College basketball coaching moves: Grading 2014's biggest hires four years into the job

Here's a fun exercise we posted for the first time last year at CBSSports.com, so let's do it again. 

With the benefit of a fair sample size -- a full, four-year recruiting cycle -- we can look back and equitably appraise coaching employment decisions. That is: from 2014. I'm proud to say this is the only place you'll find four-year-after coaching grades, but it really is the fair thing to do. 

It also makes for an interesting retrospective. What makes this more fun: Can you remember who was hired in 2014? Maybe one or two names jump out in your memory, but chances are a lot of the names of guys just blend in with others, the years not really sticking out. 

Well, here's some clarity on all of that. 

Grading out the notable hires from 2014

All hires listed below come from college basketball's Major 7 conferences: ACC, The American, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC.

Grade: C-plus

Is Auburn in a better place now than it was a day before it hired Pearl in March 2014? Some might say yes, others could claim no. The Tigers are coming off a 26-8 season in which they won the SEC regular season title and earned a No. 4 seed. It was unquestionably one of the best seasons in school history. And yet, part of the reason why that's the case is because of the mess the school found itself into begin with. 

Obviously Auburn was one of the four schools first attached to the FBI probe back in September 2017. Pearl's lead assistant, Chuck Person, was arrested and subsequently fired. Pearl's job was considered on thin ice; perhaps he's still there only because Auburn won the SEC and earned that 4 seed. The Tigers did that in spite of not having two key players, Danjel Purifoy and Austin Wiley, who were sat due to the investigation. 

Pearl (70-62 at AU) went from averaging 18 losses per year in the three seasons prior to 2017-18, to potentially pulling off the greatest job-saving season college basketball has seen in decades. But even with that run, I do wonder if some at Auburn wish they could go back four years and hire someone else to dodge all of what the program's been through since September. 

Grade: B-plus

Williams has a 74-60 record in four seasons with the Hokies. Most importantly, he's taken Virginia Tech to consecutive NCAA Tournaments, something the school last saw in the mid-1980s. Fairly remarkable, but Virginia Tech does not have a proud history in college hoops. Given that, it's easy -- if not mandatory -- to grade Williams on a curve. Sure, both of those NCAA Tournament showings were one and done; the Hokies were in the 8/9 game both times, losing this year to Alabama and last year to Wisconsin. But Williams, just four years in, is already second in Virginia Tech history for NCAA Tournament appearances. 

Remember when Williams left Marquette for Virginia Tech? It confused a lot of folks. For VT, it was definitely seen as a home run hire. For Williams, a step down in the eyes of many, as Marquette's viewed as the better job. Buzz knew what he was doing, and why he had to get out at MU, and it's all worked out fairly well. The Hokies are looking good for year No. 5 under Williams. We've got them ranked 13th heading into next season. Should be a Sweet 16-caliber club in Blacksburg, Virginia.  

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Pittsburgh Practice
Virginia Tech almost never makes back-to-back Big Dances. But under Buzz, the Hokies just pulled it off. USATSI

Grade: B

The Golden Eagles have made one NCAA Tournament (2017) in four seasons under Wojo, who has a 73-59 record. This is the Duke alumnus' first go of it as a head coach. Wojciechowski's done a solid job, but it's a letdown when you contrast with Virginia Tech's situation above. How so? Whereas Virginia Tech seldom makes the NCAA Tournament (and with Williams making back-to-back Dances, it bumps up his grade), Marquette has a much better history. 

The Eagles have made only one NCAA Tournament in the past four years. The last time the school had this kind of "drought" under one coach was from 1989-1993, when it took Kevin O'Neill four years to make his first NCAA Tournament. Personally, I think Marquette is a sneaky candidate to break through next season and be a No. 5, 6 or 7 seed. Not many are projecting MU to be that good, but a lot of guys return. 

Grade: B-plus

This was the right job for Sampson and the right hire for Houston. The Coogs are trying to establish themselves as a year-over-year top-five program in the American. If Sampson (83-48 in four seasons) stays on for, say, another eight years (no sure thing, of course) then I think that definitely happens. UH is a program like few others in college basketball. From about 1950 until around 1985, it was unquestionably a top-30 school in college basketball. 

