Think back to four years ago. April 2018. At the start of that month, Villanova beat Michigan to win the national title, its second in three years. Bigger picture: We were still almost two years away from being foisted into this horrendous pandemic.
"Avengers: Infinity War" — the first of the two-part Marvel epic, a movie that grossed $2.048 billion globally — was about to be released. "The Americans," one of the best TV shows of the 2010s, was a few episodes from its series finale. Four years ago this week, Cardi B's "Invasion of Privacy" was the best-selling album, while Drake's "God's Plan" was atop the Billboard 100 singles chart. TikTok, the most downloaded app in the the world the past two-plus years, was not yet available in the United States.
April 2018 seems like longer than four years ago in some ways, right? And yet, here's something that might make it seem relatively recent. In college basketball, the big hires were Chris Mack to Louisville, Penny Hardaway to Memphis, Dan Hurley to UConn and Jeff Capel to Pitt. Yeah: it's already been that long.
Welcome to my annual grade-the-hires-four-years-after piece. We've published it each April since 2017. As tempting as it is to immediately grade new faces in new places, the fairest way to do this is to give coaches some time to actually, you know, build a program, recruit players, establish a track record, moan about NIL, gripe off the record about the transfer portal. You know, the crucial stuff. They're now more than 100 games in, which is an appropriate amount of data.
(If you'd like to see previous report cards, here are my four-years-after evaluations from the hirings in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 here.) Now, to this year's batch ... which is actually 2018's batch. You get it. Here's a review on the most prominent hiring moves from 2018.
Grading 2018's notable coaching hires
| The hire: Niko Medved|
As you'll discover below, the 2018 hiring cycle didn't produce a lot of out-and-out successful hires, at least not to this point. Medved is an exception to that. Through four seasons with the Rams he's 77-46 (.626 win percentage) and has a 46-26 Mountain West mark. Medved recruited David Roddy and Isaiah Stevens, and by developing those two, has improved CSU's KenPom rank from 224 to 180 to 99 to 76 to 46. The Rams were a No. 6 seed in this year's NCAA Tournament but fell (as an underdog, despite being the better seed) to No. 11 Michigan. The program's 65-26 record the past three seasons is one of its best three-year runs in school history. Taking everything into account (Colorado State last won a regular-season league title in 1990), he's been the most successful addition in a multi-bid conference. The Rams have a good one here. Next step is winning a game or two in the Big Dance. GRADE: B-plus
| The hire: Dan Hurley|
Hurley's brought some bite back to Connecticut, owning a 73-47 record (.608). Has made two NCAA Tournaments (the past two), though UConn was not a projected 2020 NCAA Tournament team when that season was canceled. If the Huskies had a second-weekend run to their name under Hurley, this would be a B-plus at least, but alas, UConn has been on the wrong end of two upsets the past two seasons. In 2021, Hurley's team lost as a 7-seed to No. 10 Maryland, then fell victim in a 12-over-5 game to New Mexico State this past March. Hurley is 40-32 in league play, the first two seasons in the American, the last two in the Big East. (Progression of league finish: ninth, fifth, third, third.) Hurley had the 18th-ranked recruiting class in 2019, 25th in 2020, seventh in 2021, and currently has No. 68 in 2022, per 247 Sports. James Bouknight went from being rated as the No. 66 overall player in his class to a lottery pick in two years' time. UConn matters again, but there's plenty of oxygen between where the program is now and its ceiling nationally. GRADE: B
| The hire: Penny Hardaway|
Not a simple grade to hand out. Record-wise, Hardaway has done well for himself. Memphis is 84-43 (.664) under his guidance. But not all records are made equally in college hoops; the Tigers have been an NCAA tourney-worthy team in only one of his four seasons — this past one. Memphis did win a game in the tournament (Hardaway is the only coach on this list to do so in the past four years), then gave No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga a scare in the second round. The fan base is still behind him, for the most part. As anticipated, Hardaway's been a major factor on the recruiting trail. Memphis has had classes ranked 30th, 1st, 24th, 1st and, now, no commitments from high school players as of this story's publishing. Then again, there's a reason for that: Memphis is also in the midst of a soon-to-be-resolved IARP case that has cast some doubt over the program.
