Question: Which Coaches Are Feeling the Heat This Season?
It’s the nature of the business that college coaches are hired to be fired. With only a handful of exceptions around the country, job security among the coaching fraternity is hard to come by. Every offseason roughly 15 to 20 percent of the profession turns over, with approximately half of those open jobs coming as a result of some unfortunate soul’s termination. As we entered last season, the names of the men on the hot seat were easy to predict, and four of the five coaches listed didn’t let us down — Paul Hewitt (Georgia Tech), Jeff Capel (Oklahoma), Sidney Lowe (NC State), and Bruce Pearl (Tennessee) were all ousted after disappointing seasons (our fifth choice, Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin, got his team into the Dance and cooled his seat considerably).
Let’s take a quick look at one coach from each of the power conferences who could really use a breakthrough season in 2011-12.
ACC: Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest. This was a tough league to choose from because eight of the 12 ACC coaches are in one of their first three seasons at their school. But if we have to choose someone, it’s probably going to be the coach who guided his program to a historically awful season in his first year at the helm. A one-win conference slate in addition to home losses to the likes of Stetson, Winthrop, UNC-Wilmington, and Presbyterian won’t buy you a great deal of slack from a program still trying to recover from the death of Skip Prosser four years ago. Throw in the fact that several players have gotten into legal and academic trouble under Bzdelik’s watch and you start to wonder if he can survive another miserable season. If the second-year coach expects to last much longer, he’s going to have to show some improvement in Winston-Salem this year.
Big East: Stan Heath, South Florida. The five bottom-feeder Big East programs have all changed coaches in the last two years… except one — South Florida’s Stan Heath. Heath enters his fifth season in Tampa with a total of one winning season and 19 Big East victories. After putting together a solid 20-13 season resulting in an NIT appearance in his third year at the helm, USF backslid significantly last year to a 10-23 (3-15 Big East) mess. Even at a school where basketball isn’t taken very seriously, a coach cannot expect to finish at or near the bottom of the standings of a 16-team league regularly and expect to stay employed very long. He returns a verified talent in Gus Gilchrist in the post, but the Bulls don’t have a legitimate point guard and will spend this season shuttling around between different venues while the Sun Dome is refurbished. If he’s not careful, the playing facility may not be the only new thing in USF hoops a year from now.