Setting 2014-15 Expectations for Each New CBB Coach in a Major Conference
Those initial moments following the hiring of a new coach can be full of excitement, hope and confidence. No matter the state of the program being inherited, that newcomer's arrival signals a change, one that's usually associated with an expectation of prosperity for the future.
But then reality sets in, as does the realization that there's so much more to success in college basketball than just having a good coach.
Of the 42 Division I schools that underwent (or, in a few cases, are still undergoing) a coaching change, 12 of those transactions happened at programs in what would be called a "power conference." While all new hires share a common bond in this game, for those tabbed to run teams in the top leagues, the expectations are far more intense.
Not every such power conference underwent a change, as the Atlantic 10, Big Ten, Big 12 and Mountain West managed to avoid any coaching turnover during the offseason.
But for the ACC, American, Big East, Pac-12 and SEC, here's our look at the realistic expectations for the new hires for 2014-15.
Kim Anderson, Missouri
Previous job: Head coach, Central Missouri (Division II)
Career head coaching record: 274-94
Kim Anderson is the freshest face on this list, at least in terms of when he was hired. Missouri tabbed the former Tigers player and assistant as its new coach Monday, the day after the lone weekend of recruiting evaluation allowed by the NCAA.
At 58, he's far from a novice, but Anderson's experience is at the Division II level. Since 2002, he's been the head coach at Central Missouri, averaging 23 wins per season and capping off his tenure with a D-II national title.
According to Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde, Anderson has been compared to Wisconsin's Bo Ryan in that he was a big winner at a lower-division school in the same state and also has ties to the program. Anderson played for the Tigers from 1973 to 1977 and was an assistant there from 1982 to 1985 and 1991 to 1999.
Because of those ties, the hope from Missouri's fanbase is that he can return the program to where it was during the Norm Stewart years from 1967 to 1999. Since then, the Tigers have missed the NCAA tournament six times in 15 years.
Missouri faded down the stretch this past season and missed the tourney, then saw top scorers Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson both declare for the NBA draft. Third-leading scorer Earnest Ross graduated too, meaning the Tigers will be quite thin.
Anderson will have a decent recruiting class coming in, led by 4-star forward JaKeenan Gant, but expecting anything better than the 23-12 overall mark and 9-9 record in SEC play that Frank Haith produced is unrealistic.
Orlando Antigua, South Florida
Previous job: Assistant coach, Kentucky
Career head coaching record: None
Known as "Hurricane" when he played for the Harlem Globetrotters in the 1990s, Orlando Antigua was not South Florida's first choice to replace Stan Heath, but he seems like a great fit in any case. The Bulls originally hired Manhattan's Steve Masiello, only to back off on that move after learning that Masiello's resume had inconsistencies.
Antigua then surfaced as the best option after spending the past six seasons working as an assistant for John Calipari—for one year at Memphis and the last five at Kentucky. That experience alone puts him in a good place to try and turn around a program that bottomed out at 12-20 (including 3-15 in the American) last season.
Most of that team is gone, though, either through graduation—top scorers Victor Rudd and Martino Brock were seniors—or via the transfer route, as six players have left the program with plans to play elsewhere. And that's not including Anthony Collins, who The Tampa Tribune's Joey Johnston reported is set to graduate this spring and could pursue a transfer.
USF has signed only two players on the recruiting trail to this point, a pair of 3-star guards from Florida, but with only eight players currently listed on the online roster the Bulls will no doubt try and pick up some other newcomers.
The AAC gets slightly easier next season, with Louisville getting replaced by East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa, but with the amount of roster uncertainty to deal with, it's not fair to expect much more than second-to-last place from Antigua and USF in his first year.
Jim Christian, Boston College
Previous job: Head coach, Ohio
Career head coaching record: 236-152
In Jim Christian, Boston College gets a coach who has bounced around the mid-major ranks in Division I. Christian had two NCAA appearances in six years at Kent State and most recently had 24- and 25-win seasons with Ohio. In between, he went 56-73 in four seasons with TCU before that school moved into the Big 12.
How that experience will translate to trying to fix one of the most downtrodden programs among the power conferences is uncertain. But it'll be hard to do worse than what BC did in 2013-14, going 8-24 overall and 4-14 in the ACC, good enough for 14th place out of 15 and leading to Steve Donahue's dismissal after four seasons.
