white coaching staffs are expected to harness the athletic talents of the players with discipline and structure, which will result in wins for the program and money in the university coffers. Some have gone so far as to conclude that what goes on in Tuscaloosa, Fayetteville, Athens and the like every fall and spring is nothing more than a modern-day plantation society.

To that end, as Gary Parrish points out in a recent CBS Sportsline article – with Tubby Smith’s recent departure from UK and the firings of Stan Heath (Arkansas) and Rod Barnes (Ole Miss) in the last two years – the SEC has taken a step backwards in terms of its head coaching diversity. He blames this “trend” on little more than racism shrouded in performance expectations. And while there is always some racial politics to any decision about hiring/firing of coaches in the South, a trend may not always be what it seems without appropriate context. Read the rest of this entry »

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04.23.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on April 23rd, 2007

  • OSU’s Thad Three (Greg Oden, Michael Conley, Jr., Daequan Cook) are going pro – Conley & Cook will not sign with Dad, er, an agent.
  • Chris Lofton is staying at Tennessee for his senior season.  This decision undoubtedly pushes UT into the SEC frontrunner position for next year.   
  • Nevada’s Marcellus Kemp and Ramon Sessions are set to test the NBA waters, but only Kemp is projected as a first round pick (in 2008). 
  • Brandan Wright is expected to declare for the NBA today.  Don’t despair Carolina fans, Deon Thompson is probably a better long-term fit for the Heels. 
  • Iowa’s second-leading scorer Tyler Smith appears to be transferring to Tennessee, and could possibly play in 2007-08 based upon a family hardship waiver. 
  • Luke Winn has a nice piece today on five new coaches with immediate expectations at their new schools (Turgeon – Wichita St., Martin – Kansas St., Pelphrey – Arkansas, Gillispie – Kentucky, Huggins – WVU).   
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