Some recruiting gets have been inconsistent upon arrival in Memphis. James Wiseman's situation was mishandled; that led to the IARP mess. Former No. 1 high school prospect Emoni Bates, who left the program in mid-April, didn't pan out. Conversely, Jalen Duren was quite good and he'll probably become Hardaway's second high-level NBA pick (Wiseman the other) this June. Memphis has been relevant much of Hardaway's tenure, but some of that relevance has been tied to off-court drama, inconsistent play and self-inflicted wounds. Hardaway's coaching ability to rally the team — from near-disaster in the midst of last season, to making a March Madness push — was his most impressive feat yet. Now we await the punishment for this program in the weeks or months ahead. GRADE: B-minus
| The hire: Kermit Davis|
Entry points and program history matter when handing out these grades. There's a lofty difference between taking the job at Louisville (we're getting there) and taking the job at Mississippi. Ole Miss is a top-three tough job in the SEC. Davis is 64-61 (.512) with a singular one-and-done NCAA Tournament appearance, which came in his first season. The Rebels are 30-42 in SEC play the past four seasons. Average finish: ninth. It's been tough, but could've been worse. While Breein Tyree and Devontae Shuler were quality SEC players, Davis has yet to have an outright star in Oxford. Next season isn't a surefire hot-season season, but Davis may well need to finish better than the program's average in the SEC in order to keep himself in charge into 2024. GRADE: C
| The hire: Chris Mack|
It was a failure, but that doesn't correlate to an "F" here. Far from it. Four years ago, this was the most consistently praised hire. Few people, if any, could have predicted Mack wouldn't make it to the end of Year Four. But that's what happened, and Mack was the one that initiated the sever. It ended mostly amicably. Here's the thing: Mack won 64% of his games at Louisville. He was 63-36 when he stopped being the Cardinals' coach. He made the NCAAs in his first year, then would've had a No. 4 seed at worst had there been a 2020 tournament. But there wasn't, and things went sideways for the most part after that. Mack's time at Louisville wasn't an outright disaster, though it definitely wasn't a success. Call it an unexpectedly incongruent union. Mistakes aplenty. Putting Louisville in deeper, hotter water by being privy to more rule-breaking (even if the violations are tame compared to other issues, they happened when 'Ville was on probation) and adding to an already-existing NCAA infractions case is a major mark against him. Should he ever choose to be a head coach again, Mack will probably get a job in a power conference. The question is if he wants to leave the bench for good with this Louisville setback as his final experience. I think he eventually gets back in. GRADE: C-minus
| The hire: Travis Steele|
Xavier was 70-50 under Steele, who was fired after coaching X to its first win of the 2022 NIT … which Xavier then went on to win under interim coach Jonas Hayes (who is now the head coach at Georgia State). Steele's firing was mishandled by athletic director Greg Christopher, but regardless of that, the move did prove what's true in that community: Xavier fans hold the program to a higher standard than many might realize. The Musketeers missed three NCAA Tournaments under Steele, and the 2020 team wasn't at-large good. The last time X went three straight tournaments without being included was 1982. That's hard to overcome; maybe it can't be at a place like that. Steele immediately landed on his feet, getting a job 45 minutes away at Miami University. Xavier replaced Steele with his former boss, Sean Miller. It's surprising this one ended this quickly, but it's another reminder that almost no hire is guaranteed success just because. GRADE: C-minus
| The hire: Jeff Capel|
It's been bafflingly bad at Pitt for four straight years. All four seasons have seen the Panthers finish sub-.500. Capel is 51-69 overall (.425) and 21-53 in the ACC. He's 2-14 vs. ranked opponents and hasn't made it to Thursday of the ACC Tournament. Capel took over a program that was withered by Kevin Stallings, but there has been minimal improvement since, which surprises me; Capel's a good coach (his combined record at VCU and Oklahoma support that statement) and this should not be happening at such a dispiriting scale. He's been hurt by the transfer portal and his recruiting is slipping. The progression of class rank, per 247 Sports: 32nd, 49th, 30th, 106th, with 2022 to-be-determined. The upcoming season will be one where Pitt will need to make the NCAAs, lest a coaching change is made. The ACC will be somewhat unpredictable next season. Can the Panthers be the movers, can they get the right guys via the portal to alter the course of the team? GRADE: D
| The hire: Tom Crean|
It takes a lot for me to hand out an "F" in these spots. Crean doesn't qualify for that, but obviously he was not the right hire for this program in 2018. It was mostly a disaster while he was in Athens. Georgia was 47-75 under Crean and a ghastly 15-57 in the SEC. He was fired in April. The Dawgs' average KenPom finish the past four seasons: 136th. Anthony Edwards currently validating being the No. 1 overall pick in 2020 is only hurting Crean in retrospect, too. Some in the industry felt, behind the scenes, this was the wrong hire by the end of Crean's first season. The pandemic provided some cover, but this was fait accompli by Thanksgiving of 2021. The Georgia job is strange. Almost no one ever succeeds there, despite its proximity to a lot of talent, its conference affiliation and its dogged pursuit of glory in football. Crean was plenty accomplished when he got the job four years ago. So is the guy now in charge, Mike White, who stays in-league after finding an escape hatch out of Florida. His entry point now, somehow, is more generous than even Crean's was in 2018. GRADE: D-minus