While most of the national attention in college basketball's closing weeks will focus on the teams headed towards the NCAA Tournament and a potential title, these next six weeks also hold a great deal of meaning to some coaches who are fighting to keep their heads above water. With the majority of conference play still to come, some coaches are in desperate need of a reversal of fortune from their teams, lest their seat get a bit warm this March:
It has been a rough ride for Hewitt at Georgia Tech, as his brand of basketball has never truly caught on with the Yellow Jacket faithful. This is his 11<sup>th</sup> season in Atlanta and in some respects, his time can be considered a success. He has finished in the top five of the ACC in 5 of his 10 seasons, has made it to the NCAA Tournament in 5 of 10 seasons and has reached 20 wins in 5 of 10 seasons. But then there is the other half of his tenure, four years in which the team ended with an overall losing record and a 2009, 2-14 ACC campaign that was seen as an almost-certain job killer. More significantly, the momentum is decidedly negative, as Hewitt's last five seasons have been much worse than his first five. His record is only 80-76 during that time frame, and this season seems to be on the same path, with Georgia Tech currently 9-8. For the Tech faithful, the question of how much mediocrity can be accepted is prevalent and there is a sense that in this weakest ACC in recent memory, without a strong finish by Hewitt's team, coupled with a NCAA Tournament bid, it could be time for a change. Plus, it is no secret that many around the program would like to call Tubby Smith and see if he can be moved from frigid Minnesota back to Georgia, thus putting Hewitt on decidedly borrowed time.
It’s never easy to be the poor sap with the unfortunate task of replacing a legend. But when that legend is your father and you are seen by many as the awkward son who simply got the job due to the name on the back of the sweater, well it is even more difficult. After experiencing some success under Bob Knight, the Texas Tech faithful want excitement around their basketball program and currently the son is adding none. After three mediocre seasons in Lubbock, the pressure was on to perform this year and the Red Raiders have quickly taken a step backwards. A surprisingly deep non-conference schedule did no favors, but the start of Big 12 play has brought disaster. Texas Tech is 0-4 and three of the losses have been of the beatdown variety. Sitting at 8-11 and with a fan base so desperate that they are starting Facebook groups to bring in Billy Gillispie, Knight needs a miraculous turnaround in the last 12 games to have any chance of a return to his father’s retirement community.
No program's fans are more delusional about their place in the college basketball hierarchy than the Wolfpack faithful in Raleigh. Nestled in between the monster programs in Chapel Hill and Durham, NC State fans legitimately believe they should be competitive with UNC and Duke, and make the basketball triangle actually have an upright third side. However a lack of tradition (at least in comparison to its local rivals), on-campus facilities and name brand appeal make State the ultimate little brother and with fans that refuse to accept that reality, being the head of the Pack is a recipe for coaching stress. The faithful were never happy with Coach Herb Sendek, who was cursed by only being able to bring moderate ACC and NCAA Tournament success and overall consistent competitiveness. So they sent Herb packing to Tempe and brought in Sidney Lowe, a native son who was supposed to return the program to its Valvano glory days. What has happened instead is four straight years of finishing 9<sup>th</sup> or worse in the ACC and no NCAA Tournament appearances. Lowe has improved recruiting but downgraded performance, while the fans still bizarrely engage in Sendek debates as their program falls farther from its past glory. NC State stands 11-7 and is still theoretically in contention for an NCAA berth, but if Lowe is not able to make it happen in year five, there may not be a year six.
We should all be so lucky as to have the benefit of the doubt given to Tom Crean. After taking over an Indiana program that was left in wreckage by Kelvin Sampson, Crean promised to restore the Hoosier nation to past glory and “win the right way.” While no one would question Crean’s ability to do things the right way, he seems to have forgotten the whole winning part of the equation. As of today, Crean’s total Indiana record is 26-55 and to the naked eye, little has changed. Crean’s initial teams lacked talent and were unable to win any games against quality opponents, and this year’s team has followed the same pattern, currently sitting at 10-9 and 1-5 in the Big Ten. There has been slight improvement in terms of avoiding embarrassing losses to small conference minnows, but is this not Indiana basketball? Should we not expect more than avoiding another year of losses to low-major Boston U and Loyola (MD)? If the Hoosiers continue their downward slide (and with 8 of the last 12 games against ranked teams, one can’t be too optimistic), one would think that some heat has to finally hit Crean. It is hard to forsee Crean losing his job this year as most in the Indiana community haven't yet started whispering of a coaching change. Even so, while it is true that Crean has already recruited a stellar class of top recruits in the Class of 2012, one has to begin to wonder. If the performance on the court continues to be this poor, can Hoosier nation justify keeping him around long enough to actually see them in uniform?