As has been the case since the dawn of time, or at least since college basketball became big business, it was a busy offseason for the coaching carousel. Starting with Glen Miller's firing at Penn on December 14 of 2009 and ending with Illinois-Chicago's hire of Howard Moore on August 20, 54 programs changed head coaches. Programs in America's largest city and the conference that most prominently bears our country's name were especially active in making changes.
After the jump, I'll take a quick look at some of the biggest hires and most interesting stories from the coaching offseason.
As always, the failure to make it to, or advance far enough in, the NCAA Tournament over the past few seasons cost a few Big Six conference coaches their jobs, with a natural ripple effect moving through the rest of Division I.
Tony Barbee, fresh off an at-large bid at UTEP, left that school to take over at Auburn. That's because Jeff Lebo, feeling the heat was on with a new arena opening this season and no NCAA appearances to his credit in his time on the Plains, bolted for East Carolina. Tim Floyd, who spent the 2009-10 season out of coaching after the OJ Mayo scandal came crashing down at USC, makes his comeback in West Texas, where he was an assistant under Don Haskins at the dawn of his career.
Much like Lebo, Greg McDermott left a not-so-cushy major job, in his case Iowa State, to return to the mid-major ranks. He replaces Dana Altman at Creighton, hoping to have as much success in Omaha as he did at the helm of Northern Iowa. Cyclone legend Fred Hoiberg, the Mayor, is McDermott's replacement in Ames. It's the former NBA sharpshooter's first coaching job after a few years as an NBA executive.
Altman on the other hand was the final hire after one of the most comical coaching searches in the history of sports. Oregon attempted to lure a lot of big names with Phil Knight's money and a glittering new arena...and failed miserably. When the school finally listened to the many voices telling them to be realistic, it was the end of April and the school had lost a star recruit--from Portland--to Washington. Seriously, Dana Altman is a good coach, but even Phil Knight's best PR people can't spin the resulting disappointment. Altman will certainly have his work cut out for him this season, even in a Pac-10 that should be down again.
On the other side of the country, Wake Forest may be responsible for the most head-scratching hire of the season. Athletic Director Ron Wellman fired Dino Gaudio, three seasons after he moved into the top job following Skip Prosser's untimely death. Gaudio's replacement is former UMBC, Air Force, Denver Nuggets, and Colorado head coach Jeff Bzdelik, a friend of Wellman who hasn't exactly had a ton of success lately. (However, he did get Air Force to the NCAA in his first season and the NIT Final Four in his second, which count as impressive accomplishments.) Bzdelik's replacement in Boulder is former Northern Colorado boss Tad Boyle, who inherits a team that could very well return to the NCAAs in its final year in the Big 12.
Two other ACC schools joined Wake in making moves. Steve Donahue takes over at Boston College, replacing Al Skinner. Brad Brownell finally made the jump from the mid-majors, leaving Wright State for Clemson to replace Oliver Purnell, who surprised many by leaving for DePaul. Purnell replaces Jerry Wainwright, who once coached UNC Wilmington, like Brownell. More on the Seahawks in a bit.
Fran McCaffrey is the lone new coach in the Big Ten. He left Siena to replace Todd Lickliter, who's tenure was plagued by player turnover and injuries, at Iowa.
C-USA Goes Hire Crazy
Conference USA fans will need do a little extra studying up on their opponents, as half of the league's 12 teams feature new head coaches for this campaign. Floyd and Lebo will be joined by several familiar faces in a conference that has more name coaches than you'd ever expect.
Former Texas Tech coach James Dickey is back in the game, replacing Tom Penders at Houston. Donnie Jones, a former Florida assistant, returns to the Sunshine State, leaving Marshall for East Division rival UCF. Jones' replacement in Huntington is Tom Herrion, most recently a Pitt assistant best known for being hit by a thrown coin during West Virginia's home 70-51 win over the Panthers back in February. However, Herrion can coach, as he won 80 games in four seasons at College of Charleston, where he replaced the legendary John Kresse (before being forced out in favor of another legend, Bobby Cremins). Ed Conroy, last seen coaching at the College of Charleston's crosstown rival, The Citadel, replaced Dave Dickerson at Tulane.
