Now that we know who made the NCAA Tournament, we can break down the coaching ranks. Unless your name is Herb Sendek, you are generally safe after qualifying for the tournament, so let’s take a look at the Big Six conference programs that didn’t get a bid and see who’s still got some leeway and who should be sweating it out the next few weeks. The first conference up is the ACC.
It’s chilly in here (translation: not going anywhere):
· Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
· Roy Williams, North Carolina
· Leonard Hamilton, Florida State
· Brad Brownell, Clemson
· Steve Donahue, Boston College
· Tony Bennett, Virginia
· Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest (gets a pass because it was his first season)
The heat is on:
Seth Greenberg is probably going to incur some mixed emotions from Hokie fans over the next few weeks. Many will express their sympathy over being eaten alive once again by the bubble, while others will call for his head, exclaiming that he simply can’t get this program over the hump. In reality, Greenberg should be pretty safe.
Greenberg came to Tech in 2003, one year before the Hokies bolted from the Big East for the greener pastures of the ACC. In the seven seasons since the move, Tech has only one season in which they finished worse than 7-9 in ACC play and has finished .500 or better in five of those years. Yes, there has been heartbreak on Selection Sunday in recent years, but fans have to keep in mind that this is a football school trying to field a good basketball team. In 2007, Greenberg led the school to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1996! Needless to say, he didn’t exactly walk into a thriving program. Fans and analysts are killing him for still scheduling too soft out of conference, but the Hokies played tournament teams Kansas State, UNLV, Purdue and Penn State. The real key here is to avoid the bottom-feeding cupcakes that drag down the team’s RPI.
Recruiting wise, Greenberg has done a solid job. You can’t expect five-star prospects every year at a program like this, but he’s put together some nice classes starting with the Delaney-Allen-Hudson class of 2007. Delaney and Allen will be gone after this year, so Greenberg will need to prove he can form a new nucleus to build the team around. He’s got some solid building blocks in the aforementioned Dorenzo Hudson, a redshirt senior, and junior PG Erick Green. Sophomore F Jarrell Eddy looks to have some projectability and junior PF Cadarian Raines (6’9’’, 238 lbs) was a solid recruit who brings some size to the table. Greenberg has a very nice class coming in next year that features four 4-star prospects and is headlined by SF Dorian Finney-Smith. He’s also already locked up 2012 4-star PF Montrezl Harrell.
Overall, Greenberg has done a solid job and Hokie fans should be happy to have him. If he can mold the incoming wave of recruits and this year’s holdovers into a solid NCAA Tournament team in the next year or two, he should be safe for the foreseeable future.
Heat level: the seat warmer is on in his car
There are not a lot of coaches who could manage to win a National Championship, make it to another Final Four and still be on the hot seat, but Gary Williams has done it. Williams’ resume is phenomenal. He led Maryland to the NCAA Tournament every season from 1993-94 through 2003-04. That’s eleven straight tournament appearances. However, in the last seven seasons there have been only three tournament appearances, none lasting into the second weekend, to go along with three NIT’s and one season (this one) with no postseason at all. That’s a tough stretch to swallow for a fan base that had become accustomed to contending for the ACC crown and making the NCAA tournament field annually.
In terms of next year’s prospects, Williams’ team has some reasons for optimism. The Terps graduate three seniors (F Dino Gregory and G’s Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie), but only of them (Gregory) was a significant contributor. C Jordan Williams and G Terrell Stoglin, their two best players, should return, assuming Williams doesn’t test the waters of the NBA Draft. Those are two excellent pieces to build around. Also returning are senior G Sean Mosley and junior F James Padgett, as well as sophomores Pe’Shon Howard, Haukur Palsson and Mychal Parker. Williams and Stoglin should be stars, but some of the other returnees need to step up and provide some help.
The incoming freshmen class is solid, if unspectacular. The jewel here is G Nick Faust who the Terps desperately need to provide some shooting on the wing. The class is rounded out by PG Sterling Gibbs, the brother of Pittsburgh G Ashton Gibbs, and German F Martin Breunig. It’s hard to know what to expect of these two, though Breunig comes with considerable hype.
I think Gary is safe for now, but he needs to make a serious commitment to recruiting. Maryland isn’t Duke or Carolina, so he can’t expect the recruits to just fall into this lap. He needs to get after these kids and, at the very least, start securing a good portion of the top talent in the DC Metro area.
