What Is With The Coaching Carousel

By Richard Kent
Updated: February 17, 2006

CONNECTICUTThis week saw the demise of at least two NCAA coaches. Mike Davis at Indiana, and Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State. Despite reports to the contrary Gary Waters is still on the Rutgers sidelines and sources close to Rutgers University indicate that a decision will not be made about his future until the end of the season.

Just how tough of a profession is this? Well the answer lies in the fact that all three coaches had winning records. But it is not enough to just win, just slightly be over .500 or satisfy the boosters by attending basketball related functions.

The mandatory requirement is to get your team to the NCAA Tournament. Let’s take Sutton out of the mix for a second because his demise is probably related more to health issues than anything else.

Davis took the team to the Final Four. But the expectations at Indiana are more than that. They are to win national championships. Bob Knight won three of them and Davis was supposed to do at least as well. But you can’t follow a legend and if instruction is needed on that concept just take a look at UCLA after John Wooden left. Coach after coach followed him and it wasn’t until Larry Brown started to win there and Jim Harrick won a national championship (albeit tainted) that the great one was to some extent forgotten.

At Rutgers the situation is far different. The goal is to get to the Big East Tournament and then an occasional NCAA. Maybe one out of every four years. That simply wasn’t happening on Waters’ watch. He took over five years ago with a bunch of midwestern assistants. They didn’t know the coaching terrain in the New York metropolitan area and they tried to recruit kids that they had brought into Kent State. The problem is that those kids could not win in the Big East. Sure he found a gem in Quincy Douby but that is about it. This year the Scarlet Knights are in jeopardy of not even making it to New York for the Big East Tournament and that is just too much for the alumni to bear. Especially with Louie Orr performing so well at Seton Hall, just a few miles up the New Jersey Turnpike. Orr should take his team to the NCAA Tournament this year. He already has a Sweet Sixteen on his resume and this is a guy whose future was deeply questioned before the season started.

The legacy. You are hired to be fired in NCAA men’s basketball just like in the NBA. Maybe ten or fifteen years ago it was different but now it is a significant monied profession with coaches who must perform consistent with the expectation of all kinds of people, not the least of which are the media members and Internet lurkers who can make or break a career.

We wish Davis, Waters and Sutton well. Davis will probably end up somewhere out west and Waters may indeed get his Kent State job back at some point in time as rumor has it that the current coach, who is performing quite well this year has loftier expectations. Call them A-10. Maybe Duquesne. Just a warning to coaches in the future, get as much money as you can up front. Get a guaranteed contract. Get a bunch of endorsements and stay along for the ride. It probably won’t last much more than five years.