Ole Miss is going to part ways with Andy Kennedy, which creates interesting scenarios.
Ole Miss Athletic Director Ross Bjork did not extend Andy Kennedy last offseason, which given the way contracts for public employees of the State of Mississippi work, it creates a lot of stress for a coach. Every offseason becomes a matter of extend, fire or next season is a “prove it” season in Oxford, Starkville and Hattiesburg. Kennedy, the Dean of SEC coaches, will not return and this means there is a vacancy to be filled. Replacing the winningest coach in Ole Miss Men’s Basketball History is a challenge, but it is a domino to fall. There are other dominoes to fall that can make the hiring process this offseason more complicated and interesting. Here are some of the possible things that can shape this offseason’s Coaching Carousel.
1. Kevin Willard bolts Seton Hall
Kevin Willard was trying to get a deal at South Florida this past offseason, but South Florida could not afford him. Willard is on pace to take the Pirates back to the NCAA Tournament for a third straight season. Seton Hall alumni feel they can do better, Willard thinks he can do better and there will be a program that would pay Willard the money he desires. Willard turned a Seton Hall program that was in shambles into a perennial NCAA Tournament tournament while recruiting top talent from the New York Metropolitan area.
Willard’s vacancy would result in Danny Hurley (a Seton Hall alumnus) to consider going back to his alma mater, it will be very tough for Hurley to say ‘no’. Hurley is a native New Jerseyan and returning back home will be a feel good moment as Seton Hall alumni may feel like the glory days of the P.J. Carlesimo era are upon them once again.
2. Mike White returns to Ole Miss
Mike White is filling big shoes at Florida and even though he has made an Elite 8, there is a surprising amount of impatience with him. White is not the perfect fit at Florida and returning to Oxford would be a splash hire that would excite the Ole Miss base.
The crazier part of this situation is what happens at Florida. Florida instantly becomes the hottest job on the market.
3. Louisville opts not to keep David Padgett (Happy Birthday Coach!)
Padgett is an interim coach at his alma mater. His season at Louisville has been spotty by Louisville standards. Moving on from Padgett could result in a number of scenarios, but one of them will not be the hiring of Richard Pitino. Louisville is a possible landing spot for Kevin Willard, a former Pitino assistant who succeeded to bring back Seton Hall. However, staying in the Pitino coaching tree and swapping an inexperienced coach for an experienced coach may seem a bit like overkill.
Louisville would be a hot job, but because of the FBI Investigation and issues surrounding the University of Louisville’s relationship with the Athletics Program everything seems tainted. It is a job that would require someone with a lot of patience, experience and adventurism.
4. Tom Izzo and Bill Beekman can’t work things out
Michigan State University is embroiled in sexual assault and child abuse and molestation scandals. Tom Izzo, a native Michigander and Jud Heathcote disciple wants to continue being the Head Coach at Michigan State until he retires. However, he may have to make an early retirement and leave East Lansing with a legacy that has been damaged by crooked behavior behind-the-scenes.
Michigan State is a premier job in College Basketball and it was because of Jud Heathcote, Tom Izzo, and Magic Johnson that the program is where it is. However, without Izzo, this chain is broken and it will be interesting to see how other coaches perceive the job to be inherently.
5. Bruce Pearl is fired by Auburn University
It is bound to happen and despite the on-the-court successes, this is not meant to last very long. Pearl has not been cooperative with the internal investigation and with a new University President and Athletic Director, the decision is clear. Bruce Pearl hired Chuck Person and he needs to accept responsibility for the illegal actions of his Assistant Coach. Former Athletic Director Jay Jacobs resigned rather quickly after the FBI’s revelations and Bruce Pearl surviving this would make absolutely no sense.
Auburn can win in Men’s Basketball without Bruce Pearl. They took the risk and got burned for it. The sad part is that one of the most beloved Auburn Tigers, Chuck Person, is now resented by the Auburn Family.
Auburn really never had a deep appreciation for Men’s Basketball, but now they have a taste for it. The problem is that the location is not appealing and the competition will become tougher.
6. UConn fires Kevin Ollie
Kevin Ollie went from “Next Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers” to Hot Seat. UConn is at a crossroads because they thought they had a Jim Calhoun 2.0 and they really did not get that from Ollie. The question is to hire a Calhoun disciple or to go down a different road.
The most obvious choice is currently trying to build Rutgers (there’s no rebuild, it’s an actual build), Steve Pikiell. Rutgers has very little Men’s Basketball tradition and success there is fleeting at best. Pikiell going back to UConn would re-open one of the toughest College Basketball jobs out there and put him in an actual position to succeed.
7. Steve Alford has enough of UCLA
Alford did not sign up for this. He dealt with the Ball family and wild expectations at a school that is a paradox in caring and not caring. UCLA Basketball is supposed to be elite, but yet Alford deals with apathetic crowds at Pauley Pavilion. Alford is used to an engaged student body and alumni, this is Westwood, it does not work like that.
The challenge and prestige of UCLA do not match up to the reality of coaching there. Alford can get almost any job he wants and he may be looking for something else this offseason.
Who wants the UCLA job in this situation?
8. Fred Hoiberg is fired by the Chicago Bulls
Fred Hoiberg’s NBA struggles may result in the possibility of the return of The Mayor to Ames. Hoiberg brought Iowa State back to life and Prohm was expected to carry it on, but to this base the opportunity to get their guy back may result in sending Prohm packing for a new home.
But wait… it gets weirder.
9. Iowa fires Fran McCaffery as well
What better way to send a message to the school that burned you than by going to their archrival? The Iowa-Iowa State rivalry becomes the new Louisville-Kentucky as far as animosity between coaches and the fans. This could happen with Steve Prohm going to Iowa City in the case of McCaffery getting fired and Hoiberg returning to Ames.
McCaffery has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2015-16 and the team really tanked this season. Did McCaffery peak after his three straight NCAA Tournament appearances? This is unknown, but it is certainly a possibility. Iowa is on pace for their first losing season since McCaffery’s first season in 2010-11.
Prohm vs. Hoiberg? Must See TV and a very hot ticket at Carver-Hawkeye Arena or Hilton Coliseum.
10. Maryland and Mark Turgeon part ways
For Maryland, three straight NCAA Tournament appearances and one Sweet 16 is not good enough. Maryland expects more. The decade of brilliance at Maryland from 1994-2003 has not been replicated. Who can get Maryland back to their glory days? Being on the NCAA Tournament bubble this season is not a familiar place for the Terps and their alumni.