Riding the carousel: Rating college basketball coaching hires

by | CBSSports.com College Basketball Insider
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Dan Hurley (left) and brother Bobby are headed to Rhode Island. (US Presswire)  
Dan Hurley (left) and brother Bobby are headed to Rhode Island. (US Presswire)  

There have been more than 50 college basketball coaching changes in each of the past two years. This year, with the coaching carousel winding down, there have been 43 moves made at the top in the D-1 ranks -- with only three (Binghamton, Brown and Morehead State) still searching for a new coach.

More on coaching hires

In the past, I've done coaching grades on every hire. But honestly, it's too difficult to do at some of the smaller schools -- and I'm still recovering from the B-minus I gave Shaka Smart when he was hired at Virginia Commonwealth (my bad, Shaka).

But I will break down notable hires from the 2012 College Hoops Coaching Carousel:

Best hires

1. Frank Martin, South Carolina: Martin and his former athletic director, John Currie at Kansas State, have taken the high road -- but everyone knows they didn't see eye-to-eye and that was a major factor in Martin leaving Manhattan for Columbia. Martin led K-State to four NCAA tournament appearances in five years and is a huge coup for the Gamecocks -- who will likely be relevant again after bringing The Stare to South Carolina.

2. Dan Hurley, Rhode Island: I tweeted Hurley's name within seconds of Jim Baron's firing as the guy athletic director Thorr Bjorn should hire -- and that's exactly what happened. Bjorn must be an avid reader of CBSSports.com. Hurley brought his brother Bobby with him to Kingston. While it may take a little while to rebuild, the Hurley Brothers will get things going again.

3. Pat Kelsey, Winthrop: No one fully knows why Kelsey left the business a little more than a year ago, but watching his mentor Skip Prosser die in front of him certainly played a role. Kelsey is a rising star -- and Winthrop has a track record of winning back in the Gregg Marshall regime. Look for Kelsey, a former Wake Forest and Xavier assistant, to utilize his high-energy, intense approach to get this program back on track.

Thinking outside the box

1. Rick Ray, Mississippi State: No one saw this coming. No one. Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin was looking for someone who could change the culture in Starkville -- and he has found it with the somewhat anonymous former Clemson and Purdue assistant.

2. James Johnson, Virginia Tech: There was a line of coaches -- head coaches -- trying to get in the mix to replace Seth Greenberg. But at the end of the day, athletic director Jim Weaver brought back former Greenberg assistant James Johnson -- who had left a couple weeks earlier for a lateral position at Clemson.

3. Jerod Haase, UAB: This one had me scratching my head at first, too. However, Haase is smart, can coach and will work. I know UAB may seem to be outside of his comfort zone, but Haase will certainly bring stability to a program that needs it.

The no-brainers

1. Johnny Jones, LSU: He was passed over in favor of Trent Johnson four years ago -- and we all saw how that worked out. Jones is one of LSU's own -- and that matters in Baton Rouge. He was on the 1981 Final Four team and was an assistant under Dale Brown for more than a decade. He also happened to do a pretty good job at North Texas, leading the Mean Green to five seasons of 20-plus wins in the past six years.

2. Dan Muller, Illinois State: He was a heck of a player back in the day for the Redbirds and waited his turn as an assistant at Vanderbilt, where he happened to recruit Jeffery Taylor, Festus Ezeli and John Jenkins. Muller was the easy pick for athletic director Gary Friedman.

3. Wes Miller, NC-Greensboro: Was elevated in the middle of the season after Mike Dement was fired and did a terrific job. Sure, he's only 29 -- but Miller will be a star. He has terrific pedigree and was born to coach. The team was 2-8 when he took over. Miller went 11-11 as the interim guy and led the program to its first outright SoCon North Division title. I promise you he won't be at UNCG for long.

Not sold ... yet

Larry Brown, SMU: Athletic director Steve Orsini wanted a big name. He swung and missed at several -- including Buzz Williams. He certainly landed a high-profile guy in Brown, who has a national title and an NBA crown on his lengthy list of credits. However, Brown is 71 and hasn't coached in college since winning the title at Kansas in 1988. Brown inherited virtually no talent from the Matt Doherty Era, his program is headed to the Big East and Dallas is a pro sports town that could not care less about SMU hoops. The one bright spot for Brown has been his staff, which has a coach-in-waiting in Tim Jankovich and two young assistants in Ulric Maligi and Jerrance Howard who will be able to recruit.

