It started with NC State. The Wolfpack let Mark Gottfried go way back in mid-February. Then came news of openings at Missouri, LSU, Illinois, Indiana, Washington, and, finally, Georgetown.
Cuonzo Martin took the job at Missouri, creating an opening at Cal, and Brad Underwood elected to take the helm at Illinois, leaving behind a vacant chair at Oklahoma State.
That makes nine major-conference head coaches who will be rookies in their positions next season. Naturally, that number could go higher still if one or more of the remaining openings (Indiana, Cal, Oklahoma State, Georgetown) were to be filled by a candidate who’s presently a major-conference coach somewhere else.
It feels like an unusually active carousel this season, and by “feels like” I refer not to any silly conventional wisdom out there in the world at large but to my own real-time reactions. The past 10 days it’s felt like I can’t write two paragraphs without my phone chirping at me about yet another coaching move.
Well, it turns out my real-time reactions are slightly misleading. This isn’t even close to the most active carousel season we’ve seen this century.
Let’s call this the 2017 carousel season, meaning coaches who are hired now will complete their first seasons in their new gigs in 2017-18. Here’s how 2017 measures up against other hiring markets in recent years….
Major-conference positions only Carousel season Hires 2006 14 2011 13 2010 13 2007 13 2003 13 2008 12 2002 12 2000 12 2014 11 2015 10 2017 9
You want coaching hires? I give you 2006. As George Mason shocked the world and marched through the bracket 11 years ago, things were historically active on the hiring scene. A few examples:
Seton Hall reached out to Patriots head coach Jim Larranaga but selected Bobby Gonzalez instead.
Washington State rolled the dice on an unproven assistant coach who happened to be the son of the previous head coach.
Oklahoma State followed suit and hired its head coach’s highly esteemed son (whom a colleague termed “the best offensive mind that I’ve worked with”).
Kansas State brought Bob Huggins on board, in what at the time was termed “the most controversial hire in college basketball since Texas Tech hired Bobby Knight.”
Indiana lured Kelvin Sampson away from Oklahoma. (Just 800 days after that press conference, IU president Michael McRobbie would be appearing before the NCAA infractions committee and saying that hiring the OU coach was “a risk that should not have been taken.”)
Lastly, NC State effectively brought the curtain down on the carousel season by hiring Sidney Lowe after a prolonged month-long search that reportedly had previously targeted everyone from John Calipari of Memphis and Rick Barnes of Texas to LSU’s John Brady, West Virginia’s John Beilein, and former UCLA head coach Steve Lavin.
The carousel season of 2006 stands apart, but, of course, my phone was quite different then. It folded in the middle, texting on it was theoretically possible but realistically a pain, and it only made a noise when my boss called me.
Now, in 2017, my phone tugs at my elbow the instant a coaching hire or firing is announced. Still, rather than be miffed by this fact of modern life, I’ve decided to wax actuarial. With the benefit of a few years’ worth of carousels, I now know to expect my phone to interrupt me 10.4 times per hiring season. That means, statistically speaking, there may be one more shoe yet to drop. Hmm.
Lubbock should put up a carousel photo spot next to Buddy Holly’s eyeglasses. Texas Tech wins the prize for most head-coaching hires this century. In a span where the membership of the Supreme Court’s remained relatively stable and Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, and Tom Izzo have all remained stuck in their respective occupational ruts, the Red Raiders have cycled through no fewer than seven coaches: James Dickey, Bob Knight, Pat Knight, Billy Gillispie, Chris Walker, Tubby Smith, and Chris Beard. If the Malcolm Gladwell theory of mastery through repetition applies here, the powers that be at Tech are to coach searches what J.P. Macura is to basketball excellence in long sleeves.