Six coaches who face a pressure-packed NCAA tourney
Here are six coaches who feel more pressure than anyone else heading into the big dance -- and the top two on the list will face one another on Friday in Austin, Texas.
Usually, getting into the NCAA tournament is more than enough to sustain job security. That's exactly what's happened with Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy. However, some coaches need to do more than just get there. Here are six guys who feel more pressure than anyone else heading into the Big Dance -- and the top two on the list will actually face one another on Friday in Austin, Texas.
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1) Ben Howland -- The loss of Jordan Adams to a season-ending foot injury takes a bit of pressure off the UCLA head coach, but Howland still needs to do something in order to gain a measure of job security back. The Bruins won the Pac-12 regular-season title and lost to Oregon in the championship game, but the program has been mediocre the last few years. The fan base is split on whether Howland is the right guy for the job going forward, and former Bruins great Bill Walton is teeing off on him, so an early exit won't help Howland's case to remain in Westwood long-term.
2) Tubby Smith -- Minnesota got out of the gates quickly but has lost 11 of its last 16 games, and the Gophers barely made their way into the field. This is Smith's sixth season at Minnesota and he's yet to win an NCAA tournament game there. He's been to two NITs and didn't make the postseason at all in 2011. He's a nice guy and all, but there's a faction of the fan base that wants more. There's also a new sheriff in town -- athletic director Norwood Teague -- who won't be shy about pulling the trigger if he feels that's the best option for the direction of the program.
3) Josh Pastner -- The young Memphis coach needs to win a tournament game to get crazed Tigers fans off his back. He'll have an opportunity with the winner of the play-in game between Middle Tennessee State and Saint Mary's. Pastner took over an unenviable situation, having to replace John Calipari, and has managed to keep Memphis relevant nationally. However, Pastner hasn't managed to beat any Top 25 teams in the regular season and has also come up short in a pair of opening-round games in the NCAA tourney. Pastner isn't necessarily in danger of losing his job but could gain plenty of respect and job security with a win or two in the tourney.
4) Jim Crews -- Took over for the late Rick Majerus on an interim basis before the season, and no one thought he had any shot of getting the full-time gig. However, the former Evansville and Army coach has led the Billikens to the regular-season and A-10 tournament crown, and it would be nearly impossible for the administration to pass him over if he does something in the NCAA tourney as well. Saint Louis opens with New Mexico State and then plays the winner of Oklahoma State and Oregon, so the road is paved fairly nicely to the Sweet 16. This is obviously a different type of pressure than the others on this list, but with a strong performance, Crews could land the best head gig of his lengthy career and also get a nice payday.
5) Frank Haith -- It appears as though he'll make it through the NCAA investigation without losing his job, but he can ill afford to bow out of the NCAA tourney in the first round for the second consecutive season. A year ago, his second-seeded Tigers went down to Norfolk State. This time he plays in the 8-9 game against a dangerous Colorado State team and then gets Louisville. Also, after this season, he loses Alex Oriakhi, Laurence Bowers, Keion Bell and potentially Phil Pressey off this year's team, so he doesn't want to bow out in the first game again.
6) Mark Gottfried -- A year ago, Gottfried became beloved by the fan base when he helped lead NC State into the Sweet 16 and also made waves on the recruiting trail. This season there were hefty expectations, probably unrealistic to be completely honest, as NC State was picked to win the ACC. However, he and the Wolfpack have underachieved -- at least according to those expectations. As I've written previously, there are some in Raleigh who are still worried about his X's and O's, but another tournament run would make that irrelevant.
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