It is true that patience as an athletic director in college basketball is important… unless in the situations when it isn’t.
Yes, at the mid-major level, where the resources aren’t as significant, patience is badly needed. One can’t expect instant results at smaller schools.
At Southern high-major basketball programs, where success has been historically elusive and gaining traction is extremely hard to do, patience pays off. Clemson was patient with Brad Brownell and got a Sweet 16 last year. Ole Miss was patient with Andy Kennedy and made the round of 32 in 2013. Various schools notched some meaningful achievements because they stuck it out with coaches, even if those coaches didn’t continue to build on those feats. It is simply hard to win at Clemson, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and other places in the South. Mississippi State’s patience with Ben Howland was rewarded this year with an NCAA Tournament berth. Howland, believe it or not, can still coach, but MSU needed to be patient with him to get that result this season.
Patience pays… but it’s not always the right stance.
I always say this about coaches in college football and college basketball: An athletic director should pull the trigger on a coach firing if s/he sees substantial evidence that a coach won’t meaningfully improve or transform an unsatisfactory situation. If it’s clear that a given coach simply isn’t going to work out, it’s time to move on.
Alabama recognized this with Avery Johnson, whose teams continued to bear a remarkable resemblance to the Anthony Grant teams which also lived on the bubble all the time and usually missed the NCAA Tournament.
Arkansas recognized this by finally firing Mike Anderson.
Nebraska got seven years of Tim Miles, one NCAA Tournament, and no NCAA wins. It was time for a change, even though I personally felt Miles deserved one more year. If Fred Hoiberg is ready to go in Lincoln, that’s a good coaching change.
I totally disagree with Vanderbilt firing Bryce Drew, and if Vanderbilt hires John Thompson III, it would be a terrible exchange of coaches. However: At least Vanderbilt is being aspirational. The firing is NUTS, but I at least see a desire to win big. I can acknowledge that in Nashville.
Texas A&M very plainly wants to make the Final Four. You don’t fire Billy Kennedy — who made TWO Sweet 16s in a three-year period from 2016 through 2018 — unless you want to make Final Fours. If you have Buzz Williams lined up, then that is certainly an upgrade.
Even in the Pac-12, athletic directors seem to realize their programs can’t continue to endlessly drift. Washington State, California, and of course UCLA insisted on fresh starts, Cal after only two years with Wyking Jones. Good. The Pac-12 needs to upgrade the quality of its coaches, and this carousel shows ADs in the conference are serious about that.
Next season, three more Pac-12 coaches are in “win now or else” mode: Andy Enfield of USC, Larry Krystkowiak of Utah, and Jerod Haase of Stanford.
Enfield needs to get a high seed in the NCAA Tournament — at least a 5 seed if not higher — with the talent he has on board. If he gets something like an 8 seed and is clobbered in the round of 32, with that kind of recruiting class (assuming there are no big injuries during the season), it will tell me he is not the man to lead the program to a higher level.
Krystkowiak simply has to make the NCAA Tournament next season. He is getting paid WAY too much money to drift along since 2016 without an NCAA berth. He doesn’t have to get a high seed, but he DOES have to make the field. Porter Moser makes far too much sense in Salt Lake City, and if other openings emerge in 2020, Utah would need to act quickly to get the Rick Majerus protege on board. Krystkowiak should be coaching for his job next season.
Finally, Jerod Haase has been a huge disappointment at Stanford. Roy Williams mentored him, but that doesn’t mean Haase should get a long leash — not with the terrible results he has posted in Palo Alto. Stanford won NIT championships under Johnny Dawkins, and that was a disappointment… and Haase isn’t even rising to that low bar of achievement. If Stanford doesn’t at least become a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament next season, there would seem to be little point in keeping him on.
Three Pac-12 athletic directors saw the need for change this year. I don’t know if Utah’s AD would be willing to fire Krystkowiak, but I think there is enough internal pressure at USC and Stanford to force changes if next season does not deliver reasonably strong results.
Patience has its place as a virtue, but it isn’t always a virtue in collegiate athletics.
The SEC has become as ruthless in basketball as it is and has been in football. That’s a good thing. In the Pac-12, ADs aren’t sitting on their hands, either.
The SEC’s coaching upgrades are a central reason why that conference has become so much stronger in recent years. The Pac-12 seems to be getting the message.
More athletic directors need to pay attention, but for now, the point seems to be sinking in at more high-major programs across the country: Patience doesn’t always pay off. It is okay to act if you know a situation will remain stagnant. Life is too short to accept endless drift.
You get my drift? Good.
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