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May 18, 2010
A dizzying ride on the coaching carousel
The coaching carousel has almost stopped spinning for this offseason. There is just one school (Chicago State) still searching for a new head man.
Thus, we thought it time to ask our basketball writers about some of the offseason moves.
Q. WHAT WAS THE BEST COACHING HIRE OF THE OFFSEASON FOR A BIG SIX SCHOOL?
David Fox: DePaul fired Jerry Wainwright in January but didn't hire a new coach until April. Oregon fired Ernie Kent in mid-March (and likely knew it would fire Kent long before then) but didn't hire a replacement until late April. Give Clemson credit, though: The Tigers knew exactly who to call and who would say yes when Oliver Purnell unexpectedly took the DePaul job. Brad Brownell replaced him a week later. It wasn't just the process that was a home run. Brownell was the most solid hire of any of the major-conference schools. He has taken two mid-majors (UNC Wilmington and Wright State) to a total of three NCAA tournaments. He has five consecutive 20-win seasons at those two programs, with no losing seasons. Clemson isn't going to turn into Duke or anything, but the Tigers won't fade away, either.
Q. WHAT WAS THE BEST HIRE FOR A NON-BIG SIX SCHOOL?
David Fox: Greg McDermott probably made a good decision to leave Iowa State to return to his comfort zone in the Missouri Valley. At the same time, Creighton deserves credit for overlooking McDermott's lackluster stint in the Big 12. Some coaches aren't necessarily suited for a major-conference job. That's not meant as a knock on McDermott. Rather, it's a compliment that he realizes he can thrive at Creighton rather than treading water at Iowa State. Creighton has a loyal following used to seeing the Bluejays compete on a yearly basis. McDermott should be able to keep Creighton among the elite mid-majors even though the move might make Northern Iowa, his former school, uncomfortable.
Q. WHAT WAS THE MOST HEAD-SCRATCHING HIRE?
David Fox: Several coaching moves were perplexing this offseason, but none was more shocking than Tim Floyd's return to college basketball. I realize he has strong ties to UTEP and he is a quality game-day coach, but the Miners should be ashamed for bringing him back to the game this quickly. He was only out for a year after the controversy at USC. In theory, he could take UTEP to the NCAA tournament before all self-imposed sanctions are lifted at USC. And this is before the NCAA has ruled on the infractions at USC. Floyd claims he is innocent in the O.J. Mayo scandal. He said his departure wasn't an admission of guilt. Instead, he left because he didn't feel like USC supported him. I'm sure UTEP did its own research, but that's not enough to make this look like a safe hire - especially when there were plenty of qualified candidates out there.
Q. WHICH NEW COACHES DO YOU EXPECT TO BE IN THE NCAA TOURNEY NEXT SEASON?
David Fox: If I had to pick one, I'd probably go with Kevin Willard at Seton Hall. The Pirates were in the NCAA mix going into the Big East tournament last season. The coaching change and the return of Jeremy Hazell, Herb Pope and Jeff Robinson could push Seton Hall off the bubble. Beyond Duke, the ACC is a mystery. Even without Trevor Booker, Clemson under Brad Brownell might have enough talent to return to the NCAA tournament. In the one-bid leagues, Robert Morris' Andrew Toole and Sam Houston State's Jason Hooten return the leading scorers off tournament teams, and Robert Morris also had three sophomores who played key minutes last season.
Q. WHICH BIG SIX COACH IS ON THE HOTTEST SEAT GOING INTO NEXT SEASON?
David Fox: The past four seasons have shown just how little N.C. State thought of Herb Sendek, haven't they? The Wolfpack went to the NCAA tournament in each of Sendek's last five seasons. Since then, Sidney Lowe has led North Carolina State to two NIT appearances in four years. With the nation's fifth-ranked recruiting class, this may be the make-or-break year for Lowe, who has yet to win more than six ACC games in a season.