The wave of coaching changes hit the Pac-12’s most famous program and its most underperforming, yet here we are on April 2, the Final Four hasn’t even started, and the Pac-12’s coaching changes for 2013 are done. Let’s take a look at the Pac-12 coaching carousel.
First, let’s look at the changes that were not made. Oregon State appears to be keeping Craig Robinson, giving him one more year to turn the Beavers around despite this year’s last-place finish. OSU has not seen any improvement under the president’s brother-in-law, and his record appears to be similar to Jay John’s. Somehow, Robinson parlayed a number of CBI appearances and several 8th- and 9th-place finishes into a contract extension, and OSU doesn’t look ready to pull the trigger yet despite unhappiness in Beaver Nation.
On the other hand, Ken Bone’s contract is even worse for Washington State. Bone has not been able to replicate Tony Bennett’s success, but a buyout would cost WSU over $2 million. It is only worth it for a smaller major program like WSU to pay out that kind of money if it has a sure thing in the wings, and the candidates are few and far between this year. WSU couldn’t have gotten a sexy hire like USC, and they aren’t in a position right now to bring in a name coach. Plus, the Cougars seem to have some faith in the new players coming in next year. Bone stays.
Johnny Dawkins at Stanford and Herb Sendek at ASU seem to have built up enough goodwill and wins so far to have some more time to get back to the tournament, and Larry Krystkowiak has not yet had enough time to fix Utah. Plus, the Utes showed quite a bit of improvement at times this year. Oregon, California, Arizona, Washington (despite this year’s dip) and Colorado love their coaches. That left USC and UCLA.
Let’s take UCLA first. UCLA won its fourth Pac-12 championship this year in the Ben Howland era, and in his last eight years, the Bruins finished first or second five times. In Howland’s ten years, UCLA went to three Final Fours and one championship game and made seven NCAA tournaments. Last year, Howland brought in a top three recruiting class, yet his best class was 2008’s, which was obviously the best in the country. The Howland era, however, was beset with drama and transfers, and he was disliked by administration and fans alike.
UCLA fired Howland after its first-round loss to Minnesota (despite the fact that UCLA may have won that and the Pac-12 tournament with Jordan Adams’ services), and it tapped New Mexico coach Steve Alford to replace him. One wonders what UCLA saw in Alford that it was missing in Howland. Alford has been an average coach at Iowa and New Mexico over the last fourteen years. At Iowa, Alford missed the tournament more than he made it. At New Mexico, Alford won four out of six possible Mountain West Conference championships, but the Lobos made the NIT as often as it made the NCAA tournament. And keep this in mind: Alford has only made it to the Sweet 16 once, way back in 1999, when he was the coach of #12 seeded Southwest Missouri State. Alford was not a sexy hire, and you have to think UCLA thought it was going to do a lot better. Having an average coach at the helm of one of college basketball’s powerhouse is underwhelming. College basketball’s other major powers wold not have settled for Alford.
Across town, USC made a much bigger splash despite hiring someone with far less experience and is relatively unknown. Firing the massively unpopular Kevin O’Neill (who could have seen that coming?), USC took Florida Gulf Coast’s Andy Enfield and gave him a raise of ten times his previous salary. Enfield’s extremely short resume, two years at FGCU and sporadic assistant coaching positions over the last twenty years, is a massive incomplete. Although his two best players were his own recruits, half of Enfield’s FGCU roster was the previous coaches. Can Enfield coach? Does FGCU’s run to the Sweet 16 say something about Enfield or was the it the product of the NCAA tournament? Can Enfield recruit, and more importantly, can Enfield recruit in California against the likes of UCLA, Arizona, Gonzaga, and the rest of the powers out here? Who knows. We’ll find out soon enough.
Steve Alford parlayed his fame as an Indiana player and an unexpected Sweet 16 run into a two decade career as a head coach and a job at one of the most storied programs in all of college basketball. What will Andy Enfield parlay his fame as the coach of Dunk City into?