Now that everyone has gotten enough sleep and fully put the 2016-17 college hoops season behind them ...
... is it time for one more look? Can we just do one more evaluation? Of course we can! Why not, right? In fact, I have an idea.
Let's check around the sport and see which coaches who took jobs in new spots this past season did the best work. But I won't stop there. Beyond that, how about a fair grading process, something with the benefit of a real sample size? We'll go short- and long-term. I've always wanted to do this.
Every year we track the coaching carousel and grade out the hires months before any of these coaches get one game with their new teams. The years go on, and we never again look at a class of coaches as a group. So let's do that here. Below, I have a look back at the 2013 class of coaches who were hired to new places. Can you remember which names went where? Who worked out, and who didn't? This will be fun.
But first, let's look at who just completed their first season in a new spot. I'm not going to go negative here, because there are a number of coaches trying to work projects and are in the thick of some tough times (Tubby Smith most notably). Others found immediate success, though. So, via that lens, here were the six best short-term success, the grade-A hires made in 2016.
Top coaching hires last season
Tim Jankovich to SMU
He went 30-5, got the Ponies to the NCAA Tournament and earned a No. 6 seed. This was the best hire of 2016. And unlike the others, it came late. Remember, Larry Brown up and bailed on the program last July after contract renegotiations fell through. Jankovich was essentially the coach-in-waiting as is, and was promptly promoted. SMU was ranked in the top 25 of the polls and KenPom for most of the season. The Mustangs went 20-1 against competition from the American. An outstanding season that ended with a collapse of a loss in the first round of the NCAAs against Southern California. By next season, the school will have gone 30 years without a win in the Big Dance.
Paul Weir to New Mexico State
Weir is the only coach of the six listed here who was in his first year of head coaching. The Aggies went 28-6 and Weir got a nonconference win over New Mexico -- the school he now coaches. The circumstances surrounding Weir (a longtime NMSU assistant) getting the job were unpredictable. Marvin Menzies left NMSU after UNLV lost out on many other coaches. Weir didn't allow the program to miss a step, but he has been poached away by a bigger program offering a lot more money.
Brad Underwood to Oklahoma State
Like Weir, Underwood was a one-and-done coaching prospect. Is this going to become a thing? Will 2018 bring a few coaches who treat their newfound jobs like a college-house lease? Underwood, now at Illinois, guided the Cowboys to a 20-13 record and a No. 10 seed in the NCAAs. He has made four straight NCAA Tournaments, including his three-year stint at Stephen F. Austin. The Cowboys had the most efficient offense in college basketball. As good as the hire was for OSU athletic director Mike Holder, the fact he lost Underwood hurt his reputation more.
Jamie Dixon to TCU
Are you aware that the Horned Frogs are the reigning NIT champs? Dixon returned to his alma mater, coached TCU to a 24-15 mark and had a better first spin than anyone anticipated. Given how many players return next season, the Horned Frogs will be expected to make the NCAA Tournament. The last time that happened: 1998.
Josh Pastner to Georgia Tech
Without question the biggest surprise of the group. Not just because of the 21-16 record, but because Pastner's reputation had been soiled some due to how things sputtered in his final three years at Memphis. Now, given what Tubby Smith has done only 12 months into the job, Pastner is looking even better. Georgia Tech wasn't expected to win 10 games. It doubled that, making the NIT championship game. This team should be in the Big Dance next season. Pastner has been revived!
Johnny Dawkins to Central Florida
A very good coaching job, and a nice hire, that mostly went unnoticed on a national level. Dawkins ran his course at Stanford, then parachuted into a nice situation in Orlando. The Knights went 24-12 and made it to the NIT semifinals. I'm obviously projecting out in a big way here, but after eight years at Stanford and only one NCAA tourney to show for it, I could see Dawkins going just as long at UCF and wind up making four times as many Big Dances. This was a shrewd hire. It might be the perfect fit for him.
Notable hires from 2013
Now let's circle back with the coaching acquisitions made four years ago. Why four? That's a full cycle's worth of recruiting and just enough time to know if things have worked out or not. With the advantage of hindsight and the profit of evidence, here's a look back at the coaches who've had enough time to be graded out fairly. I picked 10 notable hirings made in 2013.
Steve Alford to UCLA
Alford is 96-45 at UCLA and has gone to three NCAA Tournaments in four years, with all three of those appearances ending in the Sweet 16. In 2013 there were many skeptics of this decision by Dan Guerrero, the UCLA athletic director, but it wound up being a good decision. We can only say that with certainty after this past season, as Alford gave back part of his salary after 2015-16 with fans loudly calling for him to be fired. Getting Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf changed everything. UCLA finished below .500 in 2015-16, then earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAAs as the most entertaining offensive team in college basketball. Alford was publicly speculated to be leaving for Indiana, but the Hoosiers didn't want him, so he stays in Westwood. The question becomes: How good will UCLA be without Lonzo?