Noteworthy Mid-Major Moves
It was a big offseason for famous names (and relatives of famous names) in the mid-major ranks.
Michael Jordan's former roommate at North Carolina, Buzz Peterson, is on the move again. He ended his second stint at Appalachian State after a single season to head to replace Benny Moss at UNC Wilmington. It's Peterson's fifth school; however, he's only taken one, Appalachian State, to the NCAAs, and that was back in 2000. He also has the 2001 NIT Title (at Tulsa), two other NIT appearances (at Tennessee), and last season's College Insider Tournament semifinal berth (at Appalachian State) to his credit.
Peterson's replacement in Boone is Jason Capel, the former North Carolina star and brother of Oklahoma head coach Jeff. Chuck Driesell, son of legendary head coach Lefty, departed his former job as one of Gary Williams' assistants at Maryland to replace Ed Conroy at The Citadel.
Former Arkansas and NBA standout Corliss Williamson will make his head coaching debut at Central Arkansas, which is eligible for the Southland Conference title (and the NCAA Tournament) for the first time this season.
In other significant mid-major moves, former assistant Mitch Buonaguro steps up to replace Fran McCaffery at Siena; Milan Brown left Mount St. Mary's for Holy Cross, where he'll hope to last longer than the fired Sean Kearney; and ex-Ohio State assistant Alan Major replaces Bobby Lutz at Charlotte.
Is This The Ivy League Or The Return Of The Big 8?
Even the Ancient Eight jumped head first into the Carousel this season. Not only did Penn dismiss Glen Miller before midseason, but Dartmouth forced Terry Dunn out following the threat of a player boycott. Jerome Allen, who got the interim tag after Miller's departure, was named permanent head coach of the Quakers after the season, while Paul Cormier replaces Dunn, taking the helm of the Big Green for the second time. The other two Ivy departures are related as Joe Jones left Columbia to assist Steve Donahue at BC. Former Big Red assistant Bill Courtney replaces Donahue in Ithaca, while St. Mary's assistant Kyle Smith moved across the country to take over in New York City.
All Change In New York City (and Environs)
Speaking of the Big Apple, Long Island and Manhattan were the only two Division I programs in the city who didn't make a hire, and the changes didn't stop at the city limits.
Tom Pecora left Hofstra for Fordham, where he replaces the fired Dereck Whittenberg. Former Iona and Providence boss Tim Welsh was the original choice to replace Pecora in Hempstead, until he was arrested for driving under the influence, which led to his resignation. That led to the Pride's eventual hire, former Boston College assistant Mo Cassara.
Kevin Willard left Iona for Seton Hall, where he replaces the fired Bobby Gonzalez. Former C.W. Post head coach Tim Cluess is Willard's replacement in New Rochelle. The Gaels' MAAC opponents are readying their signs and chants.
Former Robert Morris coach Mike Rice also takes over a program that made the headlines last season for underachievement on the court and the coach's behavior off it. After two straight NCAA bids, Rice will attempt to work his magic at a Rutgers' program that hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament since 1991. He replaces Fred Hill, who resigned before he could be fired after a season that included an altercation with the Pitt baseball coaching staff. (Hill's father, also Fred, is still Rutgers' baseball coach.)
Two of Rice's former NEC opponents also made hires, as former St. John's assistant Glenn Braica returns home to Brooklyn to replace Brian Nash at St. Francis College, and Danny Hurley makes the jump from St. Benedict's high school to Wagner College, where he'll replace Mike Deane. Hurley will be assisted by his older brother, Bobby, the top assists man in NCAA history.
But the biggest splash of the offseason was made by the biggest program in the city (still owner of the title, even with its recent struggles), as Steve Lavin finally left ESPN to take over at St. John's. He replaces Norm Roberts, who wasn't quite able to get the Red Storm over the hump. The move is sure to help recruiting, but question is whether Lavin, roundly criticized for his coaching acumen while at UCLA, has improved at all on that front. With that in mind, Red Storm fans have to be happy that former Purdue head coach Gene Keady will be along for the ride as Lavin's executive assistant.
Tomorrow, I'll look at the coaches in the most danger of finding themselves on the Carousel for this offseason. None of the names on this list will appear on that one, at least in the preseason.