Category Archives: HR for athletic directors

Carousel speed as social-media artifact

Martin

With job changes in 2008, 2011, 2014, and 2017, Cuonzo Martin is a one-man (cyclical) carousel. (kansascity.com)

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.  Continue reading

Notes for a lively five-month Markelle Fultz discussion

fultz

This season Markelle Fultz will turn out to be brilliant, disappointing or something in between, and of course Washington either will or will not make the NCAA tournament. But I for one promise not to brand Fultz as a disappointment simply because the Huskies don’t receive a bid. In fact, I think it rather likely that Fultz will live up to the hype, and that Lorenzo Romar’s guys will not go dancing. There may be far less friction between these two scenarios than we’re inclined to assume.

In the one-and-done era, there is precious little precedent for a freshman single-handedly and dramatically altering the trajectory of his non-blue-chip program’s season. Yet for some reason, a decade in, we’re still talking like this should indeed happen simply as a matter of course.

We talked like that last year with Ben Simmons despite a preseason chorus of smug pre-Trump laptops saying that LSU, even with the best freshman in the country, was likely to be a bubble team. We may talk like that again with Fultz this season (though yesterday’s loss at home to Yale certainly won’t get any bandwagons rolling).

This gap between the observed performances of the past and our expectations for the near-future has come to constitute something of an esteem tariff that a coach like Romar chooses to pay when signing a one-and-done-track player like Fultz. What a terrible coach, we say. He can’t even do what’s hardly ever been done by anyone else before. It’s a vein of criticism that dates from the widespread disbelief that Kevin Durant could end his freshman season anywhere except the Final Four. It’s been a hearty perennial ever since. Continue reading

The four structural hazards of any coaching search

This March the hot young coach generating all the buzz is 52.

This March the hot young coach generating all the buzz is 52. (Getty/Jamie Squire)

The coaching carousel is turning rather slowly this March, with major-conference openings currently available at Alabama, Arizona State and DePaul and nowhere else. Perhaps there’s another shoe or even two that will drop on this front, but for now the salient characteristic of this season’s job market is not only the small number of openings but also the fact that none of these vacancies were created by voluntary coach exits. To really get the carousel going you need a series of guys jumping by choice to greener pastures.

Still, even in a slow year for hirings we will likely see all the traditional characteristics that make hiring a college basketball coach a uniquely challenging endeavor. To my eye these are the four structural hazards in any coaching search:

Tournament warp
Great coaches tend to do well in the NCAA tournament, eventually, but not every team that does well in the NCAA tournament necessarily has a great coach. Not to mention “doing well” in the tournament is by custom defined as making the Sweet 16, but most of the coaches who make the second weekend in any given year aren’t looking to change jobs. Continue reading

The hiring process for coaches is somewhat primitive, and it may not matter all that much

(Thinks to himself: "Wait, did he just call me 'Sean'?")

Thinks to himself: “Wait, did he just call me ‘Sean’?”

Tomorrow night Stanford will play Dayton for a spot in the regional final, meaning either Johnny Dawkins or Archie Miller is about to add “Elite Eight” to his resume. Ironically both coaches have been the subject of the time-honored “This Is a Big [Insert Clock Time Here] for Coach X” constructions that some of my friends in the field love to use, albeit from opposite ends of the employment-cycle spectrum.

When the Cardinal played at Connecticut in December it was said that “This Is a Big [Insert Clock Time Here] for Johnny Dawkins,” meaning if Stanford lost that game maybe at the end of the season the coach would be fired due to a perceived lack of quote-unquote quality wins. And, of course, when the Flyers played Syracuse in the round of 32 it was said that “This is a Big [Insert Clock Time Here] for Archie Miller,” meaning if Dayton won the game the coach would possibly be hired by a major-conference program.

Continue reading

Perception and Josh Pastner

JP

Today at Insider I’ve written about Memphis and why I think the Tigers will be a force to be reckoned with in this year’s American race. And by “force to be reckoned with,” I mean “about as good as if not better than any other team that we think will still be in the league next season.”

Having zeroed in on this season’s team, I want to take a step back and consider Josh Pastner’s career and specifically what his example may be able to tell us about how college basketball is customarily narrated. (Something like a person facing backward on a train and describing the terrain as it goes by with feigned “I knew this was coming” omniscience. But I’m getting ahead of myself.)  Continue reading

Placebo effects and new coaches

Not every hire can work out this well. (He probably promised a faster pace.)

Not every hire can work out this well. He probably promised a faster pace.

All new-coach hires are alike; each coaching departure is unhappy in its own way.

For example at Missouri the past couple years, Frank Haith’s been turning things around:

Haith was an instant positive energy on the sidelines and on the practice court. Practices were higher intensity and more structured. Film sessions became analytic. The strength and conditioning program went from a team perspective under [Mike] Anderson to an individualized approach under Haith.

Haith replaced Mike Anderson, who was hired by Arkansas in 2011. When he arrived in Fayetteville, Anderson promptly started turning things aroundContinue reading

Presenting the Easy Intrusive Coach Detector

What would the EMCD have to say about Coach Dale? (That's a rhetorical question. There was no three-point line back then.)

Five passes before every shot? Sounds intrusive, Coach.

If Mike Krzyzewski gets his way and college basketball really does name a commissioner to oversee the sport, I already have a credo picked out to inscribe above the Commish’s cool new office: “The Game is Coached Too Much.”

Take the three-point shot. Left to their own devices, players would shoot threes on occasion, but some coaches decree that their teams not do that. Depending on the team, that decree can either be a no-brainer or highly intrusive.

So, in the tradition of Drew Cannon’s Easy Bubble Solver, I’m pleased to unveil the Easy Intrusive Coach Detector, a fool-proof way to determine whether your head coach is carrying this whole authority thing to an extreme and actively harming the performance of his offense. It’s fast, simple, and effective.  Continue reading