Then the well dried up. Houston's 2018 NCAA Tournament victory was its first since 1984, which means that Houston's first-round win over San Diego State was the school's first Big Dance victory since Akeem Olajuwon won in the Final Four in 1984. That is wild

Grade: C-plus

Of all the hires listed here, Christian to BC, I think I can safely say, was the most head-scratching within the industry. Some thought Christian, who was very good as coach in the MAC, was a strange fit for Boston College at the time of his hiring. Four years in he's got some slack and is coming off by far his best season on Chestnut Hill. The Eagles went 19-16 last season, including a win over Duke, and took a big step forward. If Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman return (Robinson has a very interesting call), Boston College should have NCAA Tournament expectations in 2019. Christian is 48-83.

Grade: C

Manning's biggest achievement to date is turning John Collins, a three-star prospect, into a top-20 NBA pick. Manning, who was previously at Tulsa for two seasons, is 54-73. Wake Forest was a play-in-round 11 seed in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. The Demon Deacons are coming off an 11-20 season, their second in three years with that mark. Manning might not be bona fide hot seat material heading into next season, but if Wake is below .500 again that would be four out of five seasons of going sub-par, and a change might be in the offing.

Grade: B-plus

The Golden Hurricane are 77-52 overall and 46-26 in the American Athletic Conference. Tulsa's a hard one to evaluate here, honestly. The team made the NCAAs in 2016, in that shocking at-large inclusion that, really, no one outside of the program, the AAC and the selection committee believes was justifiable. But the facts are there: Haith has a tourney trip at Tulsa in his time there. Overall, the program's been on good footing but hasn't earned the type of non-con victories to bring more relevance. 

Grade: C-plus

See, Oregon State made 16 trips to the NCAA Tournament in its history, that is if you account for 1939-1990. But post-1990, the Beavers were NIT at best. Then Tinkle came aboard and got the team to a 7 seed in the 2016 tournament. That alone nearly got him the "B-minus" label, but the overall record has to ding the hire just a bit more. Tinkle's 57-70, and below .500 due to the abysmal 2016-17 season that was 5-27 and railroaded by injuries. Year No. 5 is going to be a very important one for Oregon State's long-term outlook under Tinkle. 

Grade: D-plus

Kent is still in Pullman, Washington but things aren't looking up. Washington State -- which legitimately is probably the toughest job in any of the five BCS-oriented conferences -- is 47-77 and has never been better than 7-11 in Pac-12 play. This is weird: In three of Kent's four years with the school, the Cougars have finished ranked 186th at KenPom (2016-17 was the aberration; Wazzu was 193rd). Malachi Flynn, a sophomore who was Washington State's best player last season, is transferring and drawing interesting from programs that frequently visit the NCAA Tournament. 

NCAA Basketball: Oregon State at Washington State
Ernie Kent has been unable to overcome the hurdles that make it hard to win big at Washington State. USATSI

Grade: B

One NCAA Tournament appearance (as a 4 seed) combined with a 62-39 record. He also did solid work on the recruiting trail, helping bring in Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown, both of whom were five-star prospects. Cal was steady, but not spectacular, under Martin. That's worth a "B." Martin was at Berkeley for three seasons until he had offer to return home to Missouri to coach the Tigers. That option became available because ... 

Grade: D

A three-year experience that ended with a 27-68 mark for Anderson. It's the worst three-year stretch from a win percentage perspective in Missouri's 111-year history. The Tigers sunk to the bottom of the SEC and were at their most irrelevant. Anderson was hired after Frank Haith's exodus to Tulsa. It was never a match from the start, but I can't be as harsh with an "F" or even "D-minus," because things could have been worse. 

Grade: F

And this is worse. Given that Tyndall is serving a 10-year show-cause penalty, this grade could only be an "F." Tennessee hired Tyndall away from Southern Miss, which is where Tyndall's problems stemmed from. The ugly details of Tyndall's time at USM -- things that Tennessee obviously missed on during background checks in the hiring process -- included careful arrangements to boost players' eligibility by means of remote academic fraud, forgery of a document from a compliance director and payments to players. The hire was a disaster for Tennessee, but it opened the door for Rick Barnes to come in. 

Grade: F

Another failing grade due to the NCAA turning up stones in a given school's backyard. Antigua was fired midway through 2016-17, released amid an NCAA investigation into academic misconduct within the men's basketball program. Antigua went 23-55 and had his brother, also a key figure in the NCAA's investigation, removed from the staff prior to his firing. South Florida hired former Georgia Tech and Dayton coach Brian Gregory to replace Antigua; the Bulls went 10-22 in Gregory's first season. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning senior writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his ninth season reporting on college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics... Full Bio

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