The college basketball world has been turned upside down in recent days. The uncertainty doesn’t show signs of ending anytime soon, with vacant jobs at Oregon and Boston College among a handful of high-profile institutions in the market for a new coach. Here’s a brief recap of the coaching hires in recent days and a look at the rumors surrounding the remaining jobs.
Steve Lavin to St. John’s
Lavin and lovely wife Mary Ann Jarou (above) are heading to the Big Apple to resurrect a program that has fallen on hard times. The former UCLA coach takes his fairly respectable coaching resume and boatload of annoying sayings to NYC. He has high hopes for the program, which hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2002. Lavin’s declaration that the program will be an instant NCAA Tournament team seems unlikely given the Red Storm’s current roster, barring a miracle push in recruiting or a dreaded expansion of the tournament–more on that later. Lavin needs to convince New York City area kids to stay at home, which won’t be an easy task until St. John’s has some success. Having Mary Ann attend games would be a nice recruiting tool to say the least. It won’t be all beauty in Madison Square Garden however; Lavin has appointed his former mentor Gene Keady as a special advisor.
Fran McCaffery to Iowa
This is old news, and being former Iowa alums we gave this story plenty of run. McCaffery’s move west didn’t garner much attention on the national level, but it could be an important step in restoring the strength of the Big Ten year in and year out. Iowa hasn’t been a national powerhouse, but enjoyed considerable success prior to Steve Alford’s final season and Todd Lickliter’s three years of hell. McCaffery is an excellent coach, the only question remaining is whether or not he can recruit at Iowa.
Kevin Willard to Seton Hall
Much like Saint John’s, Seton Hall is a sleeping giant. The school replaced Bobby Gonzalez with Willard, who spent three years turning around Iona. I don’t know a whole lot about Willard, but his name was mentioned in connection with several openings nationwide. He spent ten years working with Louisville coach Rick Pitino as played an up-tempo style at Iona modeled after Pitino’s scheme. Seton Hall’s three top players, including scoring-machine Jeremy Hazell and problem-child Herb Pope are expected to enter the NBA draft, making Willard’s job much more difficult.
Tim Floyd back in business at UTEP
First Mike Price, then Tim Floyd? Sorry, I had to go there. Floyd replaces Tony Barbee, who moved on to Auburn. Barbee did some great things at UTEP, establishing a pipeline to Memphis that he will have little difficulty relocating. Floyd is a solid coach, but hasn’t been very successful considering what he has had to work with. His teams at Iowa State and USC underachieved and the whole NBA thing was pretty much a disaster. Throw in the O.J. Mayo scandal and you have a puzzling hire for UTEP. Somehow, Floyd always seems to find work.
Boston College fires Al Skinner
Although the school said both sides agreed to part ways, the reality of the situation is that Al Skinner was fired. Skinner built a solid program at Boston College during his 13-year tenure. His name had been mentioned in connection with the St. John’s job and could re-surface if Tubby Smith leaves Minnesota. Cornell’s Steve Donahue and Richmond’s Chris Mooney are the top candidates to replace Skinner.
Don’t trust Tubby Smith
Tubby Smith has made a career out of denying interest in coaching openings around the country. Oregon’s athletic program is in a state of chaos at the moment, but the school clearly has interest in Smith and A&M’s Mark Turgeon. Smith has balked at the rumors of leaving for Oregon. It’s possible he is using the publicity to leverage a new practice facility for his Gophers and better contract for himself. Smith’s name just keeps coming up in connection with the Oregon job and other vacancies around the country, so a move west is certainly a strong possibility.
Can Phil Knight buy a good coach?
Maybe. Knight is throwing money around on Oregon’s behalf, networking, and doing everything in his considerable power to bring a big name to Oregon. The only problem is a lack of tradition, limited recruiting possibilities, and a roster with very little talent to work with. If the NCAA doesn’t start to look at this whole Knight-Oregon relationship, something is wrong.