The time was right

I was one of the few who advocated the hiring of Isiah Thomas at Florida International for no other reason than the fact that Zeke made FIU relevant. However, April 14, 2009 -- the day he was hired -- was about the only day that anyone cared about Florida International. Thomas flopped to the tune of a 26-65 mark in his three years before athletic director Pete Garcia had seen enough and whacked the Hall of Famer. Garcia then went out and replaced Thomas with Rick Pitino's kid, Richard.

No one has more juice

A few years ago, Rick Pitino was the master of getting his assistants head coaching positions. This past offseason, Bill Self had no peer in that department. Self assistant Danny Manning got the Tulsa job, director of basketball operations Barry Hinson landed at Southern Illinois -- and Kansas' head coach was critical in helping persuade SMU that it should give ex-Kansas coach Larry Brown another opportunity. Now we'll see if Self can get Joe Dooley and Kurtis Townsend into their own programs next offseason.

Smartest move

Illinois State coach Tim Jankovich's decision to leave his post with the Redbirds and take a coach-in-waiting spot with Brown and SMU. Jankovich will nearly double his pay and has a Big East head coaching job waiting for him, whether it be in a year, two or three. I can't imagine Brown is going to stick around for more than three and Jankovich didn't have the ultimo job security at Illinois State, despite having a strong team back for the upcoming season. He was 104-64 in his five seasons at the school, but needed to get to the NCAA tournament to ensure he stuck around a while longer.

Ahead of the posse

This award is shared by Trent Johnson and Jim Christian. Johnson's hire down at LSU didn't make a lot of sense when he was brought to Baton Rouge in 2008 -- and four years later, he and his 67-62 overall mark bolted for TCU. Christian was the one who created the opportunity for Johnson at TCU when he left for Ohio University. Christian was 56-73 in four seasons with the Horned Frogs -- but he realized with the school heading into the Big 12, he would be on borrowed time and thus took a mid-major program poised to contend for another NCAA tourney berth this season.

Unwarranted change

Duquesne is not an easy job. To put it into perspective, before Ron Everhart's arrival in 2006, the Dukes finished with at least a .500 mark only twice in the previous 25 seasons. Everhart was 99-89 in his six seasons at the school. Listen, I'm not going to pretend it was a complete outrage like one of my colleagues, but it probably wasn't justified. Except that Everhart didn't mesh well with athletic director Greg Amodio and then three players -- including star guard T.J. McConnell (who wound up choosing Arizona) -- opted to transfer following the season. Amodio replaced Everhart, who has a track record of rebuilding jobs, with LIU-Brooklyn's Jim Ferry and time will tell how this move works out for the Dukes.

Most fortunate

Doug Wojcik, College of Charleston: Wojcik was fired by Tulsa on March 12, but was unemployed for a grand total of 19 days. It's not as if Wojcik had to settle, either. He landed the plum College of Charleston gig, replacing Bobby Cremins. Wojcik was 140-92 in seven seasons at Tulsa, but was never able to take the Golden Hurricanes to the NCAA tournament -- which ultimately cost him his job. However, don't feel sorry for Wojcik -- who got another one of the elite mid-major jobs and now resides in beautiful Charleston, S.C.

Keeping it in the family

Seven hires were in-house -- Air Force (Dave Pilopovich), St. Francis (Rob Krimmel), Tennessee State (Travis Williams), LIU-Brooklyn (Jack Perri), UNC Greensboro (Wes Miller), Wagner (Bashir Mason), Western Kentucky (Ray Harper). But no one kept it in the family quite like St. Francis (Pa.) athletic director Bob Krimmel, who wound up his hiring his son, Rob, only hours after firing Don Friday. The younger Krimmel played at the school and had been an assistant for a dozen years, but didn't have any head coaching experience and the program hadn't exactly lit the world on fire in his tenure. In fact, the Red Flash were 107-235.

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