Other than the Eagles' shocking road upset of then-unbeaten Syracuse in mid-February, there wasn't much to be proud of last season.
BC hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 2009, and being part of a league that manages to get even tougher this fall with Louisville coming in doesn't make the road back there a simple one for Christian to navigate. Instead, in his first season, he should be more concerned with making baby steps, and he'll have leading scorer Olivier Hanlan to work with.
Hanlan, a 6'4" guard who averaged 18.5 points, passed up a chance to go pro and will be far and away the Eagles' best player next season. Junior Ryan Anderson, a 6'8" forward who was BC's leading rebounder and second-best scorer, is transferring.
Christian managed to get TCU into a postseason tournament after his fourth season, but that was only the CBI. He'll have better resources at BC, but still, don't expect mountains to be moved this first year, especially not in the ACC.
Frank Haith, Tulsa
Previous job: Head coach, Missouri
Career head coaching record: 205-129
At first glance, it sure looked like Frank Haith's surprise jump from Missouri to Tulsa was a step down, but considering what he was leaving and what he's headed into, it's not that cut and dry.
Haith's last Missouri team faded down the stretch and missed the NCAA tournament, just two years removed form a 30-win squad (in his first season with the Tigers) that was shocked in the first round in 2012 by 15th-seeded Norfolk State. That loss kind of summed up Haith's short tenure in Columbia, as he never lived up to expectations after coming over from Miami (Fla.).
Had he stayed, Haith would have been dealing with a team that saw its top two scorers turn pro early and the No. 3 guy graduate. Another player was dismissed for off-field issues.
At Tulsa, he inherits a Golden Hurricane team that lost only one impact senior and brings back top scorers James Woodard and Rashad Smith, both of whom will be juniors. And that group is coming off the school's first NCAA tournament appearance since 2003, getting in thanks to a blazing late-season run that included running the table in the Conference USA tournament.
But Tulsa won't be in C-USA next season. Instead, it moves up to the American and will have to face the likes of Cincinnati, Memphis, SMU and defending NCAA champion Connecticut. That league got four teams into the NCAA tourney last season, compared to the three that came out of Haith's old league (the SEC).
Louisville is gone from the AAC, but it will still be a rough road, one that will be much harder to navigate than C-USA. The talent and experience is there to be in the mix, but the NIT seems more likely than a second straight NCAA bid for the Golden Hurricane.
Ernie Kent, Washington State
Previous job: Basketball analyst, Pac-12 Network
Career head coaching record: 325-254
After four seasons off the court, Ernie Kent returns to the Pac-12 to take over moribund Washington State, a program with only six NCAA appearances (none since 2008) and one that went 10-21 overall and 3-15 in league play last season.
Interestingly, Kent was hired by the same man who gave him his last coaching job, at Oregon. Bill Moos, Washington State's athletic director, was the Oregon AD when Kent started there in 1997.
Kent had a good amount of success at Oregon, itself a sort of basketball dead zone at the time, making five NCAA tourney appearances in 13 seasons. He made the Elite Eight twice, most recently in 2007, but in his last two years with the Ducks was 9-27 in conference games.
The new Cougars coach has come out firing at in-state rival Washington, saying at a fundraiser that the Huskies are "welcome to our second choices" in terms of recruits, via Steve Christilaw of CougFan.com. That's a great motivating line, but whether Kent can steal the Seattle-area kids away from Washington remains to be seen.
He might try and rely on his top player, senior-to-be DaVonte Lacy, to help with that. The 6'4" guard is from Tacoma, Washington, and at 19.4 points per game last season, he will bring back more scoring than any two other returning Cougars.
Kent has shown he can win in the Pac-12, though being heavily backed by Nike helps, and it's not impossible to have success at WSU. Tony Bennett did so in his brief stay there before moving on to Virginia, but it's going to take Kent a little while to get anything going.
Danny Manning, Wake Forest
Previous job: Head coach, Tulsa
Career head coaching record: 38-29
A little over two years ago, Danny Manning was on the bench for Kansas as an assistant during its run to the NCAA title game. Now he's running a once-proud power-conference program that's fallen on hard times.
Manning only spent two years at Tulsa in his first head coaching gig, but the work he did this past season in taking a team that started 0-4 and getting it into the NCAA tournament was enough to convince the folks at Wake Forest he was the right choice to replace the embattled Jeff Bzdelik.
