David Ely is an RTC contributor.
On Monday we gave you the list our five biggest coaching moves from the last offseason, now it’s team to look into our crystal ball and see who’s in danger of getting a pink slip. The guys from Monday would be advised to check out this post. All of the coaches below at one point carried the same promise and excitement of better things to come at their respective schools. But as at least one of them will most likely see, sometimes things just don’t work out. Here are the top five coaches who need to have good seasons in order to feel secure about their jobs.
Paul Hewitt, Georgia Tech
- Record at School: 176-142 (67-93 ACC) in 10 seasons.
- Postseason Results: Five trips to the NCAA Tournament (NCAA runner-up in 2004); one trip to the NIT.
- High point/low point: Hewitt’s high point is an easy pick and it’s one of the reasons why it’s confusing that he finds himself with so much to prove this season. The man coached the Yellow Jackets to the National Championship game in 2004, his fourth season at Georgia Tech. At that time there was so much promise in Atlanta, what with Hewitt’s knack to bring in big time talent (Chris Bosh and Jarrett Jack, for example) and what at the time seemed like an ability to coach ’em up and mount a run at a title. At least that’s what appeared to be the case. It didn’t take long for fans of the Ramblin’ Wreck to grow wary of Hewitt’s up and down nature. You could point out a number of things for the low point of the Hewitt era. There’s the fact that GT has never has won more than nine games in the ACC. There’s his four losing seasons. But I’d have to go with his disastrous 2-14 campaign in 2008-09, when the Yellow Jackets finished dead last in the ACC.
- Reasons to stay: Hewitt knows how to recruit. He’s signed three guys that went on to win ACC Rookie of the Year honors in Bosh (2003), Ed Nelson (2002) and Derrick Favors (2010). Hewitt definitely knows how to sell the program to recruits, and it would be tough to find another guy that can bring in the same kind of hauls Hewitt has on his resume.
- Reasons to leave: Hewitt is consistently inconsistent. Considering the talent on some of these Georgia Tech rosters, it’s dumbfounding that Hewitt has just one 9-7 ACC regular season to his name. Hewitt has made back-to-back NCAA Tournaments only once (2003-04) and hasn’t made it past the Tournament’s opening weekend since the Yellow Jackets’ run to the National Championship game in 2004.
- Bare minimum he needs to stay: Hewitt needs to finish with at least a .500 record in conference, and the Yellow Jackets need to win a game in the NCAA Tournament. The preseason talk in Atlanta is how the Jackets are better than they were last year, despite Favors’ departure to the NBA. That means there’s no excuse if Hewitt can’t turn this team into a winner.
- Possible job-savers: A strong finish at the end of the regular season. The schedule works out nicely for the Yellow Jackets to build momentum for the ACC Tournament and beyond. After traveling to Duke on Feb. 20, Tech finishes up home against Virginia, at N.C. State, at Wake Forest and home for Miami. Hewitt needs to sweep through those final four games to make sure there’s a chance for another season in Atlanta.
- Odds of keeping his job: I’d say it’s 50-50. On the one hand, if A.D. Dan Radakovich was going to fire Hewitt, why didn’t he pull the plug after that dismal 2009 season? Then again, it should take a winning season in Atlanta for Hewitt to stick around for another year. Not many people are high on the Yellow Jackets this season because of the loss of Favors and Gani Lawal. Either Hewitt pulls a rabbit out of his hat or he reaches in and grabs a pink slip.
Jeff Capel, Oklahoma
- Record at School: 82-51 (32-32 Big 12) in four seasons.
- Postseason Results: Two trips to the NCAA Tournament (Elite Eight in 2009).
- High point/low point: It’s hard to imagine Capel on this list considering that his high point at Oklahoma came just two seasons ago. In 2009 the Sooners were a No. 2 seed in the South Region and made it all the way to the Elite Eight before getting run out of the gym by eventual the national champion, North Carolina. The year before that Capel led the Sooners to a 23-12 record and NCAA second round finish; he was a coach on the rise and his program was headed in the right direction. Then everything fell apart. As expected, Blake Griffin decided to go to the NBA, but OU still had talent in guards Willie Warren and Tommy Mason-Griffin. It didn’t matter. Capel suffered his worst season in Norman, Oklahoma, on and off the court. The Sooners lost their final nine games of the season to finish under .500 for the first time since 1981. Worse, there’s an ongoing investigation into NCAA violations committed by ex-assistant coach Oronde Taliaferro. Five underclassmen (including Warren and Mason-Griffin) and two assistant coaches have left the program since the end of the season. Considering all the off-court drama, the court should be a safe haven for Capel. But then again, that’s where all his problems started last year.
- Reasons to stay: If the Sooners ever need a last second half court shot they have the perfect guy to draw up a play. Seriously, though, Capel seems to be committed to Oklahoma and there’s no direct evidence that he had anything to do with the NCAA allegations. Capel easily could have fled the scene this offseason, but he chose to stick around.
- Reasons to leave: Was Oklahoma’s two-year run a product of Capel’s coaching or was it because of Blake Griffin? Capel’s first year B.G. (before Griffin) ended with a 16-15 overall record and a seventh place tie in the Big 12. In the first year A.G. the Sooners went a paltry 13-18 and tied for eleventh in the conference. It could easily be that Oklahoma won 30 games in 2008-09 because of Griffin’s on-court brilliance rather than anything Capel was responsible for.
- Bare minimum he needs to stay: Well first of all, Capel needs this NCAA investigation to end positively. You know what the Sooners did to Kelvin Sampson. And you have to think that the powers that be in Norman won’t accept any kind of improprieties. On the court, Capel has to finish at least over .500. People shouldn’t have any preconceived notions that it will be an easy return to prominence for Capel & Co. Not with nine new players on the roster. A winning record and a trip to the NIT should be enough to keep Capel from getting canned.
- Odds of keeping his job: I think that Capel doesn’t have to worry about finding a new team come next spring. Capel should be able to meet the Sooners’ lowered expectations, and it will be fun to see this team fly under the radar in the Big 12.
Sidney Lowe, N.C. State