Does Elevating an Assistant Work?

Posted by rtmsf on August 12th, 2007

Ron Wellman’s decision to elevate Dino Gaudio to the head coaching position at Wake Forest has been universally lauded by the hoopsnascenti over the last couple of days as a great hire. Nobody will dispute that this decision makes sense in terms of continuity for the program, the players and the university. But if you’ll indulge our playing of devil’s advocate for a moment, we ask the question – is this a good hire from a basketball standpoint?

Gaudio press conf

This is a significantly tougher question to address, largely because Gaudio will be evaluated on games yet unplayed. We can point to his unimpressive records at Army and Loyola as evidence of coaching mediocrity; or, we can just as easily dismiss those situations as tantamount to coaching graveyards, where only the truly special of the business can succeed.

So we thought it could be interesting to see how elevating an assistant from within a program tends to work out, historically speaking. We took a look at all the mid- and high-major programs the last three offseasons (2004-06) that elevated an assistant from within its shop to the head coaching position. FYI – there have been six such examples in 2007 – Butler (Brad Stevens), Frank Martin (Kansas St.), Randy Peele (Winthrop), Jeff Reynolds (Air Force), Bob Nash (Hawaii), and Dino Gaudio (Wake Forest).

In 2004, there were four such instances. Three of those new head coaches have gone on to great success at their programs, and the fourth had a solid first year at his before moving on up the ladder the following offseason.

  • Mark Fox – Nevada (following Trent Johnson) : rode Nick Fazekas to an 81-18 record the next three seasons, including two NCAA second round appearances. Contrastingly, his predecessor Johnson has largely struggled over on The Farm.
  • Doc Sadler – UTEP (following Billy Gillispie) : Sadler continued the Texas Western renaissance for two seasons there, going 48-18 with one NCAA and one NIT appearance.
  • Sean Miller – Xavier (following Thad Matta) : Xavier has continued to flourish under Miller, going 63-32 with two NCAA appearances, including the can you top this game vs. Ohio St. in the second round of 2007 that XU should have won.
  • Chris Mooney – Air Force (following Joe Scott) : in his only season at AF, he was 18-12 (a slight drop from 22-7 the year prior) before taking a new job at Richmond.

Can Mark Fox continue his Reno Magic w/o Fazekas?

In 2005, there were only two instances. Here too both could be fairly qualified as successful transitions.

  • Dave Rose – BYU (following Steve Cleveland) : in two seasons, Rose has taken the Cougs to one NCAA appearance and one NIT appearance, going 45-18 over that period.
  • Andy Kennedy – Cincinnati (following Bob Huggins) : Kennedy enjoyed a 21-13 season in his only at the helm after Thuggins was fired, but what’s most telling is the utter collapse in the season after Kennedy was released by UC. The Bearcats were an atrocious 11-19 overall and dead last in the Big East (2-14) in 2006-07. Great decision there.

Last offseason there were four instances, and in a weird coincidence, two of those assistants were coach’s sons who had been formally groomed to take over the program. In one case, the new coach far exceeded his predecessor; in the others, it was largely status quo.

  • Sean Sutton – Oklahoma St. (following Eddie Sutton) : Sean’s first year at the helm for the Pokes was up-and-down. OSU started strong, winning 16 of its first 17 games, but limped into the finish with an overall record of 22-13 (6-10) and losing in the first round of the NIT at home. This was still an improvement over his dad’s final season (17-16) (6-10), however.
  • Tony Bennett – Washington St. (following Dick Bennett) : this was the feel-good story of the year, as son Tony updated his dad’s offense and took the Pac-10 and nation by surprise, going 26-8 (13-5) – a fifteen win improvement – and making the program’s first NCAA tournament since 1994.
  • Ben Jacobson – Northern Iowa (following Greg McDermott) : this very solid mid-major program had its first non-NCAA appearance in four years during Jacobson’s first season at the helm, as his team sputtered to a pedestrian 18-13 campaign in the very competitive MVC.
  • Fred Hill – Rutgers (following Gary Waters) : Hill’s first season is one he’d like to forget, we’re sure. The Scarlet Knights were 10-19 (3-13) and battled with Cincinnati for the distinction as worst team in the Big East all season long. Waters’ final season ended at 19-10, which was a cause for celebration with Rutgers basketball.


Tony Bennett is the Model for Gaudio

Obviously, it’s tough to draw a persuasive conclusion from this sample size, and we also realize that every situation involves different factors. Nevertheless, we find it striking that in seven of the ten instances above, the assistant coach who was elevated either outperformed his predecessor or kept the program at the level of success it already enjoyed (or not enjoyed, as with Oklahoma St.). In two cases, there was a slight dropoff from previous levels, and in only one case of a single season sample there was a significant decrease.

