Thoughts On The CBB Coaching Carousel

I love the coaching carousel.

Change. Hope.

Renewal. Optimism.

More synonyms for change.

And hope.

Memphis fans hoping for a ride on the coaching carousel are keeping an eye on Arizona State.
Memphis fans hoping for a ride on the coaching carousel are keeping an eye on Arizona State.

This is a particularly good year for the carousel – and Memphis is tangentially involved due to the inescapable, if unlikely, thought that Memphis head coach Josh Pastner could be a candidate for some of the open jobs (or the jobs that will become open when the open ones get filled).

Here’s what’s happened so far, of note:

Texas: AD Steve Patterson fired longtime coach Rick Barnes over the weekend. Technically the Longhorns offered to let Barnes keep his job if he agreed to fire his staff. To his credit Barnes refused such a move. Can we all agree that forcing a guy to fire his staff is dumb? If you’re inclined to micro-manage your head coach it’s probably time to just fire the guy.

Anyway, it now appears that while he was involved in those staff discussions Barnes was already fielding an offer from Tennessee to replace the recently departed Donnie Tyndall. More on that in a second.

Supposedly Texas is now looking at Shaka Smart of VCU as Barnes’ replacement. I don’t see Smart as the can’t miss, sure fire candidate that most do. Take away Smart’s one magical run to the Final 4 in 2010-11 – a season in which his team lost 11 games and was lucky to even make the tournament – and his resume looks almost identical to Josh Pastner’s. It’s all about perception. And style of play. And a few other things – but mostly perception.

Tennessee: AD Dave ‘Hitman’ Hart had to fire 1st year head coach Donnie Tyndall due to NCAA problems left-over from Tyndall’s time at Southern Mississippi. On Friday the Vols (and Hart) were the joke of college basketball. What a difference 3 days makes. Now that the deal with Barnes is done, the Vols have officially fallen up – Lane Kiffin style – in the transaction. NCAA issues aside, Donnie Tyndall is a pretty good coach. Rick Barnes is better. Rick Barnes has been winning at a high level for nearly 3 decades. He’s personally been to more NCAA tournaments than the Vols program (in the history of ever). And he’s only 60 – so he can do this for several more years. Barnes is a pro. UT has come out of a crappy situation smelling like roses. It should be noted, this opinion isn’t unanimous:

Alabama: The Crimson Tide fired Anthony Grant and are in hot pursuit of Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall. Marshall has passed up a lot of jobs in recent years – but appears to be considering a large financial package from Alabama. It would be an interesting move for Marshall, and would buck conventional wisdom which held that he wouldn’t leave the Shockers until an elite job came along. Piles of money aside, Alabama basketball is not an elite job. Phil Jackson could be coaching the Tide and nobody would pay attention until January. There’s a reason Wimp Sanderson wore a plaid blazer in Tuscaloosa and it probably had something to do with begging for attention.

St. Johns: The Red Storm hired one of the great, if not the greatest player in program history in Chris Mullin. Mullin starred on the 1985 St. Johns team that played in the Final Four (along with Memphis State, Villanova and Georgetown). It will be interesting to see if Mullin, who has zero coaching experience, can make the transition from NBA front office to college sideline. It’s not an unprecedented move – as analysts have compared the situation to Fred Hoiberg taking over at Iowa State. That’s worked out quite well for the Cyclones.

DePaul: The weirdest move of the carousel – the Blue Demons hired their old coach, Dave Leitao. Leitao left DePaul in 2005 to coach at Virginia, where he was later fired – in 2009. Apparently he was an assistant at Tulsa (who knew) this past year. The weird part is that Leitao wasn’t that great the first time around. He went to one NCAA tournament at DePaul and another at Virginia (in 6 total years at both schools) before being fired after an 18 loss season in 2009. This isn’t exactly like a Beatles reunion tour. And the move isn’t being received well locally, to the extent that DePaul basketball is received at all in Chicago. After all, my Cubbies are about to open up their world series willing 2015 season, I doubt many people in Chi-town care about who DePaul hired.

Arizona State: This is the one Memphis fans are keeping an eye on. For what it’s worth, this was tweeted over the weekend:

I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the “Coaching Changes” twitter account, but that could account for Pastner’s silence of late. Nobody’s heard from Pastner over the past few days, at least publicly in Memphis. Several columnists (some in Arizona, some nationally) have suggested that ASU should hire Pastner – who has plenty of Arizona ties from his years at Arizona.

As someone who likes Pastner and believes he is likely to have a long, successful college coaching career (assuming he becomes more willing to force player and team development through harsher coaching in terms of shorter rotations and playing time) – the ASU job appears to be a great mutual fit.

ASU’s athletic director basically stated that he wants an energetic, dynamic recruiter who can inject enthusiasm into the program. If he isn’t describing Pastner, he’s coming close. Yet, despite how much sense Pastner seemingly makes for ASU – reports out Monday had the Sun Devils’ AD meeting with Duke assistant Jeff Capel. Capel flamed out several years ago at Oklahoma, and was fired. Lest you think his lack of success with the Sooners is a detriment to him landing a new job, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski explained that one away:

“Jeff already has been a great coach…when he went to Oklahoma he had the Player of the Year (in Blake Griffin), and then obviously he didn’t have the commitment that I have here.”

So the problem wasn’t Capel, it was OU’s commitment. Got it. Thanks for clearing that up, K.

**UPDATE: Gary Parrish was on Geoff Calkins this morning and reiterated that Capel is almost (but not quite) 100% certain to end up as the next ASU coach.

If Capel lands at ASU, and no other P5 jobs open up – it’s possible that the carousel slows down next week. I wouldn’t count on it though. The season isn’t over yet. We still have to wait for Kentucky’s season to end and the annual John-Calipari-to-the-NBA mini-series produced and directed by John Calipari (and World Wide Wes). So we could just be getting started on this year’s carousel.

Hold on to your horses.