Senior Writer

Top 5 coaches on the hot seat


Too often coaches live in denial.

But not Pat Knight.

With a 33-33 record, Red Raiders coach Pat Knight has to do better than mediocre. (Getty Images)  
With a 33-33 record, Red Raiders coach Pat Knight has to do better than mediocre. (Getty Images)  
"To me this is either a get-an-extension or a get-fired type of year," Knight said at Big 12 Media Day last week, which means he might be the first coach in Division I history to publicly place himself on the hot seat. That he was willing to do it so candidly before the start of his third season at Texas Tech was refreshing.

"I didn't get into this to lose or be mediocre," Knight said. "We've got to get this team to the NCAA tournament. We have six seniors. We were bad the first year, pretty good last year. Now it's time to be good. ... I want people to know I understand the situation."

And I want people to know I love this because, like I said, too often coaches live in denial and ignore reality in the spirit of peace of mind. They always trick themselves into thinking they have "at least two more years" even when they're clearly entering a win-or-get-fired season. They take issue with the term "hot seat" and swear they're not really on it. Then they lose 18 games, get fired and spend the next decade insisting they'd have turned it around if they'd had just one more year.

It's all as predictable as Brett Favre and his post-game limp.

So hats off to Pat Knight for being a truth-teller, and I hope his rewards are a 25-win season and that contract extension. But for now, the son of Bob Knight will usher in's list of coaches on the hot seat. Knowing he won't argue makes things much less awkward than normal.

Coaches on the hot seat
Pat Knight, Texas Tech
In most cases, new hires have to prove they aren't worthy of their position before they're at risk of losing it. But when a father passes his job to his son -- like Bob Knight did to Pat Knight, like Eddie Sutton did to Sean Sutton -- that son is burdened with having to prove he's capable in order to keep the job, and it usually has to happen pretty quickly. Remember, Sean Sutton lasted just two years at Oklahoma State. Even Knight isn't sure he'll get four unless there's significant improvement this season.
Sidney Lowe, North Carolina State
Lowe is on this list for a second straight preseason, and it's fair to suggest he's in much more of a make-the-NCAA-tournament-or-be-gone scenario than Knight. The N.C. State alumnus hasn't finished better than ninth in the ACC in four seasons, but he's now got the roster -- highlighted by Tracy Smith and freshman C.J. Leslie -- to break through. So he must. Or else.
John Beilein, Michigan
Beilein is a great basketball mind, but that alone isn't enough to get it done in the Big Ten. In three seasons at Michigan, he's never finished better than seventh, and the Wolverines could finish last in the league this season, which would mean four straight seasons of finishing in the bottom half of the Big Ten. It's worth noting Tommy Amaker was moved when he did as much for three consecutive seasons at Michigan. So this really could be it for Beilein if the Wolverines finish where most are predicting.
Doc Sadler, Nebraska
Sadler is a good basketball coach and helluva guy. But he's got a hard job, and he's spent four years compiling a 23-41 record in Big 12 games without ever making a serious run at the NCAA tournament. In fairness, no Nebraska coach has made the NCAA tournament since Danny Nee led the Huskers there in 1998. So, again, this is a hard job. But at some point the school will make a change simply for the sake of change, and that point could come after this season if the Huskers finish in the bottom third of the Big 12 for the fourth time in five years.
Karl Hobbs, George Washington
Hobbs' Wikipedia page features this sentence in the introduction: "He has won two Atlantic 10 Conference championships, and has led the Colonials to three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances." Clearly, the page needs an update because the last of those three consecutive tournament appearances came in 2007, and Hobbs hasn't won an A-10 title since 2006. The latest notable streak is that George Washington has finished 10th or worse in the A-10 for three straight seasons. Make it a fourth, and a change is probably necessary.

2010-11 Season Preview/Conference Countdown Schedule
Fri., Oct. 15Preseason Top 25 (and one) Fri., Oct. 29Conference No. 6: Pac-10
Mon., Oct. 18Preseason All-Americans Mon., Nov. 1Conference No. 5: SEC
Wed., Oct. 20Player rankings: Points/Combos Tues., Nov. 2Conference No. 4: ACC
Thurs., Oct. 21Player rankings: Wings Wed., Nov. 3Conference No. 3: Big East
Fri., Oct. 22Player rankings: Big men Thurs., Nov. 4Conference No. 2: Big 12
Mon., Oct. 25Coaches on the Hot Seat Fri., Nov. 5Conference No. 1: Big Ten
Wed., Oct. 27Best of the non-BCS Mon., Nov. 8Projections: Parrish | Palm

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.

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