Texas Tech Rides the Coaching Carousel

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 16th, 2016

Sometimes, all it takes is one domino.

Just one week ago, Georgia Tech provided an improbable escape hatch for Josh Pastner at Memphis, which led the Tigers’ program to quickly move in uprooting well-traveled Tubby Smith from Texas Tech. On Friday, the Red Raiders responded by hiring Chris Beard from UNLV. Now, I’m not going to lie and say that Beard is an upgrade from Smith, and time will tell how it works out in the long run. In the short term, however, Texas Tech has emerged from a whirlwind week with only a few scratches when it could have been left bruised and bloodied.

Texas Tech reached back in its history in plucking Chris Beard from UNLV. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Texas Tech reached back in its history in plucking Chris Beard from UNLV. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Though critics have zeroed in on Beard’s transience by pointing out that this move marks his fifth job since 2011, it is very clear that the Texas Tech position represents something different to him than the three coaches the school has employed in the eight seasons since Bobby Knight retired in 2008. It may not necessarily prevent him from jumping again, but it is important in framing his decision to move. Beard’s daughters live in nearby Abilene and he toiled in Lubbock as an associate head coach under the Knights (Bobby and Pat) for 10 years, the longest he’s worked at a single school since entering the coaching profession in 1991. The fact that UNLV’s program appears to be teetering with leadership uncertainty and a roster that’s been almost completely gutted may have also played a role in Beard’s decision to pull the cord and return somewhere familiar.

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Oklahoma State Moves on From Travis Ford

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 18th, 2016

Three straight bottom-half finishes and zero NCAA Tournament wins since 2009 had long been enough for supporters of Oklahoma State to separate themselves from Travis Ford, but it wasn’t until today that it became enough for athletic director Mike Holder. As the curtains fell on another disappointing Cowboys season, so too did they fall on Ford’s mostly empty tenure in Stillwater, as he was fired from his head coaching post on Friday despite three years and $7.2 million remaining on a generous extension he signed seven years ago.

Assured of its eighth straight season without an NCAA Tournament victory, Oklahoma State has finally moved on from Travis Ford. (USA Today)

After its eighth straight season without an NCAA Tournament victory, Oklahoma State finally moved on from Travis Ford. (USA Today)

If Ford still had defenders, they would point to the laundry list of injuries suffered by key parts of this year’s rotation that caused the season to run off the rails, resulting in a lackluster 18-14 record and ninth-place finish. To an extent, they’d have a point. There’s no doubt that this season would have yielded better results had Phil Forte not hurt his elbow in November and had Jawun Evans not been lost for the last 10 games of the season with a shoulder injury. However, multiple disappointing finishes depleted Ford of the capital to write off another one, with five bottom-half finishes in the last six seasons no longer enough for the leadership of an otherwise proud program to overlook.

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Battle For Alabama: Can Avery Johnson Catch Bruce Pearl?

Posted by Greg Mitchell on April 9th, 2015

Bill Battle’s wheelbarrow full of money simply wasn’t enough to lure Gregg Marshall away from Wichita State. But the Alabama athletic director had a bold backup plan up his sleeve, as he recently handed Avery Johnson a six-year, $18 million contract to become the Crimson Tide’s next men’s basketball coach. Johnson doesn’t lack for coaching experience from his stints as the head coach for the Dallas Mavericks and New Jersey Nets, but he’ll be making the rare coaching transition from the NBA to college ranks. The only coaches who come to mind having recently done this are Isiah Thomas at Florida International and Eddie Jordan at Rutgers. Jordan, however, spent five years as a college assistant in the late 80s and early 90s before a long coaching career in the NBA.

Avery Johnson has already met with Tuscaloosa's most prominent resident (al.com).

Avery Johnson has already met with Tuscaloosa’s most prominent resident. (al.com)

Thomas was a disaster at FIU (26-65 over three seasons) and Jordan’s first two years rebuilding Rutgers have gone about as well as expected (22-43). But that tiny sample size certainly doesn’t mean much as it relates to the 50-year old former NBA Coach of the Year, who might actually be exactly what Alabama needs right now. It’s easy to rattle off multiple reasons to be concerned. Does Johnson have requisite AAU and high school connections to recruit? Can he rally boosters as an Alabama outsider (he’s originally from New Orleans and went to Southern University)? Will he be able to adjust to the realities of the student-athlete environment? On the flip side, Johnson has a number of things in his favor that most other college coaches cannot match. He’s a basketball authority and familiar face after a long stint at ESPN, and his NBA credibility — with a championship ring on his finger as a player with the 1999 Spurs and as a successful coach of the Mavericks — could go a long way toward attracting elite talent to Tuscaloosa.

