March 1st has arrived, and, for many college basketball fans, it is Bracketology time! Many fans ponder – Will we be shipped out west? Who are the one seeds? Will my team make it into the dance? Can we avoid Dayton and the First Four? Can we make Dayton and the First Four? Traffic on RPI sites spike to record numbers, and TV analysts bombard us with BLIND RESUME exercises and approvals for teams that make you think the size of the field will be 80 teams! Let the speculation begin.
But for the more morose fans – there is a different question that piques their interest. Will my program’s job become open after yet another year of unmet expectations? Georgia Basketball Blog examines – and no, we don’t include a certain SEC coach who will be finishing season 8 in Athens, Ga, Saturday in Fayetteville and will surely return for Year 9.
Washington Huskies: Ace recruiter and Pac-12 elder statesman Lorenzo Romar is well liked in Seattle- and has a monster recruiting haul coming in next year. However- the problem is twofold: Romar has done nothing with this year’s 9-18 squad, which includes likely NBA Lottery pick Markelle Fultz. A 2-13 conference record is historically bad, and, when viewed against a prior 4 year backdrop of 15 or more losses, it is hard to see the former Pepperdine and St. Louis mentor surviving.
PREDICTION – Washington cuts ties and takes a good hard look at Nevada coach Bill Musselman. (Subnote: Georgia Basketball Blog Warning to the Huskies – beware of former Nevada coaches.)
Missouri –The Kim Anderson experiment will end. Missouri has a proud hoops history, and three straight 20+ loss seasons makes this a slam dunk. Anderson’s 75% winning percentage in division 2 did not translate into SEC success. Oddly enough – the last 6 weeks represent some of the best hoops the Tigers have played under Anderson…. Of course, that is not saying much. The program has improved from blowout losses to competitive efforts, including a respectable loss to Kentucky in Columbia. And they also think they won the fisticuffs battle in Athens in January.
PREDICTION – Missouri makes a move quickly after an early exist in Nashville and perhaps targets Indiana coach Tom Crean.
LSU – When Johnny Jones migrated from Denton, Texas, to return to his alma mater in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, many in the industry expected a meteoric climb for LSU – post John Brady. It simply has not happened. There have been NCAA first round disappointments (the collapse vs NC STATE, to mention one) and the no post season Ben Simmons team from a year ago. This year was the capper – a one win league slate (so far) that certainly signals the end of the road for Jones.
PREDICTION – Top target will be Will Wade from VCU, who may find himself in much demand after this season. Kelvin Sampson of Houston will also get a look. We could also see AD Joe Alleva (formerly of Duke) take a good hard look at Tommy Amaker of Harvard.
Georgetown – It is never a good sign when the students start a “fire the coach” petition. A 12 loss (record breakingly bad) Big East season, coupled with last season’s 15-18 mark has everyone clamoring for change. But a large shadow looms over the Georgetown program, “Pops” Thompson – who will do everything in his power to protect his son John Thompson, III, from the firing line. The fact that the younger Thompson – who also had success at Princeton – has a final 4 in his pocket won’t hurt either.
PREDICTION- Thompson returns for a hot seat year. He has taken the Hoyas to the NCAA 8 times and to a final 4. He is the second best coach in the program history. The best coach in the program’s history gets to make the call. That person is his father.
East Carolina – Veteran Jeff Lebo (a 54 % winning percentage in his 19 year career) is in Year 7 in Greenville , NC. Even though he is well liked in the industry, Lebo (a former Dean Smith PG at UNC) suffers from a stigma of being a program stabilizer but not someone who can consistently take a program to the post season. 19 years into his tenure – he still has never taken a team to the NCAA through his times at Tenn Tech, Chattanooga, Auburn and ECU.
PREDICTION- Lebo (who has suffered 17 plus losses the last 3 years) is terminated, and ECU targets former NC State coach Mark Gottfried.
NC State – The solid first few years bought Mark Gottfried not no accomplishments of substance. Last year’s no post season team was followed by another despite a pretty talented roster. NC State (who won games at Georgia Tech and Duke this year) has already made the call to get a jump on the search, similar to South Florida.
PREDICTION – this job is Will Wade’s if he wants it. Kevin Keatts of UNC-Wilmington is plan B. (Both of these potential coaches would have been likely targets for a UGA coaching search, had one occurred.)
Clemson – Brad Brownell has struggled to gain traction at Clemson. The Tigers required a close win over NC State, which has already fired its coach, just to get over .500 at 15-14, 12th in the ACC. Coming into this season, it appeared Clemson had the talent to make a run at the tournament. Off to an 11-4 start (including a win over the Dawgs in the season opener), Clemson tanked in ACC play. Of Clemson’s 14 losses, 11 have come by six points or less. That is a clear indication of bad game management. Clemson fans were expecting a break-out season and to be nationally ranked. Oops, we know how that feels.
PREDICTION – Brownell gets canned. New AD and former Tech AD, Dan Radakovich, will probably pull the trigger. They will be looking at Kevin Keatts (UNC-Wilm), Will Wade (VCU), Pat Kelsey (Winthrop), or Mark Gottfried, but Clemson is not seen as a coach’s destination job.
Other possible job openings: Illinois (coming off a big win over Mich St. and with a top 10 recruiting class [which includes a 5 star center] Coach John Groce is probably safe now), New Mexico (Craig Neal will be pushed out), South Florida (already open) and potentially UC Santa Barbara.
As occurs every year, coaching moves can free up recruits who get released from their scholarships, players for transfer and even staff that UGA might pursue. And, of course, there is the possibility that some school comes to court Mark Fox. Kansas St and NC State reached out to him before but were rebuffed. The Washington job would likely be intriguing to Fox, with his West Coast connections and the ability to put together West Coast-oriented staff quickly. We don’t have long to wait to find out.