College Basketball Insider

Which coaches are on the hot seat?

Travis Ford(USATSI)
Could time be running out on Travis Ford at Oklahoma State? (USATSI)

March is less than two weeks away, which means some college coaches are in their final weeks of gainful employment at their current institutions. I take no joy in that, by the way; there's nothing cool about people getting fired.

But, as every coach will tell you, this is part of the business, which makes it a reasonable thing to discuss. So let's discuss it, shall we?

I, with the help of Jeff Borzello and Matt Norlander, came up with a list of 15 coaches whose futures are uncertain for a variety of reasons, and we detailed their situations below while discussing whether they will or will not get another season. Beyond that, we also recorded a new Eye on College Basketball podcast dedicated to the "Hot Seat" conversation. So make sure to check that out, too. Now dive in ...

Fifteen coaches on the Hot Seat

(Listed in alphabetical order)

Tony Barbee (USATSI)

Tony Barbee | Auburn

History: 47-70 in 4th season at Auburn, 0 NCAA tourney appearances

This season: 12-12

Why he is on the hot seat: Barbee hasn't finished above .500 since arriving at Auburn, although the Tigers are 12-12 this season. Under Barbee, Auburn has never been better than next-to-last in the SEC, and is only one game out of the basement yet again. They have won four of six, but things don't look good.

Will he survive it? No. Barbee could have been fired at the end of last season, but the Tigers gave him another year to try to turn things around. That's not happening, and Barbee is just 16-46 in the SEC with the Tigers. He does have three more years on his deal, but the school has enough money to buy him out.

-- Jeff Borzello

Ken Bone

Ken Bone | Washington State

History: 79-81 in 5th season at Washington State, 0 NCAA tourney appearances

This season: 9-16

Why he is on the hot seat: There is no buzz around the program and Washington State is a national afterthought. Bone took Portland State to two straight NCAA tournaments before heading to Washington State, but Cougars fans are stir-crazy for an inspiring hire. Bone's on pace to have his worst season since taking the gig in 2009.

Will he survive it? No. Despite Wazzu being one of the toughest major-conference jobs in the country, if you aren't able to make an NCAA tourney during a stretch where the Pac-10/12 endures a down era, it's hard to survive. Bone hasn't been able to get Washington State to the NCAA tournament since he arrived and hasn't recruited one NBA Draft pick, either. (Klay Thompson arrived before Bone in Pullman.)

-- Matt Norlander

Brad Brownell

Brad Brownell | Clemson

History: 67-54 in 4th season at Clemson, 1 NCAA tourney appearance

This season: 16-9

Why he is on the hot seat: Expectations were low entering the season and many expected Brownell's team to flame out in the ACC. That has not been the case. Some still wonder if making the NCAA tournament is necessary.

Will he survive it? Too close to call, but it's likely he'll be coaching the Tigers next season. Brownell's team has statistically been allowing the fewest points per game for almost the entire year. The NCAA tourney is a possibility and K.J. McDaniels has a claim to make the ACC's first team. A collapse -- which is possible; Clemson's offense is not inspiring -- could be trouble, but at this pace it looks like he'll hold on.

-- Matt Norlander

Jeff Bzdelik (USATSI)

Jeff Bzdelik | Wake Forest

History: 48-72 in 4th season at Wake Forest, 0 NCAA tourney appearances

This season: 14-12

Why he is on the hot seat: The hiring of Bzdelik was criticized by most when it happened because athletic director Ron Wellman fired a coach (Dino Gaudio) who had just made two straight NCAA tournaments to hire a coach who had just lost more games than he won for three straight seasons at Colorado. If you're gonna do that, it better work. And this, quite simply, has not worked.

Will he survive it? Almost certainly not. Bzdelik is about to miss the NCAA tournament and finish near the bottom of the ACC for the fourth straight season, and I can't imagine Wellman, despite their friendship, giving him another season. The fans would probably riot. And I'm confident Wake Forest doesn't want any riots.

