By Bryan Mauro
It’s that time of year again to take a look at all of the coaches in the hot seat in the power conferences. This week we will review the ACC and the Big Ten. Some of these coaches will be safe, some will not be safe, and one has already lost his job. Lets get into it:
When Mark Gottfried was fired earlier this month it was not an unexpected surprise. NC State had not been playing up to their expectations so far this year, and had recently been getting blown out. Mark Gottfried did more at NC State than many of his predecessors. Since NC State won the National Title in 1983, they have made two elite eight appearances and none since 1986. Before Mark Gottfried got there, they had not made the Sweet 16 since 2005. Gottfried got them to the Sweet 16 three of the six years he was the head man in Raleigh. He won 108 games in Raleigh, but that was not enough. This year was bad, and this could have arguably been his most talented team. He had 4-5 potential NBA players on his roster, led by lottery pick Dennis Smith. Gottfried’s successor will need to be one who is able to keep the same level of recruiting that Gottfried had, as Gottfried was able to get top talent. This new coach will also need to beat Duke and North Carolina. If you share a state with two powerhouse programs you should probably beat them to be relevant every once in awhile. The new coach will also need to have thick skin to deal with a fan base that is rabid. They want wins, and want to compete for titles. Look for the hot mid major names to come running for this job. Will Wade and Kevin Keatts should be first on NC States coaching search.
Brad Brownell and the Clemson Tigers have not lived up to expectations this year. They still have a young team with a ton of potential. I really like the direction that Brownell is taking this program. He is able to lure top recruits away from the ACC powers, is making a living on transfers, and has done a good job in the rebuild of the Tigers. Brownell should get some more time. When he arrived at Clemson, former coach Oliver Purnell had left the cupboard pretty bare with talent. Brownell has had to do a ground floor rebuild, in both culture and talent. With a brand new renovation to their arena, and playing in sold out ACC gyms every night, he should be able to keep bringing in the top talent. Brownell is safe.
Tim Miles coaching tenure at Nebraska has been one of great scrutiny. There are the fans who think he should be fired because he still doesn’t win, and there are those fans who can see the direction the program is going and know that it would be foolish to fire Tim Miles. Tim Miles has done many good things for the Nebraska program since he has been the coach. He has a reputation with nationally ranked recruits, and some of these recruits are now considering attending Nebraska. He led Nebraska to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1995, and he is scheduling perennial power schools in order to get exposure for his program. Coach Miles has also been victim to some very bad luck in the recent past. After the miraculous tournament run, he had a season to forget. However star player Terran Petteway was dealing with some family turmoil, which took his mind away from basketball. 2015 was to be a better year and just as Nebraska was starting to gain some traction and establish a foothold in the league, star player Shavon Shields got injured and missed a month. This year, it’s been more of the same. Before the year even started, sharpshooting guard Andrew White III moved on to Syracuse. Then during the season, guard Anton Gill, a transfer from Louisville, tore his patellar tendon and had to miss the season. Star center Ed Morrow dealt with a foot ailment that still doesn’t have him fully healthy. All this in the midst of a 3-0 start, with wins over Indiana, Maryland and Iowa, in Big Ten play. Looking at what Nebraska has coming back in Glynn Watson, Ed Morrow, Jordy Tshimanga, Anton Gill, Miami Transfer James Palmer and former 5 Star and Georgetown player Issac Copeland, Coach Miles’ fortunes in Lincoln could change. To fire him now and not see this play out, would be foolish in my opinion.
Pat Chambers and Penn State are also on the up. Penn State has always had a problem gaining traction with recruits in the Philadelphia area. Pat Chambers got three of the best kids to come out of the city in the recent past, freshman Tony Carr, freshman Lamar Stevens, and redshirt freshman Mike Watkins. These three players are going to be a force for Penn State in the years to come. Tony Carr looks like he could be a potential Naismith Player of the Year finalist. A lot like Coach Miles and Nebraska, Penn State is close to being a contender in this league. For that reason Pat Chambers should also receive a longer look as the coach of Penn State. Penn State doesn’t have a storied basketball history like some other Big 10 schools, so time may be what Pat Chambers needs and gets.
John Groce is the most enigmatic coach in the Big Ten. He is on this list because he has not gotten the job done at all. Boasting top recruiting classes, and having free reign on almost kid to come out of Chicago, Illinois has been in the bottom half of the Big Ten every year but one on John Groces tenure. He took over a storied program that won, and won a lot. He is able to get top recruits to go to Illinois, but once they arrive, they don’t really develop. A lot of them have been in trouble with the law, and most have transferred. Groce likes to play the Let it Fly style of basketball, not really taking many two point shots or driving to the rim much, his style lets all 5 guys on the floor shoot a three when ever they are open for one. Illinois has been known to either blow a team out, or get blown out, if there shots are not falling. John Groce just flat out has not lived up to the lofty expectations that his job brings. Illinois still has an outside shot of making the NCAA tournament this year, however I don’t know if that is enough to save his job. He is coaching at a school that expects the NCAA every year, and his boss did not hire him. Those two things usually mean that they are going to elect to go in a different direction. John Groce may get fired and it would not surprise me if he did. Illinois basketball will go after the biggest name they can find, most likely an established coach in one of the smaller conferences. Think an Archie Miller type.