Chris Collins to Northwestern
Collins has a 73-60 and famously just brought the program to its first NCAA Tournament this past March. Given the fact that no other coach in program history has ever made the tournament, you could now make the case that, just four years in, Collins is the greatest coach in school history. That's going to be even more emphatic a year from now, as Northwestern returns much of its roster and should easily make the Big Dance again in 2018. Yep, Northwestern is a relevant college basketball program. Collins was the near-perfect hire.
Richard Pitino to Minnesota
Pitino has accumulated a 75-61 mark in four seasons. He just pulled off the biggest turnaround in college basketball this past season, going from eight wins in 2015-16 to 24 -- and a No. 5 seed in the NCAAs -- before getting upended by Middle Tennessee. Pitino took the Minnesota job after just one season at Florida International, and though he has been rumored in college hoops circles to be peeking elsewhere for possible jobs in the past two years, the truth is this job has been beneficial for both sides. Pitino got a power-conference gig before the age of 35 and crafted his coaching chops. He'll likely, eventually, wind up at a bigger job, but this is the right phase for him to be going through. Minnesota should be a top-25 team again next season.
Andy Enfield to Southern California
After two shaky seasons at the start, Enfield got above .500 in his USC tenure and is now 70-64. The Trojans squeaked into the Big Dance then won two games. Last season, you might have forgotten, this team was a No. 8 seed. Enfield got the benefit of parlaying an unexpected Cinderella run in the NCAAs to a much bigger job. Was he the best possible coach USC could have gotten in 2013? Well, we'll see. In fact, he'll be coaching next season against someone else who might well have taken the job: new Washington coach/former Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins. Enfield has been solid and obviously was a good call -- especially if the Trojans can make it three straight tourney trips come 2018.
Tubby Smith to Texas Tech
Smith is one of two on this list who has since moved on to a different job by way of promotion. Smith spent three years with Texas Tech, going 46-50 before getting the Memphis gig. Smith getting Tech to a No. 8 seed in the 2016 tournament, and springboarding that to Memphis, was quite the professional coup. Now the Memphis gig is turning into a quagmire. Given how hard the Tech job is, and how he adapted and did relatively well there, a B- seems the most reasonable grade.
Craig Neal to New Mexico
Neal is one of two coaches on this list who has been fired at the school that hired him in 2013. He went 76-52 and only made the NCAAs in 2014. He took over and slid a spot up on the bench after Alford left for UCLA. The first year was great for Noodles. The Lobos won 27 games, made the NCAAs and attendance was great. But things got worse the past three years, and there was a lot of speculation about whether he was really the right guy to be running the program. That fan base is obviously localized but is also very passionate. Neal was fired at the 11th hour, on March 31, before the terms of his contract would roll over.
Eddie Jordan to Rutgers
Jordan was a failure at his alma mater. No other way to put it, but it's hard to win at Rutgers as is. Jordan (remember, he has been an NBA coach) went 29-68 in three seasons. Steve Pikiell just went 15-18 in his first season and was regarded as a success. Jordan's move to RU was his first time on a college bench since 1991, when he was an assistant at Rutgers.
Will Wade to Chattanooga
Wade had the quickest stop of any of the coaches listed. After two years and a 40-25 record (neither year including an NCAA tourney showing) he bounced and took the VCU job. Wade was an assistant for Shaka Smart at VCU, so when Smart got the Texas job, he was an ideal candidate. With the Mocs, Wade did almost as good of a job as you could expect without actually getting to the NCAAs. in 2016 and '17, he got back-to-back 10th seeds with VCU, and now he's off to LSU.
Joe Dooley to Florida Gulf Coast
Dooley is 91-46, has gone to the past two NCAA tourneys and has had his name thrown out there for more jobs in the past 13 months than almost anyone in the business. But no UMass, no UNC Wilmington, no New Mexico. Florida Gulf Coast is in good hands so long as Dooley stays, but how long will he stay? This is an elevated low-major job, no question, but it's also a stepping-stone gig. Dooley has enough coming back to make a charge at three straight NCAA tourney showings. If that happens, you have to think he'll be gone for good from FGCU.
Brad Underwood to Stephen F. Austin
Easy call here. You had never heard of Stevie Austin until Underwood made history there. He was obviously the biggest hiring success of 2013, going 89-14 and parlaying three straight NCAAs to the Oklahoma State job last season. Those 89 wins tied Brad Stevens' record for the most victories the first three seasons of a coaching career in D-I hoops. SFA beat No. 3 West Virginia in the 2016 NCAAs. With that, Underwood got the Oklahoma State job, and the Cowboys went 20-13 and got a No. 10 seed this past season. And because the OSU AD didn't pay up, Underwood is now on his third job in three years (Illinois).