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Texas Brings HAVOC to the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 3rd, 2015

Less than a week after the firing of Rick Barnes, Texas has hired its next head basketball coach. And as we speculated on Monday, VCU’s Shaka Smart is packing his bags for the Lone Star State. Once he’s introduced, Smart will be expected to immediately breathe new life into a program that had fallen into a lull over the last four seasons. Given its resources and location, the Longhorns have no legitimate reason to not be a force in the Big 12 and nationally on an annual basis, and Smart’s track record, enthusiasm and unique style of play make him Texas’ best bet to restore and possibly exceed its basketball peak from a decade ago.

As the new head coach at Texas, Shaka Smart will look to bring postseason success back to Austin.

As the new head coach at Texas, Shaka Smart will look to bring deep postseason runs back to Austin.

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Smart is his vaunted “Havoc” defense. His Rams led the country in defensive turnover percentage every year between 2012-14 and turned in a top-10 performance again this season. Had Briante Weber stayed healthy, the Rams may have ended up leading the nation again in that category. Smart’s teams also excel on the other side of the turnover column, giving the ball away less than 18 percent of the time in every season under his watch.

As with any coach making the jump from a mid-major to power conference, though, Smart will face the challenge of competing with consistently good teams on a regular basis. The Rams famously beat #3 seed Purdue and #1 seed Kansas on their way to the 2011 Final Four, but in the four seasons that followed, VCU went just 16-19 against teams rated in the KenPom top 50 and failed to return to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. In fairness, many of those games came on the road or in neutral settings as the college landscape provides little incentive for power conference teams to travel to places like VCU, but Smart’s results against top-notch competition suggest that immediate success isn’t a given at Texas no matter how good a fit he is.

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Preseason Questions: Which New Coach Will Reach March Madness First?

Posted by Evan Williams on November 3rd, 2014

As always, college basketball received a series of new hires this offseason, with a number of familiar faces changing venues on the coaching landscape. A few notable faces in new places are Marquette’s Steve Wojciechowski, Auburn’s Bruce Pearl, Wake Forest’s Danny Manning, Missouri’s Kim Anderson, Tulsa’s Frank Haith and California’s Cuonzo Martin. There are obviously numerous obstacles inherent in taking on the role of a new coach at a new program. Some may embrace the challenge and build to reach the greatest of heights (see: Calipari, John; Pitino, Rick; etc.), while others may face too daunting of a task and eventually fall flat. Either way, building a successful program from the ground up is a difficult process and only certain individuals have proven that they can get the job done.

Bruce Pearl is Back in College Basketball at Auburn

When considering which new coach can get his team to the Big Dance the soonest, there’s one name that continues to pop up — Bruce Pearl. The former Tennessee coach was very successful in his time with the Volunteers, that is, until the NCAA got involved, and well, you know the story. Pearl spent his last couple of years working with ESPN as an analyst before getting hired by Auburn. Is Auburn the ideal program? Probably not. The job isn’t nearly as attractive as its football counterpart, but it does have excellent potential. Tony Barbee certainly couldn’t do it, but if anyone is going to push the Tigers back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003, it’s going to be Pearl. He hasn’t even coached a game, and Pearl has already elevated the basketball program. How has he gotten the folks at Auburn excited? Simple: recruiting.

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The RTC Podcast: Offseason Review Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 16th, 2014

Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back… We are only 30 days from the start of college basketball games, 24 hours from ESPN’s mega-Midnight Madness coverage, and a handful of minutes from Shane’s next dose of Xanax. The RTC Podcast has returned for Season Three: The Immutables, and we’re kicking things off this glorious mid-October week with a warm-up edition — a little bite-sized something that reviews some of the top storylines and themes coming out of a really quiet offseason. Note that this isn’t really a preview episode — that, among many others, will release in the coming weeks — but this podcast, hosted by Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114), is meant to ease us into the season with plenty more to come. The full rundown is below, and remember, you can subscribe to every episode on iTunes with a simple click of a button.

  • 0:00 – 2:20 – An In Person Podcast/Summer Blur
  • 2:21 – 7:20 – A Few Headlines From a Quiet Offseason
  • 7:21 – 10:41 – SMU/Emmanuel Mudiay
  • 10:42 – 15:14 – Kentucky Returnees
  • 15:15 – 24:02 – Coming & Goings: Wisconsin/Michigan/UCLA
  • 24:03 – 32:30 – Coaching Carousel: Who Didn’t Move (Calipari/Ollie/Hoiberg)
  • 32:31 – close – What’s Coming at RTC/Wrap
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Morning Five: 07.05.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 5th, 2013