Wake went 17-16 last season, but that was the Demon Deacons' best record in Bzdelik's four seasons. Including the ACC tourney, they went 7-13 against league opponents.
It was a very young team Wake fielded last year, led by 6'3" guard Cody Miller-McIntyre and 6'9" forward Devin Thomas, both of whom were sophomores. They were the top two scorers, and Thomas was also the Deacons' leading rebounder.
And though the recruiting work is far from over, Manning will have the services of 4-star point guard commit Shelton Mitchell for his first season.
Manning moved faster than expected at Tulsa, and the same could happen here. Contending for a high finish in the ACC might be a reach at the outset, but some sort of postseason berth seems viable in his first season with Wake.
Cuonzo Martin, California
Previous job: Head coach, Tennessee
Career head coaching record: 124-82
The offseason coaching carousel seemed to have wound down in mid-April until Cuonzo Martin put another roll of quarters in the machine and got things moving again with his surprise move from Tennessee to California.
The leap came less than three weeks after he led the Volunteers from the NCAA tournament's dubious First Four round into the Sweet 16, coming within a questionable charge call in the final minute against Michigan from possibly reaching the Elite Eight. Yet Martin never seemed welcome in Knoxville, with fans even starting a petition to can him, per Jesse Smithey of GoVolsExtra.com (subscription required), despite the team improving in wins in each of his three seasons.
At California, Martin inherits a team that the retired Mike Montgomery had in contention for an NCAA bid for most of the season but struggled down the stretch. Talent remains, but the new coach will have to overcome the graduation of leading scorer Patrick Cobbs and double-double man Richard Solomon.
The Golden Bears have signed two players for next season, including 4-star point guard Ahmaad Rorie, while forward Richard Kravish, guard Tyrone Wallace and promising freshmen Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews will be back.
Martin is in a much better situation at Cal then he was at Tennessee, but it won't mean instant success. The Pac-12 is much deeper than the SEC, though outside of Arizona, most of the top teams are in a similar boat in terms of replacing standouts from 2013-14.
Realistically, Martin and Cal should contend for a top-five finish in the Pac-12 and an NCAA tourney appearance.
Bruce Pearl, Auburn
Previous job: Studio analyst, ESPN
Career head coaching record: 462-145
Bruce Pearl's hiring at Auburn set in motion much of what would happen on the rest of the coaching carousel, as the former Tennessee coach was considered a hot commodity for schools looking to trade up. Auburn snagged him up before the NCAA tournament even started, and Pearl promptly joined a mosh pit of fans who greeted him at Auburn's airport.
Pearl had been out of coaching since 2011, when Tennessee fired him amid an NCAA investigation into his recruitment of soon-to-be Ohio State guard Aaron Craft. He was given a three-year show-cause penalty by the NCAA and as a result isn't allowed to have contact with recruits until Aug. 24.
That will mean Pearl must stand pat with the hand he's been dealt, for the most part. The Tigers graduate leading scorer Chris Denson, but guard KT Harrell will be back for next season. And since Pearl's hiring, Auburn has secured a commitment from the top junior college player of the 2014 recruiting class, 4-star power forward Cinmeon Bowers of Chipola College in Florida.
Auburn was 14-16 overall and 6-12 in the SEC last season and hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 2003. The Tigers were 48-75 in four years under Tony Barbee.
Pearl has an uphill climb ahead of him, but that was what he faced at Tennessee and Milwaukee before that. And with the SEC not being exactly deep in terms of standout teams, it's not out of the realm of reality to expect a winning record and some sort of postseason tournament bid.
Kelvin Sampson, Houston
Previous job: Assistant coach, Houston Rockets
Career head coaching record: 496-271
Kelvin Sampson is the winningest coach, by far, among all those taking over programs within power conferences for the 2014-15 season. He's also among the most controversial when it comes to run-ins with the NCAA.
Sampson ran afoul of the NCAA, both at Oklahoma and Indiana, regarding impermissible contact with recruits via phone and text messages. The allegations at Indiana were so severe he was forced to resign in February 2008, despite a 22-4 record, and led to the school getting three years of probation. Sampson himself was given a five-year show-cause penalty, which ran through 2013.
