Best and worst, from N.J. to Oregon, of coaching carousel
With so few sexy jobs open, Oregon should've had its pick of notable candidates
Is Iowa State making the same mistake Houston did when it hired Clyde Drexler?
It appears Mark Few will never leave Gonzaga, especially after he rejected Oregon
Nearly a month has passed since Gordon Hayward's half-court heave clanged off the rim in Lucas Oil Stadium, and the annual spring coaching carousel has still not quite come to a halt. Fifty jobs have opened up, and four have yet to be filled. Though Rutgers has reportedly agreed to hire Robert Morris coach Mike Rice. And Hofstra had a new coach in Tim Welsh, but he resigned three days after he was charged with drunken driving and only a month after he got the job. (The other two current vacancies are at Chicago State and Mount St. Mary's.)
This was one of the more boring cycles in several years, which is probably a good thing. There were very few shocking firings, and none of the really big-time schools were among those going hunting. While there were no earth-shattering developments, there were plenty of hits and misses, savvy moves and head scratchers. Here, then, are the best, the worst and the most notable happenings of the 2010 coaching carousel. All aboard:
Worst process: With so few sexy jobs open, Oregon should have had its pick of prominent candidates. The school will open a new $227 million arena next season, it plays in a power conference, and most of all, it has access to Phil Knight's checkbook. Yet, the school went after high-end coaches it was never going to get (Tom Izzo, Jamie Dixon, Mark Few, Mike Anderson) and never called one with whom it had a legit chance (Tubby Smith). To be fair, the school was thrown for a loop when athletic director Mike Bellotti was forced out, leaving former athletic director Pat Kilkenny to head the search. Still, it was amateur hour all the way. The man whom Oregon hired, Dana Altman, built up a respectable record at Creighton, but he has no geographic ties to the Pacific Northwest. Plus, I'm pretty sure Oregon could have hired Altman six weeks ago without enduring the string of rejections.
Best process: Unlike Oregon, Clemson had no idea it was going to lose its coach when Oliver Purnell took the DePaul job on April 7. Also unlike Oregon, Clemson did not take two months to find a successor. Six days after Purnell's surprising departure, Clemson hired Wright State coach Brad Brownell. That name might not be recognizable to casual fans, but Brownell has built up a quality resume at UNC Wilmington and Wright State.
Best use of the interim tag: I stand by my criticism of Penn athletic director Steve Bilsky for firing Glen Miller in mid-December. (In-season firings are one of the worst trends in this sport, and they are especially disheartening when they happen in the Ivy League.) But I'll give Bilsky credit for installing Miller's interim replacement, Jerome Allen, as permanent coach in March. As a former standout player at Penn, Allen has credibility and an unmatched passion for the program, and by leading the Quakers to a 6-15 record (including an upset of Cornell) after Miller's 0-7 start, he demonstrated that he deserved a shot at the head job.
Worst use of the interim tag: Binghamton has needed to find a head coach since Kevin Broadus was suspended back in October, but instead of locking in a permanent replacement, the school decided to give Mark Macon a two-year contract extension without removing his interim tag. So is Macon the head coach or not? I guess it depends on what the meaning of the term interim is.
Riskiest hire: Fred Hoiberg was more than just a great player at Iowa State. He was a cultural icon, the Ames native who sank feather jump shots and went by the nickname "The Mayor." That qualifies him to be the guest speaker at a booster function but not necessarily a head coach in the Big 12. Hoiberg was most recently the vice president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but he has zero coaching experience, of any kind, at any level. Maybe he'll turn out to be a brilliant hire, but for now it looks like Iowa State is trying to do the same thing Houston was when it hired Clyde Drexler in 1998. Drexler went 19-39 in two miserable seasons before resigning.
Most well-traveled assistant: Two years ago, Arizona hired Denver Nuggets assistant Mike Dunlap and installed him as associate head coach, which appeared to make him the designated successor to Lute Olson. When Olson suddenly retired that fall, Arizona offered to make Dunlap the interim head coach but he refused -- yet he remained on the bench as an assistant to Russ Pennell. When Pennell's interim stint was up the following spring, Arizona passed on Dunlap and hired Sean Miller, whereupon Dunlap was hired by Oregon as the putative successor to Ernie Kent. Déjà vu: Kent got canned, Dunlap got passed over, and now he is getting set to take a gig as an assistant to Steve Lavin at St. John's. (That hire should be made official this week.) It's a smart move on Lavin's part, but you have to wonder whether Dunlap is going to bother unpacking his bags this time.
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