10 Coaches Who Are Fighting For Their Jobs During NCAA Tournament
Who Are Fighting For Their Jobs During NCAA Tournament?
After the jubilation or relief of being named to the NCAA Tournament has passed, reality begins to set in for many college basketball coaches, fans and players. For some programs, making the big dance is a very big deal because it doesn’t happen that often. For others, it comes as an expectation or a minimum standard that needs to be met for each year. Any way you look at it, there is a lot of madness going on each and every March in college basketball.
Throughout the season, teams go through highs and lows and it all culminates with whether or not a team can put it all together and make a run at the NCAA Tournament. Usually, it is the players who receive the majority of the praise for the team making it to the tournament and rightfully so. On the other hand, when things aren’t going so well, it’s usually the coach who receives the majority of the criticism. Whether it is justified criticism or not is beside the point. The face and leader of each basketball program is the head coach. When things go poorly or well, the head coach is one of the first people who are approached for praise or criticism; it comes along with the territory.
Depending on what program a coach represents, there are varying standards and expectations that they are held accountable for. Sometimes coaches barely meet expectations by making it to the tournament, while other times coaches surpass expectations by earning an NCAA Tournament bid. Whatever the case may be, expectations appear front and center during the month of March as programs look to hire the next big coach while others look to fire their underachieving leader.
Many of the teams, who fall under the category of looking for a new coach or firing their underachieving one, happen to still be playing in the NCAA Tournament. Many of these coaches will be fighting for their jobs during the tournament and their future may be dependent on how their team performs. In some cases, coaches aren’t necessarily fighting for their own jobs, but instead are fighting for their next job whether it is a promotion or demotion.
With all of that being said, I have compiled a list of 10 coaches that may or may not be on the proverbial hot seat heading into the NCAA Tournament. So without further wait, let’s take a look at 10 coaches who are fighting for their jobs—or fighting for their future jobs—in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
10. Tad Boyle- Colorado
While Boyle may not be in danger of losing his job this offseason, he may be one of the most underappreciated coaches in all of college basketball. Boyle has done a magnificent job after taking over Colorado and has gotten them into the tournament, which is no easy chore. While there are no imminent signs that Boyle may be looking to take his talents elsewhere, don’t be surprised if offers start coming his way following a strong performance in this year’s tournament. He may not be fighting for his job in Colorado, but he certainly may be playing for his next one.
9. Josh Pastner-Memphis
Like Coach Boyle from the previous slide, Pastner does not appear to be on the hot seat entering the NCAA Tournament, but one must wonder if Pastner is feeling the heat or not in Memphis. Pastner inherited the Memphis program following the departure of John Calipari and has done a wonderful job bringing in talented recruits to stock a talented Memphis roster. However, Pastner has failed to have his teams live up to their potential under his tenure. As a result, Pastner’s teams have struggled during their appearances at the big dance. Could Pastner begin to feel some heat if his team bows out early in this year’s tournament? I guess we will have to wait to find out.
8. Mark Gottfried- NC State
After being picked to win the ACC in the preseason and also after being ranked in the top 10 to start the season, the North Carolina State Wolfpack underachieved after lofty expectations in 2013. The team still made it to the NCAA Tournament, but is that going to be enough after such high expectations to start the year? Gottfried has done a nice job since taking over for the Wolfpack and he doesn’t appear to be in any immediate danger either at NC State; but if the Wolfpack don’t have a strong showing in the tournament, could whispers of his demise begin to spread in Raleigh?
7. Rick Byrd- Belmont
Byrd is on this list simply because he could be coaching himself out of a job based on how well his team performs this tournament. Belmont has been a trendy pick to become the latest mid-major, low-seed to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. If Belmont succeeds in pulling a few upsets, Byrd may begin to field a few calls about relocating next winter. Byrd, at age 59, may only have one last job left in him and he may take the opportunity and run with it while his candidacy is at its highest.
6. Frank Haith-Missouri
Haith has done a nice job during his two seasons at Missouri, but his past—while he was a coach at Miami—may eventually lead to his dismissal at Missouri. Haith is alleged of failing "to promote an atmosphere for compliance," a charge specific to how he handled things when former booster Nevin Shapiro allegedly wanted money in exchange for not going public with accusations that he paid to help Miami recruit a player. Haith’s past may not result in Missouri being punished, but the university may find his past to be a bad example for their program and choose to let him go. In any case, Haith’s job may not be on the line as of now, but his situation is one to definitely keep an eye on.
5. Jim Crews- Saint Louis
Crews inherited the Saint Louis head coaching job after the untimely death of former coach Rick Majerus. When Majerus passed away, Crews was named the interim head coach. Since taking over, Crews has done a magnificent job of keeping the team together and currently has earned the team a number four seed in the tournament and a number 15 ranking nationally. If Crews can lead Saint Louis to a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, he may prompt those in charge to remove the interim label and replace it with a full time one. Crews deserves to inherit this job after all he has done for the program this past season, but a lot will be dependent on the lasting impression his team leaves during the tournament.
4. Mike Montgomery-California
There is no arguing that Montgomery has done a great job at making the California basketball team competitive and relevant on the national scene over the past few seasons. However, it is the actions on the court that Montgomery has displayed that may lead to his dismissal. On Feb. 17 this year, Montgomery got himself into trouble by shoving one of his own players in the chest during a game. Although this didn’t lead to a suspension for Montgomery, it could lead to his dismissal if the team does not fare well during the tournament. It also could be a situation where the university has chosen to wait until the season is over to discipline or remove their coach for unethical behavior. We will have to wait and see what happens.
3. Andy Kennedy-Ole Miss
Kennedy has received a lot of criticism for not reaching the NCAA Tournament during his seven years at Ole Miss, but now he has finally got the monkey off his back and got his team into the big dance. Will it be enough? Kennedy helped lead Ole Miss to their first trip to the big dance since 2002, effectively ending all of the negativity surrounding the program for not reaching the dance despite solid regular season success. Whether or not this step will be satisfying enough to keep Kennedy around long-term remains to be seen; but if I were Kennedy, I’d make sure I have a strong showing in the tournament just in case.
2. Tubby Smith- Minnesota
A lot of Minnesota’s return to relevancy in college basketball can be credited to Tubby Smith and his ability to recruit players and help build a program. However, a lot of credit can also be given to Smith for not coaching the players he recruits well enough once they arrive in Minneapolis. Smith’s teams have underachieved so much over the past few seasons that the honeymoon period with he and the university is long gone. Rumors surrounding the program suggest that Smith must win at least two games in the tournament to save his job in Minnesota. It is crucial times for the Minnesota basketball program as the state has three highly rated recruits that are currently juniors and none appear to be headed to Minnesota under the current direction of the program. The program may have to make a coaching change to land a few of these recruits and save the program; but one thing is for certain, Smith must do well in the tournament if he expects to be in the conversation for saving his job in Minnesota.
1. Ben Howland- UCLA
Ironically enough, Howland’s UCLA team will face off against Smith’s Minnesota team in round two of the NCAA Tournament in what may be a “win and save your job” game for both coaches. Howland started out great at UCLA by reaching three final four’s in his first five seasons, but has cooled off considerably since then by only garnering two tournament appearances since 2008. Howland has been able to secure some of the nation’s best talent over the past few seasons, culminating with the signing of Shabazz Muhammad this past offseason. With Muhammad at the lead, UCLA had an up and down season this year for Howland and so the pressure and heat has been turned up again on the head coach. If Howland gets upset in their first game by Smith and Minnesota, it could be the end of his era as coach of UCLA. Make sure to tune in Friday to see which coach survives with his job intact.