Rating the Pac-12 Coaching Hot Seats

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 31st, 2013

As a whole, it is pretty easy to see that the Pac-12 is on an upswing, with talent abounding and more than half of the conference teams optimistic about their chances this season. But in four spots around the conference, there are coaches in dire need of success in order to keep their jobs. Last year at this time, there were six coaches whose seats we deemed at least warm. Of those six, two are now gone, while the other four remain seated on toasty chairs. We’ll take a look at those four coaches and tell you just how worried they should be about their jobs this season, then go through the other eight schools briefly and tell you the state of the head coaching position there.

Johnny Dawkins, Stanford – Scalding. Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir made it quite clear last season that, while Dawkins would be returning for his sixth season on The Farm, there would be heavy expectations – namely, make the NCAA Tournament or else, something that Stanford has failed to do since the year before Dawkins arrived. The good news for Dawkins is that he’s got a fine team. The bad news is that this fine team is made up of mostly the same players who limped home to a 19-15 record last season.

Dawkins' Challenge Is Clear: NCAA Tournament or Bust (AP)

Dawkins’ Challenge Is Clear: NCAA Tournament or Bust. (AP)

Ken Bone, Washington State – Scorching. Last spring, Bone had to wait almost three weeks after his season ended to finally get confirmation from athletic director Bill Moos that he would be returning to coach the Cougars in 2013-14. In four seasons on the Palouse, Bone has compiled a tepid 70-65 overall record, winning just 26 of WSU’s 72 conference games over that span. In fact, the only reason Bone may still be around for this year is that Moos’ predecessor gave Bone a seven-year contract that would have required a $2.55 million buyout. With all-conference type Brock Motum gone, Bone will need to get significant improvement out of a guard-dominated lineup in order to stick around past this season.

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How Hot Is That Seat? The Pac-12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 8th, 2012

After a year like the Pac-12 had last year, with the conference champion missing the NCAA Tournament and – oh, nevermind, I don’t need to run down the litany of lows the conference went through last year – it was bad. But, somehow, amidst all the 6-26’s and 31-point home losses to Cal State Fullerton and 20-point home losses to Middle Tennessee, every single Pac-12 head coach returns to his spot on the bench this season, the first time since 2001-02 that every one will do so. But, before we all get too comfortable with this admittedly quite fine selection of coaches, it is worth understanding that the odds are very much against a similar thing happening next year. We’re definitely in an era in college athletics where memories of good times don’t last very long and expectations for each and every season are high. Up and down the conference this season, you’ll find head coaches with make-or-break seasons ahead of them. Last week, CBS released its list of 12 coaches across the nation who find themselves on the hot seat going into the season, and six of those guys will be prowling the sidelines in the Pac-12. Below, we’ll take a look at each head coach in the league and rank just how hot that folding chair on the sidelines is getting for them, from scalding hot down to icy cold.

  • Ben Howland, UCLA – Scalding. Last year was pretty bad. Back-to-back losses to start the season to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee are never good. The Reeves Nelson embarrassment at the start of the year (really, how did he ever think it would be okay to let Nelson fly out to the Maui Invitational on a separate flight?) was one thing, but it blew up into a huge story when George Dohrmann and Sports Illustrated broke down the dysfunction in the program. Sure, there were some circumstances that were less than ideal last year, including playing away from home in the creaky old Sports Arena, but excuses like that don’t fly just two years after a 14-18 season in Westwood. Those three straight Final Fours are not too far back in the rearview mirror, and yeah, the nation’s best recruiting class will definitely help things, but if somehow this thing blows up in Howland’s face this year, we’ll have a nationwide search for the next UCLA basketball coach to write about come March.
Ben Howland, UCLA

Despite Three Straight Final Fours Earlier In His UCLA Career, Ben Howland Needs A Big Year To Hang On To His Job (Jamie Squire, Getty Images)

  • Herb Sendek, Arizona State – Scorching. There isn’t a ton of basketball success in the history books at Arizona State, but when the Sun Devils reeled in the perpetually underrated Sendek from North Carolina State six seasons ago, it seemed like a big score for ASU. Three straight 20-win seasons followed and the Sun Devils were even scoring big-time recruits (see James Harden and Jahii Carson). But two seasons ago, the wheels came off amidst injuries, poor play from seniors, and youngsters who weren’t quite ready. Last year, the whole dang car went in the ditch. But, somehow in the middle of last year’s 10-21 season, then-Athletic Director Lisa Love extended Sendek’s contract by a couple of years. Well, ASU’s got a new AD in Steve Patterson ready to put his stamp on his department. And if Sendek’s youngsters don’t show some serious improvement this year (which, given the low standards and new talent, shouldn’t be that hard to do), Patterson may get his chance to remake the basketball program.

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Arizona State Week’s Burning Question: Is Herb Sendek The Right Man For the Sun Devil Job?