-- Gary Parrish

Johnny Dawkins

Johnny Dawkins | Stanford

History: 117-80 in 6th season at Stanford, 0 NCAA tourney appearances

This season: 16-8

Why he is on the hot seat: I think some have forgotten that Stanford went to 13 NCAA tournaments in a span of 14 seasons under Mike Montgomery and Trent Johnson, but it's true. This used to be one of college basketball's consistently good programs. Now it's not.

Will he survive it? Only if Stanford makes the NCAA tournament, which is very much up in the air. Fair or not, a program like Stanford won't keep a coach who misses the Field of 68 for six straight seasons. So Dawkins at least knows what he's up against.

-- Gary Parrish

James Dickey (USATSI)

James Dickey | Houston

History: 59-59 in 4th season at Houston, 0 NCAA tourney appearances

This season: 12-13

Why he is on the hot seat: Houston is a once-proud program that has only made once NCAA tournament since 1992. That came in 2010, the year before Dickey took over. He has now lost his top recruiter, and despite boasting one of the better rosters in the American Athletic Conference, the team's record isn't showing it. If Houston can't win 20 games this season, when will it under Dickey?

Will he survive it? Afraid not. The American is also looking like a two-class conference, and Houston can't afford to be an afterthought with so much local talent and a chance to make waves for the first time in years. Dickey has not been able to coach any of his teams to be upper echelon on offense or defense, and without a big year this season, it seems likely the job will come open.

-- Matt Norlander

Steve Donahue

Steve Donahue | Boston College

History: 53-71 in 4th season at Boston College, 0 NCAA tourney appearances

This season: 7-19

Why he is on the hot seat: Donahue made the NIT in his first season with the Eagles, but hasn't done much since. The Eagles are one of the worst power-conference teams in the country, beating just one Division I team since November before the win at Syracuse. They have been a massive disappointment, given the optimism entering the season.

Will he survive it? No. Donahue seemed to have things trending upward entering the year, improving by seven wins last season and bringing back two all-conference players. Instead, Boston College has been awful -- despite what Wednesday's upset of Syracuse might suggest -- and new athletic director Brad Bates (hired in 2012) will likely look for someone new. Donahue could end up back at Cornell.

-- Jeff Borzello

Travis Ford (USATSI)

Travis Ford | Oklahoma State

History: 120-73 in 6th season at Oklahoma State, 3 NCAA tourney appearances

This season: 16-10

Why he is on the hot seat: Ford has missed the NCAA tournament in two of the past three seasons, and suddenly he's on the verge of missing it again even though his Cowboys were ranked eighth in the preseason AP poll. He has had off-the-court problems and on-the-court problems, and some of the off-the-court problems have contributed to on-the-court problems. If he doesn't get things turned around in the coming weeks, the number of fans yelling for Ford to be replaced will grow.

Will he survive it? Ultimately, I think so, yes ... but that's mostly because I believe Marcus Smart will return from this suspension and help get the Cowboys into the NCAA tournament, at which point they'll be a threat to advance. That said, don't ever forget, Oklahoma State had a quick trigger on Sean Sutton, meaning the school has pulled a plug abruptly before.

-- Gary Parrish

Mark Fox

Mark Fox | Georgia

History: 79-74 in 5th season at Georgia, 1 NCAA tourney appearance

This season: 14-11

Why he is on the hot seat: You're pretty much guaranteed to be on the hot seat when you only make one NCAA tournament in five seasons at a major-conference school. The recruiting hasn't been terrific and Georgia has been emblematic of the weak SEC since he arrived.

Will he survive it? You know, he very well might. Fox's team is 8-5 in the (average) SEC, sitting in third place. The group's outperforming expectations. The question will become, Should you keep a coach that does better in a possible final year than you'd expect? Can Fox be the answer going forward, or will this only delay the inevitable? Some believe Georgia, which has never been a power in college basketball, would be better to try and stay the course.

-- Matt Norlander

Anthony Grant

Anthony Grant | Alabama

History: 96-67 in 5th season at Alabama, 1 NCAA tourney appearances

This season: 10-15

Why he is on the hot seat: Grant has led Alabama to just one NCAA tournament in his five seasons in Tuscaloosa, and the Crimson Tide aren't getting there this season. They have been a disappointment in the SEC this season, despite having one of the league's best players in Trevor Releford.

