Best and worst of this offseason's coaching carousel (cont.)
Mid-major coaches staying put ... for now: Dayton's Brian Gregory was one of Iowa's top choices, but he refused to entertain any offers until his Flyers were through playing in the NIT. By the time Dayton's run ended with the championship on April 1, Iowa had grown impatient and pulled the trigger on Siena's Fran McCaffery. Even though Dayton had a disappointing season by failing to make the NCAA tournament, Gregory, who served as an assistant to Tom Izzo for six years, apparently still has a lot of cache in the marketplace.
You also have to figure it's a matter of time before Brad Stevens leaves Butler for greener pastures, but the school did well to lock up Stevens for at least a little while with a 12-year contract. You could make the case that Stevens made a mistake by not cashing in on the team's success; after all, his stock will probably never be higher. The truth, however, is that there weren't any jobs worth leaving Butler for. Stevens is 33, and he already has one of the best gigs in America. He can afford to wait.
Mid-major coach staying put ... for good: Heading into this year's cycle, I would have put the chances that Mark Few would retire as the coach at Gonzaga at 80 percent. Now I'll upgrade it to 99 percent. Few was born and raised in Oregon and he went to the University of Oregon, yet he still turned down his alma mater. Few is at a school that truly cares about winning (Gonzaga flies to games on chartered airplanes while much of the Pac-10 flies commercial), he makes a nice chunk of change in a town with moderate cost of living, he can spend lots of quality time with his wife and four young children, and he can go to the NCAA tournament every year. Why would he want to leave?
Incidentally, this is why Few's assistant, Leon Rice, was smart to take the Boise State job. Rice would have gotten the head job if Few left, but Rice wisely recognized that is probably never going to happen.
Best buyout: Many people thought it would be a no-brainer that Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt would take the St. John's job. After all, Hewitt is a New York native, he has been feeling the heat in Atlanta for several years, and he is losing his best players to the NBA draft. Hewitt did not want to leave Georgia Tech largely because he has three daughters (the oldest of whom is a sophomore in high school) who very much did not want to be uprooted. But he also had another reason to stay put: a $7 million buyout if Georgia Tech were to fire him. Now that he's staying put, I'm not sure what worries Hewitt more -- that Georgia Tech might fire him, or that it might not.
Worst firing: Holy Cross. It might be more apt to name this category Worst Athletic Director, in which case the answer would be Dick Regan. It's one thing to be impatient, it's quite another to fire your coach after one season, even if the team's record during that season was 9-22. Yet, that's what Regan did to Sean Kearney after some of Kearney's players went to Regan to complain about him. Instead of standing by the man he hired, Regan made like a jellyfish. If he had any integrity, Regan would have either stuck by Kearney or handed in his own resignation letter for doing such a poor job of hiring a coach. Kearney worked for more than two decades building up his reputation as an assistant at Providence, Delaware and Notre Dame, and now Regan has sullied that reputation while being able to hold on to his own job. Where's the justice in that?
Second-worst firing: You'd think a coach who goes 61-31 in three seasons and reaches the second round of the NCAA tournament would at least be able to survive another year. Not so for Wake Forest's Dino Gaudio. When I heard that Gaudio had been fired, I assumed there had to be a reason other than his teams' on-court performance, but nothing has emerged. Wake athletic director Ron Wellman pointed to the Deacons' poor play in February and March, but that does not pass muster. Gaudio was given the job immediately after Skip Prosser died suddenly in the summer of 2007. Prosser is fondly remembered in Winston-Salem, yet it's worth noting that his teams did not even make the NCAA tournament in his last two seasons. By Wellman's standards, shall we assume that if Prosser was alive, he would no longer be the coach at Wake Forest?
Worst state: What's the state of New Jersey? Tumultuous. You'd think Tony Soprano was running things the way Bobby Gonzalez and Fred Hill imploded at Seton Hall and Rutgers, respectively. Just goes to show that if you're going to tick people off, you better win a lot of games.
Best job beating the posse out of town: Greg McDermott's days at Iowa State appeared to be numbered. He was fortunate to keep his job after the Cyclones went 4-12 in the Big 12 this season, and since he was losing his top three scorers, next year was looking like it was going to be pretty ugly. McDermott made a smart move, then, by taking the Creighton job that was vacated when Dana Altman left for Oregon. Creighton is an excellent job in a terrific league (Missouri Valley) with which McDermott is very familiar, having coached for five years at Northern Iowa. Plus, it's always better to follow someone who left for another job than someone who was fired. You've got a better chance of winning right away.
Most Butler-esque hire: If you're a mid-major school and you have some success, you're going to lose your head coach. The best mid-majors develop a culture of winning that goes beyond the guy in the head chair, so when the job comes open they have an assistant ready to slide in. That's what Gonzaga did with Few when Dan Monson left, it's what Butler did with Stevens when Todd Lickliter left, it's what Xavier did with Chris Mack when Miller left, and this year that's what Siena did with Mitch Buonaguro after Fran McCaffrey left for Iowa (where, ironically, he replaced the fired Lickliter). Not only did Buonaguro, 56, work for McCaffrey for six years as an assistant, he was also a head coach at Fairfield from 1985-91. I hope he succeeds, if only so more schools will give lesser-known assistants a chance instead of trying to make a splash with so-called big-name hires.
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