Posted by AMurawa on June 14th, 2012

When Herb Sendek left North Carolina State after the 2005-06 season to move to Arizona State, he had the reputation of a coach who had gotten the most out of his players. And after three-straight 20-win seasons in at ASU, two years ago he looked like he was going to be a fixture in Tempe for the foreseeable future. But last year, after a second consecutive dismal season and with players transferring out of the program at a rapid rate, there were some in the Sun Devil community calling for his head. Is Sendek still the right man for the ASU job and how important is the 2012-13 season for his future in Tempe?

Andrew Murawa: While the last two seasons have been undeniably disappointing and the epidemic of transfers certainly could be interpreted as something rotten at the heart of the program, Sendek has earned the benefit of the doubt in Tempe. Unfortunately, of the four losing seasons in his 19-year career, three have come at ASU, including the last two. Still, there are those three other 20-win seasons and three postseason appearances, only two of which came with the third pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, James Harden. And, while the 2010-11 failure remains somewhat inexplicable, last year’s struggles can in part be chalked up to some bad luck. The bad luck excuse doesn’t get you far, however, and another season as gloomy as the last two will have the buzzards circling even with the two-year extension that Sendek signed last December that will ostensibly keep him around through 2016. But, the good news is that Sendek has proven over the long haul that he can coach. And, in a state like Arizona that doesn’t produce a large number of great major conference-caliber prospects, his ability to coach his players up is a must. This year should begin to see the return of the ASU program, with Jahii Carson supplying an answer at point, and with guys like Evan Gordon, Carrick Felix and Jordan Bachynski reaping the benefit of a playmaking guard. While the Sun Devils certainly shouldn’t be expected to compete for a conference title, it is hard to envision this roster not showing significant improvement.

Herb Sendek, Arizona Statee

In 19 Seasons As A Head Coach, Sendek Has Had Four Losing Seasons, But Three Have Come In Tempe (Kirby Lee, US Presswire)

Connor Pelton: I see 2012-13 as a make or break year for Sendek. We don’t have to see any magical “10 wins one season, 22 and an NCAA Tournament appearance” the next, but improvement and roster stability is a must. Even with the losses of three key contributors plus a role player since January, the troops have arrived in Tempe and the pieces are in place for at least an NIT berth next season. While it will take a while to replace the productivity of Trent Lockett, highly-touted guard Jahii Carson is going to do his best to speed up that process. If he plays anywhere near the potential we’ve been hearing about, he will be one of the best freshman guards in the Pac-12. Replacing arguably the Pac-12′s most improved player through two and a half months last season will be ambitious as well, but freshman Calaen Robinson could very will fill the hole left by Keala King. Growing up 20 minutes away from Tempe, Robinson decided to keep his talents in the Valley of the Sun. The decision could prove to be huge for ASU has Robinson will be more fit to handle the true point guard duties. Filling the holes will be one thing, but equally important will be building and keeping relationships with the entire roster. Numerous players were in Sendek’s doghouse throughout last year, which would lead to the eventual dismissal of King. If Sendek can avoid any more roster shakeup and post a winning record, his job should be safe.

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Where Will Bob Knight Land Next?

Posted by rtmsf on October 20th, 2008

Lost in the detritus of last week’s news was an interesting interview that Bob Knight did with a public television station in Indianapolis (WFYI), where he talked about various topics including cheating (“In college basketball, if you get caught cheating, they should shoot you because you’re too dumb to be alive.“) and his public image as a rude boor (“I simply tried to do what I thought was right. I never really particularly cared about what other people thought except those I knew knew what they were talking about.”).  But the truly newsworthy takeaway from the interview were Knight’s comments regarding a possible return to coaching someday.  From the AP:

“I got nothing else to do. It would just depend on the circumstances,” the former Army, Indiana and Texas Tech coach told host Mickey Maurer on “Mickey’s Corner” on Indianapolis public TV station WFYI.

(photo credit: Flickr.com)

There’s no doubt that this man loves yelling mentoring and coaching young minds about the nuances of the game of basketball.  And as much as he seemed a natural fit for studio work last March on ESPN, we’d give him only one more go-round before he ends up shoving a green highlighter up… physically assaulting Digger Phelps on national tv.

So we got to thinking…  if Knight wanted to take another head coaching job next season, where would his most likely opportunities lie, and which school’s set of circumstances would be most conducive to landing him?  To help us answer that question, we came across a neat site called Coaches Hot Seat, which purports to list the top twenty or so head coaches who are one more bad season away from the pink slip and unemployment line.  We whittled the list down a little bit (Billy Gillispie??? – puh-lease… that guy is adored in Lexington), but for good measure, we threw a few more names of coaches who are, um, for lack of a better phrase, approaching retirement age. 

 
We dunno, for some reason we can totally see Knight stalking the sidelines in his golden years somewhere like Lehigh.  Stay tuned.

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