Will he survive it? Yes. His contract runs through 2019 and despite the lack of tournament appearances, he's won at least 20 games three times. Grant only loses Releford and does have some talent coming into the program next season.

-- Jeff Borzello

Stan Heath

Stan Heath | South Florida

History: 97-124 in 7th season at USF, 1 NCAA tourney appearances

This season: 12-15

Why he is on the hot seat: Heath has made just three NCAA tournaments in his past 11 seasons (at Arkansas and USF), and he's about to miss the Field of 68 for the sixth time in seven years at USF. Even worse, the Bulls have, to date, gone 6-26 in league play the past two seasons, meaning that NCAA tournament in 2012 seems like forever ago now.

Will he survive it? It doesn't look like it. Things are bad, and there's no tangible reason to think they'll get better. If that's the case, what is the point of prolonging the inevitable? That's the question USF fans are asking. And, honestly, I don't have a good answer for them.

-- Gary Parrish

James Johnson (USATSI)

James Johnson | Virginia Tech

History: 22-35 in 2nd season at Virginia Tech, 0 NCAA tourney appearances

This season: 9-16

Why he is on the hot seat: Johnson was a longtime assistant under Seth Greenberg, and was then tapped to replace him when Greenberg was fired. He has really struggled as a first-time head coach, finishing in last place a year ago, and headed toward the cellar again this season. While Greenberg struggled to make the tournament, he still won games -- Johnson isn't cutting it so far.

Will he survive it? No. It has only been two seasons, but Johnson doesn't seem to be turning it around anytime soon. There's not enough ACC talent on the roster, and Virginia Tech needs to improve. Greenberg showed you can win in Blacksburg. New AD Whit Babcock could make a change.

-- Jeff Borzello

Cuonzo Martin

Cuonzo Martin | Tennessee

History: 55-38 in 3rd season at Tennessee, 0 NCAA tourney appearances

This season: 16-10

Why he is on the hot seat: When you follow a popular and successful coach like Bruce Pearl, and don't immediately win big, the hot seat is never far away. Martin probably understands that now regardless of whether he understood it when he took the job. If Martin doesn't make the NCAA tournament, that'll be three straight years of misses, and it won't sit well with the UT fans who watched Pearl use a fun style to make six NCAA tournaments in the six seasons before he was fired during an NCAA investigation.

Will he survive it? Probably, yes. But the Tennessee fans aren't going to stop screaming for Pearl to return unless the Vols finish strong, and, even then, they still might not stop screaming for Pearl, which is obviously no fun for Martin, who finds himself in what could reasonably be described as an impossible situation because Pearl's shadow still looms large.

-- Gary Parrish

Oliver Purnell (USATSI)

Oliver Purnell | DePaul

History: 40-80 in 4th season at DePaul, 0 NCAA tourney appearances

This season: 10-16

Why he is on the hot seat: Purnell is known for always getting out of a job before he feels any heat, not getting fired at any of his previous stops. But he's making a lot of money, and not showing any improvement. The Blue Demons haven't won more than 12 games in a season under Purnell, finishing in last place every season.

Will he survive it? No. It's not easy to win at DePaul, but Purnell hasn't given the program any reason to be optimistic. There have been decent individual pieces, but the team loses multiple seniors and doesn't bring in any recruits who will turn it around. He's making nearly two million dollars a year, which is too much for a coach that isn't winning.

-- Jeff Borzello

Craig Robinson

Craig Robinson | Oregon State

History: 91-100 in 6th season at Oregon State, 0 NCAA tourney appearances

This season: 13-11

Why he is on the hot seat: Beavers fans have been frustrated with the Robinson era for years now. It's another season where the team got to January without much hope for another NCAA tournament bid. OSU has never finished above 90th in KenPom.com at the end of a season since he arrived.

Will he survive it? There's a theory that he will because of the connection to Barack Obama, though obviously no one in position to comment at Oregon State is going to lend credence to that theory. Robinson is the brother of Michelle Obama, and that circumstance has been very good for Robinson's career and the OSU basketball brand (if not the won-loss column). It's not the only reason, but at this point anyone saying Robinson will definitely be gone at season's end is guessing in the dark.

-- Matt Norlander

 
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