Heat level: the oven is on, but it’s not ready to cook yet
Frank Haith seems like a very nice guy, he’s just not a very good basketball coach. In his seven seasons at Miami, Haith has one NCAA Tournament appearance and zero seasons better than 8-8 in the ACC. That’s not going to cut it. Haith had no prior experience as a head coach at the Division I level and it shows. Watching him on the sideline, he does not possess the motivational ability to get the best out of his team. I think people give him a pass because they don’t expect much out of Miami basketball. They think the cupboard is bare in terms of talent, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Outside of Duke and Carolina, Miami might have the best talent in the ACC. At worst, they are on the same level with second-tier schools like Maryland, Virginia Tech and Clemson. The guards are excellent, with senior Malcolm Grant and junior Durand Scott being two of the best in the conference. Junior C Reggie Johnson (6’10’’, 303 lbs) is a monster in the paint and if he can continue to drop his weight, he could be among the best bigs in the league next season. The wings, while they aren’t elite, have plenty of talent. Junior Garrius Adams showed improvement this season and sophomore Rion Brown had a solid showing in his inaugural season. Haith has been unable to coax improvement from senior DeQuan Jones, who was an elite level recruit coming in.
There’s not much coming next year, but the guys above are plenty to form at least a .500 team in the ACC. Miami has one more year of eligibility for Grant, Jones and big man Julian Gamble and they can’t waste it on a coach who has proven he can’t get the job done. There needs to be a different man on the Miami sideline next season.
Heat level: remember the apocalypse scene in Terminator 2?
North Carolina State
Just to put things in perspective, Herb Sendek, the man who was preceded Sidney Lowe at NC State, was fired after five straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Guess how many Lowe has to his name? You guessed it, none. A big fat goose egg. State administration and alumni were rife with delusions of grandeur, convinced that anything less than competing on the same level with North Carolina and Duke was unacceptable. As such, they decided that annual trips to the NCAA Tournament weren’t enough and fired Sendek. Well, now they know just how good they had it, and just how bad things can get. Not only has Lowe not taken the program to the next level, he’s run it into the ground.
But all hope is not lost. For as bad as the program would appear when looking at its record, there is substantial talent in-house and on the way. Lowe did manage to bring in a sterling recruiting class this past season including F CJ Leslie and G’s Ryan Harrow and Lorenzo Brown. F Scott Wood showed he’s a reliable outside threat and C Richard Howell looks like he could be a solid ACC big man. Also returning are contributors C DeShawn Painter (junior), G CJ Williams (senior) and C Jordan Vandenberg (junior) who measures in at a towering 7’1’’. The loss of C Tracy Smith will hurt, but there is enough talent here to overcome that. Incoming freshman big man Joseph Uchebo could help offset that loss.
The key is not wasting more time on Lowe. He clearly lacks the fortitude to get the best out of his players. Many have underachieved, and any good coach would have pulled Leslie aside long ago and harangued him for his continued lazy play and emotional outbursts. Lowe has never had a team finish better than 6-10 in ACC play and that alone should get him a ticket out-of-town. The only thing really holding administration back is that Lowe is something of a cult figure in NC State basketball history. He was the starting point guard for the 1983 National Championship team. However, State cannot allow this downward spiral to continue. There is a solid basketball program in here somewhere, they just need the right man to bring it out. I’m not sure they will ever contend with Carolina and Duke on a year to year basis, but even a return to prior levels of success would be a huge step.
Heat level: how hot is the surface of the sun?
Before I could get to writing this article, Tech beat me to the punch and fired Head Coach Paul Hewitt. The firing was well deserved as the program was clearly in disarray. Other than mediocre NCAA Tournament seasons in ’06-’07 and ’09-’10, the last six seasons have been tumultuous to say the least. Hewitt was a very poor in-game coach and had lost the recruiting prowess he once had. To be honest, he probably should have been fired before, but his horrendous contract (which featured a $7.2 million buyout and automatic rollover) prevented it. Tech finally wised up and realized they were going to have to fire him eventually, so they pulled off the figurative band-aid late last week.
The cupboard isn’t completely bare for whoever inherits this job. Tech returns two solid guards in senior Iman Shumpert and junior Glen Rice Jr. Junior wing Brian Oliver can fill it up from outside and sophomore big man Daniel Miller showed significant progress during his freshman season. Whoever Tech targets as their next coach needs to be a guy who can do things the right way. Recent allegations of dirty recruiting have given the program a bit of a black eye.
Heat level: the fire has been extinguished
Next up: Big East