  1. Brad Stevens, Brad Stevens, Brad Stevens. The talk of the college basketball world has been centered on the Wednesday afternoon announcement that the Butler head coach was leaving his post for the glamour and riches of the NBA’s Boston Celtics. Everyone, of course, has an opinion on this bold and very surprising move, so let’s sum up what folks are saying. First, from the Brad Stevens/Celtics side: Adrian Wojnarowski writes that Stevens represents the “changing face of [NBA] coaches” in its new era of statistical analytics; the Indy Star‘s Bob Kravitz says that he can’t blame Stevens for jumping to the league; Fox Sports‘ Reid Forgrave calls the move a “gutsy” one on the part of Danny Ainge and the Celtics; while SI.com‘s Ben Golliver argues that the Celtics’ decision to pluck a successful college head coach with no NBA experience is a worthwhile risk. As we tweeted when we heard the news on Wednesday, the move makes sense from a logical standpoint, but it just doesn’t feel right. Stevens embodied our perhaps romantic notion of a college lifer, and in the NBA, coaches are hired to be fired. It’s hard to see him not coming back to our game sooner rather than later.
  2. The other angle in this story is what will happen to Butler without Stevens now leading the program? As our own Chris Johnson writes, the loss of a superstar like Stevens cannot be overstated — the program will absolutely take a hit, regardless of who is chosen to replace him. The most recent report suggests that either Butler assistant Brandon Miller or Michigan assistant Lavall Jordan will get the job, with Miller presumably holding the inside track given the school’s 24-year run of promoting coaches from within the program (although Jordan has more Butler experience). The general sentiment among the hoops cognoscenti is that Butler will figure out a way to still be Butler. SI.com‘s Andy Glockner writes that Butler is in great position to remain relevant and successful, regardless of who they hire to take over for Stevens. The Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy thinks that the program may have a bit of a rude awakening with a new head coach suffering the indignities of a brutal Big East round-robin schedule next winter. But both Pat Forde and Matt Norlander move beyond that angle, arguing that college basketball as a whole is the real loser in Stevens’ move to the Celtics. Can’t disagree with that at all.
  3. From a coach on the way out of the college game to one sticking around, Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton received an extension through 2016-17 (and a $750,000 raise, to boot) to remain in Tallahassee as the head coach of the Seminoles. The timing is somewhat surprising given that FSU last year suffered its worst season (18-16) in nearly a decade under Hamilton’s tutelage, but his previous four years of NCAA Tournament appearances and an ACC Championship certainly show that Hamilton has his program in overall good shape. His new salary of $2.25 million annually puts him second behind only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in terms of salaries among ACC coaches.
  4. We’re 51 weeks away from next season’s NBA Draft, but Mike DeCourcy took time during his Starting Five column this week to break down how he sees the top five picks going for 2014 (let’s just say that one-and-done is prominently featured). He also takes time to rip both FIBA — for its appalling lack of television broadcast options for the U-19 team — and Georgetown recruit LJ Peak, whose “psyche-out” trick using the school hats of suitors South Carolina and the Hoyas left a really bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths (ourselves included).
  5. Let’s finish the holiday week with some really good news on the health front: ESPN’s highlighter aficianado Digger Phelps has been declared cancer-free related to his bladder cancer diagnosis earlier this year. In just over one 12-month period, Phelps had survived both prostate and now bladder cancer, so it’s been a wild but ultimately successful year for the 72-year old television personality and former head coach. Phelps takes a lot of heat for some of his takes on ESPN’s Gameday show, but he’s always entertaining and we certainly hope that these health problems will remain behind him so that we can all enjoy many more years of green tie/highlighter pairings from January to March each season.
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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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Challenges Aplenty for Chris Collins at Northwestern

Posted by KTrahan on April 1st, 2013

Northwestern announced the hiring of Duke associate head coach Chris Collins as its new head coach last week, and on Tuesday, the Collins era will officially begin in Evanston with an introductory press conference. There was little drama in this coaching search — everyone knew all along the job was Collins’ if he wanted it, and he took it, citing the chance to come home (he’s a Northbrook, Illinois, native) and lead a high-major program. But Northwestern isn’t just any high-major program. Truthfully, it could be the toughest job in all of college basketball. The Wildcats have never been to the NCAA Tournament, and while their last coach, Bill Carmody — a terrific coach in his own right — got NU to heights it had never seen before, the program still lagged far behind most of the Big Ten as far as sustained success goes. Carmody was in Evanston for 13 years and the challenges got even tougher for him throughout his tenure, as he explained in his final press conference.

Collins Has Been a Fixture on the Duke Bench For Years

Collins Has Been a Fixture on the Duke Bench For Years

“There’s not much different now about what Northwestern offers than it was when Kevin O’Neill was here and (Ricky) Byrdsong and Bill Foster and all those,” he said. “So everyone knows, people have talked about it, it’s sort of like an arms race. So the gap might be widening that way.” These challenges — particularly the lack of good facilities and Northwestern’s stringent academic standards — will still be there for Collins. The question now is if NU is willing to do anything to change them, or if Collins will have to work around them. Facilities-wise, the football program is currently receiving its long-awaited face-lift, so it’s unlikely that basketball will get a similar upgrade in the near future. But what about academics, which could potentially be changed right away? Nobody is expecting NU to accept everyone who applies, but right now, the perception is that the Wildcats won’t bend for good players like Duke, and maybe even Harvard, will.

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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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