Hoops season is over, but there are all sorts of things for one to occupy the offseason with. Right now it’s coaching changes and early entries. Today, I’ll focus on the coaching changes of note, which are less notable than last year.
St. John’s (Mike Jarvis out, ??? in)
It’s hard to say what the best job available this year is, but I’ll give the nod to St. John’s. It sounds like Matt Doherty is the frontrunner, and may even get the gig Monday. DePaul’s Dave Leitao and Kansas assistant Norm Roberts also got interviews. Personally, I would take Leitao. The job he has done at a similarly urban university has been tremendous. St. John’s should feel honored that he would consider taking their job.
UNLV (Charlie Spoonhour out, Lon Kruger in)
UNLV has a lot going for it – great facilities, good tradition, and quality recruits within a short drive. It also has a lot going against it, and these forces have won out since Tarkanian departed at the end of the ’93 season, making UNLV ‘the graveyard of coaches.’
The three non-interim coaches since Tarkanian have left in unusual times under unusual circumstances. The latest was Charlie Spoonhour, who resigned in mid-season due to “health reasons”. This excuse was widely viewed as transparent. He was just sick of coaching a bunch of selfish players.
So the shady influences in Vegas tabbed Kruger as the next coach to see his career crash and burn as the head man of the Rebels. George Karl launched his own campaign for the job and would have been a better choice. Kruger has won at every college stop he’s had, but even while getting Florida to the Final Four, he eventually bolted when they fell back to the middle of the SEC. Outside of that job, he hasn’t been a head coach anywhere longer than four years.
Utah (Rick Majerus out, Ray Giacoletti in)
I don’t think there’s much difference in the chances to succeed at UNLV compared to Utah. Yet two coaches with NBA experience were banging down UNLV’s door and Utah’s first choice was someone from the Big Sky conference. Giacoletti’s Eastern Washington team finished 1st or 2nd in the Big Sky each of his four years as head coach. Giacoletti promptly announced that Marc Jackson will return to the team in ’04-’05. Jackson was among the best 6th men in the game in ’02-’03, before deciding he hated Majerus so much that he dropped out of school last year.
Georgetown (Craig Esherick out, ??? in)
The Washington Post is reporting that Princeton coach John Thompson III is the frontrunner. I speculated before the tournament that he could be the preferred choice with a first round upset. It turns out he didn’t even need that. This appeared to be Johnny Dawkins’ job if he wanted it, but I guess the unspectacular head coaching performances of former Coach K assistants Quin Snyder and Tommy Amaker scared off the Hoya brass.
Auburn (Cliff Ellis out, Jeff Lebo in)
Chattanooga coach Jeff Lebo, UAB coach Mike Anderson and VCU coach Jeff Capel were the three candidates for the job. Lebo got the job, and both Anderson and Capel got pay increases from their current employer.
Miami (FL) (Perry Clark out, Frank Haith in)
Anderson, Capel, Norm Roberts, and Manhattan coach Bobby Gonzales were others considered for the Hurricanes post. The ‘Canes future in the short term isn’t very rosy as they head into a loaded ACC, and Anderson and Capel wisely took themselves out of the running. Haith is a Texas assistant (excuse me, “associate”) head coach that has no previous head coaching experience. This really isn’t a good place for him to cut his teeth in the business.
Houston (Ray McCallum out, Tom Penders in)
Plain and simply a horrible hire. Not quite Clyde Drexler horrible, but horrible nonetheless. Penders was canned from his previous two jobs at Texas and George Washington, and alienated a lot of people at those institutions in doing so. In his stint at GW he ruined Mike Jarvis’ work. His successor Karl Hobbs has since rebuilt the Colonials to an NCAA tournament contender.
However, this is a great move for Penders. Houston can’t get any worse, and they’ll probably be middle of the pack in the weakening CUSA in a couple of years. Penders will bring the Cougars mediocrity if nothing else. But if Houston is looking to get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1992, it won’t happen under Penders watch.
Southern Miss (James Green out, Larry Eustachy in)
It will be interesting to see where Houston and USM are in five years. Eustachy also was fired from his last job, but for personal reasons as opposed to professional reasons. However, the fact that his last two teams at Iowa State only won 9 conference games probably contributed.