The problem with analyzing Gaudio’s situation at Wake in this light is that status quo means that he’ll be regularly finishing in the cellar of the ACC. With the recruits he has arriving one year from now, he’ll be expected to significantly outperform what Prosser accomplished during the last two seasons. Put another way, Deacon faithful will be satisfied with nothing less than challenging for the ACC title and annual NCAA appearances – much like the first four years of Prosser’s tenure. This is a high bar, but if the recent history of Gaudio’s peers is any indication, he may have a great shot at clearing it.

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2007 NBA Draft Musings

Posted by rtmsf on June 29th, 2007

Note:  If you’re looking for the 2008 NBA Draft Musings, look here. 

Some post-apocalyptic draft thoughts for your Friday, as we settle into a long summer of waiting for something to happen…


Championship or Bust in Portland?

  • One and Dones. These players acquitted themselves quite well in this year’s draft, which means they were getting good information from their schools and representatives. Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Mike Conley, Jr., Brandan Wright, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young were six of the top twelve players taken. Not coincidentally, five of those were among the top seven seniors of the Class of 2006, according to Rivals (Chase Budinger of Arizona was the lone holdout returning to school, and Conley was rated #18). Javaris Crittenton and Daequan Cook were also selected in the first round, meaning that every college freshman who declared was taken this year. Although it’s arguable whether the one-and-done system worked for college basketball (Ohio State – yes; Washington – no), we assert from a player perspective that it helped them exponentially in terms of marketability and readiness to perform at the next level. Every sports fan in America now knows who Greg Oden and Kevin Durant are – that wouldn’t have been the case prior the one-and-done rule.
  • Gator Rule. As we alluded to yesterday, the Florida Gators were set to greatly increase its all-time count of draft picks last night, and they did so with a flourish (see Joakim Noah‘s getup below), increasing its total from 10 to 15 overnight. Florida’s five entries into the NBA last night – Al Horford, Corey Brewer (who looked like the happiest man alive), Noah, Chris Richard (we figured he’d get a look), and Taurean Green – ties UConn for the most draft picks in one year. What, no Lee Humphrey?!?! The Huskies also entered five in 2006. One question, though. Where was Billy Donovan during this celebration of Pax Floridana? Maybe Christine hasn’t let him out of the house yet.

Joakim Noah Suit

Love the Seersucker, Jo

  • Conference Breakdown. The BCS conferences accounted for 39 of the 60 picks last night. The ACC (9 total; 6 first rounders) led the way, with the SEC close behind (8/3); the Big 10 (6/4), Pac-10 (6/4) and Big East (6/2) each showed moderate success, while the Big 12 fell behind the others (4/3). Considering that there were thirteen international players selected, that left only eight picks for the mid-majors. The highest mid-major player selected was Rodney Stuckey from Eastern Washington at #15; although Nevada also placed two players in the second round (Nick Fazekas and Ramon Sessions).
  • Dumb Declarations. By our count, only four players from D1 schools who stayed in the draft as an early entry candidate were not selected this year (most notably, Shagari Alleyne, formerly of Kentucky). This shows again that players are improving at determining their real value (vs. perceived inflated value) before making the decision to jump.

“Why Didn’t I Go Pro Last Year????”

  • A Year Late, A Dollar Short. Three players from big-name schools were probably kicking themselves for not leaving school early last year, when their weaknesses weren’t as exposed to the scouts. Duke’s Josh McRoberts (offensive skills), LSU’s Glen “Big Baby” Davis (weight issues) and Arizona’s Marcus Williams (headcase) all would have been much higher picks last year. Now each must battle for scraps as second-round selections this time around.
  • Parlez vous français? We always hate to see guys who put in their four years at college and were pretty good players, only to get passed over in the draft for Pau Gasol’s little brother. So a special shout-out goes to Zabian Dowdell (Virginia Tech), JR Reynolds (Virginia), Curtis Sumpter (Villanova), Mario Boggan (Oklahoma St.), Ekene Ibekwe (Maryland) , Brandon Heath (San Diego St.), Ron Lewis (Ohio St.) and Kyle Visser (Wake Forest) for providing wholesome collegiate entertainment over the last half-decade. We were tempted to also include Mustafa Shakur (Arizona) here, but he seemed to disappoint more than inspire during his tenure in Tucson.

SLAM Oden & Durant

Oden Wins Championships; Durant Wins Scoring Titles.

  • Final Thought. Oden vs. Durant was endlessly debated all season long. While we have to agree that we enjoy watching Durant play far more than Oden, that belies our bias against watching post men in favor of perimeter players in general. Still, Oden is the kind of player that championship teams are built around, and the Durants of history are comparitively light in the hardware department. We saw this played out in this year’s NCAA Tournament, where Oden’s team went to the national finals, and Durant’s squad was out (embarrassingly) in the second round. Either way, we wish the best of luck to both of them, as they made college basketball a more interesting game for the year they spent with us.
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