Since then, he's been an assistant in the NBA, first with Milwaukee and most recently with the Houston Rockets. That made it easy for him to make the switch back to college at the University of Houston, which had just fired James Dickey after four seasons and a 64-62 record.
The Cougars had upset wins over ranked teams Connecticut, Memphis and SMU during the 2013-14 season but only went 17-16. Sampson won't have to deal with that meat of that team, though, as since his hiring, leading scorers TaShawn Thomas and Danuel House, along with freshman reserve Jaaron Simmons, have chosen to transfer.
Thomas and House were originally denied a request to leave but have since been granted release, with transfer restrictions to certain schools.
The American Athletic Conference was much better than expected last season, and even with Louisville leading, the league won't be one that Sampson can expect to dominate right away. Finishing in the middle of the pack is the most realistic expectation, at least for his first season.
Donnie Tyndall, Tennessee
Previous job: Head coach, Southern Mississippi
Career head coaching record: 200-106
Donnie Tyndall has been a hot name on the coaching carousel the past two years, despite not leading his Southern Mississippi team to the NCAA tournament. He did pilot the Golden Eagles to 56 wins and two NIT quarterfinal appearances and before that twice got Morehead State into the NCAA tourney.
Tyndall was among the top choices for Tennessee after Cuonzo Martin surprisingly left the school for California, but according to The Tennessean's David Climer, he apparently played a little hardball in the contract negotiations and secured himself an extra year for a six-year deal with the Volunteers.
That sort of drive should be applauded, but it also shows Tyndall knows he's heading into a situation where he'll have to start over, with the Volunteers losing leading scorer Jordan McRae and key contributor Jeronne Maymon to graduation and double-double machine Jarnell Stokes to NBA draft early entry. Those three were integral pieces to the Tennessee team that went from the First Four to the Sweet 16.
Wing Jordan Richardson, who nearly doubled his season scoring average with 19.3 points per game in the NCAA tournament, will be the top returner for Tyndall to work with.
Tyndall will be hard-pressed to win as many games at Tennessee this fall as he did at Southern Miss, but give him a year or two and he should have the Volunteers back to what they were this past season.
Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech
Previous job: Head coach, Marquette
Career head coaching record: 153-86
Buzz Williams kicked the coaching carousel into another gear when he made the surprise move from Marquette to Virginia Tech, going from the Big East to an ACC program that has had one NCAA tournament appearance (in 2007) in the past 18 years.
Tech was abysmal in 2013-14, going 9-22 overall and 2-16 in league play, causing James Johnson to get fired after two seasons. The Hokies only averaged 63 points per game, and nearly 20 percent of that came from graduating swingman Jarell Eddie.
Williams' choice to leave what seemed like a cushy job at Marquette for one with plenty of disadvantages—most notably the ones named Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse and Virginia—apparently stems from poor relations between him and the school's administration, according to Sports Illustrated's Brian Hamilton. But with a seven-year deal at Tech, he should have some time to establish some momentum.
The Hokies will bring in several recruits for 2014-15, led by 4-star shooting guard Justin Bibbs. He'll need more than that to truly compete in the ACC, but Williams' pedigree and past success—he averaged 24 wins in his first five years at Marquette, reaching the Elite Eight in 2013—should at least get Tech out of the ACC basement.
Steve Wojciechowski, Marquette
Previous job: Assistant coach, Duke
Career head coaching record: None
Steve Wojciechowski is the latest former player for, and assistant under, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski to land a head coaching gig, following Chris Collins (Northwestern) last year and Johnny Dawkins (Stanford) a few seasons before that.
Wojciechowski inherits a Marquette team that struggled to a 17-15 record in the new version of the Big East, but prior to that, it had reached the NCAA tournament eight straight times. He'll have to do some rebuilding, as leading scorers Davante Gardner and Jamil Wilson are both graduating.
Work on that end has already begun, as the Golden Eagles have landed former BYU and UCLA guard Matt Carlino as a graduate transfer for next season. They also have 4-star shooting guard Sandy Cohen signed for the fall.
The new Big East isn't nearly as imposing as the old juggernaut of a league, and with Creighton, Providence and Xavier all losing major pieces of their teams, the time could be right for the Golden Eagles to make a push toward challenging Villanova for the top spot. Of all the coaches taking over power-conference programs, Wojciechowski might have the best chance to win big right away.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.