It’s that time of year again; that’s right everyone, its time to look at the coaches on the proverbial “hot seat” in major college basketball. This seems to be a bigger topic as each year rolls around and the build-up to this coming season is no different. There are several degrees of “hot” when discussing which coaches are actually in danger of losing their job. The reasons for being on the “hot seat” vary, from recruiting to alienating alumni to, of course, simply not winning enough. Even the question of winning “enough” has varying answers depending on the school that a particular coach is at.
Because this is a fluid concept, the “hot seat” will be broken down into three categories; hot, hotter and inferno. Coaches in one of the categories can easily move to another category or off this list altogether, depending on what transpires before New Year’s Day and the coming of conference games. Finally, this list is restricted to coaches from the traditional BCS conferences.
WARMING UP: Bobby Gonzalez (Seton Hall), Leonard Hamilton (FSU), Norm Roberts (St. John's), Jerry Wainwright (DePaul), Gary Williams (Maryland)
THE HOT LIST:
Johnnie Dawkins, Stanford: I know that Dawkins is in the first year of his contract, but the Cardinal are going to be one of the bottom feeders in the Pac-10 this season, and the Pac-10 will be down. Where Dawkins may run into early trouble is that it appears that it’s only going to get worse. Recruiting, considered a priority in the wake of losing the Lopez twins, has been abysmal. In fact the one solid recruit that Dawkins was supposed to count on, post Miles Plumlee, reneged on his commitment and is now headed to Dawkins’ old employer and school, Duke.
Bruce Weber, Illinois: Fans have come to expect big things for the Illini and, outside of the run to the NCAA title game (with Bill Self's players), Weber hasn’t delivered the kind of consistent excellence that many of the Illini fans crave. The past two seasons haven’t been great and this season should find the Illini in the middle of the Big 10 pack again. Weber needs to find a way to get sophomore Alex Legion to play to his potential. If that happens, Weber should be off this list. If not, he could find the flames getting much higher fairly quickly in spite of some big names headed to campus.. next year.
THE HOTTER LIST
Dennis Felton, Georgia: First off, Coach Felton runs his program the right way. There’s accountability and expectations and the kids are student-athletes. The trouble for Felton is that wins and losses are what count when it comes to keeping your job. In five years at Georgia, Felton has been to exactly 2 NIT’s, winning one game in the process, and, until last year’s improbable run through the SEC Tournament, he hadn’t been to the NCAA Tournament. That run saved Felton’s job, and if the Bulldogs play .500 or below ball again this season then Felton will be polishing his resume.
Fred Hill, Rutgers: Hill is a very good recruiter, but so far it hasn’t paid off as much as he’d like. The Scarlet Knights have been mired in the bottom of the Big East since Hill’s predecessor, Gary Waters, was the coach. Hill has gotten the team to look better on paper, but teams don’t fear the RAC like they used to. Hill is putting a lot of stock in two sophomore guards and a pair of big-name freshmen recruits, but he keeps missing out on the difference-making uber-recruit that could put Rutgers over the top. Hill and the Scarlet Knights have to show improvement because his situation hasn’t been made any easier by Jersey fans that are getting antsy because of the failures of the Rutgers football team this fall. In short, if Hill’s season is anything like last season, Rutgers will change coaches yet again.
Frank Martin, Kansas State: Martin put KSU back on the basketball map, and winning an NCAA Tourney game certainly helped, but now Martin doesn’t have Bill Walker or Michael Beasley around. The word on Martin is that he is a fantastic recruiter but a very mediocre X’s and O’s guy. This year he’ll need the latter to be much better. The tipping point is that Martin seemingly comes with a lot of baggage. As a result, Kansas State, which doesn’t have a squeaky clean reputation to begin with, may want to jettison the Martin experiment sooner rather than later as the Wildcats’ fortunes go south this winter.
THE INFERNO LIST
Sidney Lowe, North Carolina State: It doesn’t matter that Lowe is a legacy off of Jimmy V’s lone title team, he will be gone if this team doesn’t do well in the ACC and make the NCAA Tournament. After starting out creating some reasonable expectations after his first season, Lowe looked completely in over his head last season as the Wolfpack completely imploded both physically and emotionally on the court. NC State has some talent, but because of its Tobacco Road locale, Lowe doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt when his team appears to about to be overtaken by Wake Forest as the #3 team in North Carolina. State fans, alumni and administrators won’t stand for that.
Ernie Kent, Oregon: Kent has been on the proverbial Hot Seat for so long now that his "behind" is probably extra crispy. His perceived downfall at Oregon is because of a slew of questionable game decisions, the feeling that his teams never meet the expectations commiserate with the talent on hand and he is perceived as being poor with the press. There are also some personal issues puportedly hanging or were hanging over his head. Kent has been able to survive because of his ability, or his teams' ability to get to the Big Dance the past two years. However, there is a HUGE perception that both teams, even his Elite 8 team in 2007, underachieved. Those teams had players like Malik Hairston, Bryce Taylor and Maarty Leunen. Those three are now gone and there really isn't any comparable talent to take their places. In some circles there is the belief that the Oregon athletic administration is just waiting for a wins/losses reason to fire Kent. That very well may happen this year.