Blog Entry

Four coaches who need strong finishes

Posted on: January 21, 2011 3:07 pm
Edited on: January 21, 2011 5:02 pm
Posted by MATT JONES

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:

Paul Hewitt

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.

Pat Knight

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.

Sidney Lowe

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.

Tom Crean

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?


Since: Sep 18, 2008
Posted on: January 22, 2011 3:34 pm

Four coaches who need strong finishes

Knight, Lowe, and Hewitt are legitimately on the Hot Seat. But Crean should not be...just yet. I get it. It's Indiana and it's been too long. But Kelvin Sampson practically burned that program down to the ground. Tom Crean is a very good coach with a dream cast arriving next season. If there isn't a marked improvement in 2011-12, then cutting him loose should absolutely be a consideration. But they should wait until that time.

Since: Nov 3, 2007
Posted on: January 22, 2011 2:17 pm

Four coaches who need strong finishes

Well doctorofed,  using the term "UNC-CH" is a feeble attempt to belittle Carolina the only way NC State has the muscle to, just remember, NCSU = UNC-R.  

Since: Jan 2, 2007
Posted on: January 22, 2011 2:04 pm

Four coaches who need strong finishes

cmball, your post is embarrassing to read.  The fact that you want to hang your hat on things that happened before the NCAA changed the Tournament to 64 teams is sad.  (Hell, most it happened before the National Championship was even braodcast on television!)

Yes, David Thompson may have been one of the greatest players in the history of NCAA men's basketball.  He was also a junkie who ruined a promising career by not knowing when to his crap together and fly straight.  He had the potential to be Michael Jordan before Michael Jordan even existed as a ball player.  Damn shame he wasted it.  The only thing that separates him from Len Bias is Bias died and didn't get to the NBA.

The San Francisco Dons and the Cincinnati Bearcats won two National Championships, too.  But just like NC State, they don't mean a thing on the national stage right now.  Cincinnati is getting back into the spotlight and it probably ain't ever getting back on the city by the Bay.  When boosters from NC State started grumbling that they could do better than Herb Sendek, they sentenced this program to medicority for the follwing decade.  Sendek was an excellent coach who was crippled in recruiting because he was in the backyards of Duke & UNC and always placed third on the recruiting trail.  Just admit that even Jim Valvano couldn't help this program get back on its feet right now and a change is in order.  NC State plays irrelevant basketball right now and means about as much to the college scene as the San Francisco Dons do.

Since: Aug 31, 2006
Posted on: January 22, 2011 1:02 pm

Four coaches who need strong finishes

"Perhaps you should do your homework"

Hooey.  Perhaps you should wake up, Mr. Van Winkle.  None of the glory you mention occurred during the lifetimes of any current recruits.  No one cares that San Francisco won national championships either.  Cincinnati is a better comparison, and they have had much more recent success than NC State.  Valvano (RIP) is gone, and isn't walking through that door.  Once NC State gets rid of Sidney, they are going to have to take a flyer on an up and coming coach, wait 5 years, and hope.  I hope State finds the next Tony Bennett instead of the next Jeff Bzdelic.

Since: Jan 22, 2011
Posted on: January 22, 2011 10:21 am

Four coaches who need strong finishes

The only part I agree with is the title.  Even by including the records of Les Robinson (78-98), Herb Sendek (191-132), and Sidney Lowe (71-62), NC State owns the 24th most wins in college basketball history at 1503 and the 26th highest winning percentage at 62.7%.  Under Case Everrett, we STARTED the ACC (the premier conference in college basketball historically).  State has won TWO National Championships (1 of only 14 teams to do so; and tied with the likes of Michigan State, Louisville, Florida, and Connecticut), three Final Fours, and six Elite Eights to go along with 17 conference tournament championships (ACC champion is determined by the tournament and we have 11 of those), and were named conference regular season champions 7 times.  With all that, we can honestly say we have that we had the greatest ACC basketball player of all time and arguably the best to ever step on a college court.

    So that it is not just an NC State perspective here, I'm adding an article written by the official website for Duke basketball to shed some light on the history and rivalry of those two programs:


   Perhaps you should do your homework before posting such drivel, Mr. Jones.  It just goes to show the lack of originality and desire to write factually-based, honest articles.

Since: Jun 17, 2007
Posted on: January 22, 2011 4:09 am

Four coaches who need strong finishes

In 2004, GT won in spite of Hewitt.  They went to the finals on the backs of star players (namely Jarrett Jack & Will Bynum), but they had a good all around cast.  Bynum, Jack and even Moore and Schenscher were really hitting on all cylinders as they marched through the field.  Hewitt is a class act (I agree), but his brand of basketball is sloppy, fast-paced and turnover-laden.  The teams he has coached are typically loaded with studs, because he is a really fine recruiter, but he doesn't develop their game, he just lets them run around like playground kids until they go to the NBA.  GT will NEVER win a championship playing that brand of basketball - class act or not, family man or not, his coaching days in Atlanta need to end this year.

Since: Feb 12, 2010
Posted on: January 22, 2011 2:12 am

Four coaches who need strong finishes

You forgot Norm Roberts. Oh, that's right -- he finally got fired. Thank God!

Since: Sep 5, 2006
Posted on: January 22, 2011 12:39 am

Four coaches who need strong finishes

Crean isn't on the hot seat. He has two strong recruiting classes coming in that will return Indiana 
to their expected spot to the upper echelon of the Big 10. The obvious reason that Indiana isn't winning is because they lack players, but that problem is about to end.

Nothing needs to be added to how Jones describes Tech Texas basketball under Pat Knight. There is no way he can survive.

State is going nowhere under Lowe and it is time for a change in Raleigh, although I'm not sure who can make a big difference there.

Hewitt is obviously not going to get it done at Tech, but his buyout is so big (an estimated $6 million) that the decision makers in Atlanta are going to have a hard time letting him go, despite the fact that Yellow Jackets badly want to see a coaching change.

Since: Aug 31, 2006
Posted on: January 21, 2011 10:06 pm

Four coaches who need strong finishes

Oh god, not Tubby.  Granted he is several steps up from Hewitt, but I couldn't take 60-55 scores all day.  I want a coach with more upside than Tubby.  He steadily got worse at UK to the point he was basically what Hewitt is now, average at best.

I don't know of many people that have even mentioned Tubby and I have been on alot of blogs and message boards.  I sure hope this is just a conjuration of the author and not someone high up at Tech that wants Tubby.

Hewitt has the most onerous contract in basketball, an auto-renewing 5 year rollover contract, that will take a substantial buyout or paid in full to fire him.  My first phone call, if I am GT athletic director, is to Mark Price, a GT alum, and ask if he is at all interested in the head coaching position at GT.  At least he can teach kids how to improve their shooting.  I am tired of GT teams that are street athletic and nothing else.  No fundamentals, can't shoot, no picks set, poor rebounding, on and on.

We need fundamentals and sound all-around game (this rules out Tubby, since he can't teach anything on offense except to stand around and dribble till the shot clock expires).

Rooting for Mark Price to be asked and hoping he'll want to take the job.


Since: Mar 14, 2009
Posted on: January 21, 2011 8:21 pm

Four coaches who need strong finishes

I agree that Tom Crean isnt on the hot seat,been a Hoosier fan for over 50 years now,,we finally have  a coach doing it the right way and starting to get some results,,the wins will come,once the experience is there. He still has a very young team and agree that if the year after next no results then he might be but not this year at all.

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