Second in an occasional series.
As always, I make no representations about the accuracy of this post, except that I'm doing more homework than Lee Fowler did in 2006.
Today I'm looking at Darrin Horn, who is 38 and in his third season as head coach in South Carolina. Prior to that he spent 5 years as HC at Western Kentucky, his alma mater.
Important Questions, In Rough Order Of Importance:
1. Has he coached teams that have won a national title, made multiple deep NCAA tournament runs, and/or consistently been highly ranked?
2. Has he built a program from the ground up?
No. Western Kentucky was coming off a good run under Dennis Felton before Horn took over. South Carolina has improved under his watch but not enough yet to qualify.
Interestingly, WKU has been something of a cradle of coaches, spawning Gene Keady, Clem Haskins, and Ralph Willard in addition to Felton and Horn. Obviously, results have been somewhat mixed from those guys.
3. Has he substantially improved the program from when he took over?
Yes - coming off of two losing seasons under Dave Odom, Horn won 20 games his first year at South Carolina. They dipped back under .500 last year but are 12-6, 3-2 so far this year.
At WKU, his first year wasn't great but by year 5 they were back at the high level reached under Felton - winning 29 games and going to the Sweet 16.
4. Has he succeeded at more than one head coaching job?
He succeeded at WKU and looks to be on his way there at South Carolina, but he's not quite there yet.
5. Does he have significant high-major experience as either a head coach or an assistant?
Yes, besides his current gig he was an assistant at Marquette for 4 seasons.
6. Is his team one of the best in its conference right now?
Hard to tell - they are clearly behind Kentucky and Florida, but they are tied for the third best SEC record. Then again, Pomeroy rates them 8th in the SEC.
7. Do his teams actually play, what is this thing called, "defense"?
Absolutely. They are currently top 50 defensively per Pomeroy and were 69th and 46th the two years prior. The first two years they were forcing lots of turnovers; this year its getting done with shooting defense.
The change from the Odom era was dramatic: in 07 and 08 South Carolina was not in the top 100 on defense.
The record defensively at WKU is not as good except for his last year there.
8. Any indication that he can recruit McDonald’s All-American-type players?
At So. Car. he has pulled in at least one top 100 player in the 09, 10, and 11 classes. No one approaching an All-American type recruit. So the jury is still out.
9. Does he run the Princeton offense?
NO SIR. Each of his three teams at SC has been in the top 65 in tempo, including 9th in the country his first year, again a dramatic, immediate change from the plodding style under Odom. On offense, until this year the've been good at avoiding turnovers; this year they are just average. Interestingly, they don't get to the line much at all. That may be a function of personnel; I don't think he's had any really offensively skilled big men. 3 pointers are not unduly featured in the offense.
10. Does he have any connection to NC State, North Carolina, or the ACC?
No, but he's from Kentucky and coached in Kentucky and South Carolina, so he should be familiar with the general area.
11. Any other random red flags or positives?
He switched up his staff after the 2009-2010 season, tending to show that he's not afraid to make staff changes (cough which might have been nice at some point in the Lowe era cough cough)
Would he be better than Sid?
Would he be better than Herb?
I think so, yes. Not a certainty. He'd be older than Herb was when we hired him and more experienced/accomplsihed.
Would he take the job if offered?
I will go out on a limb and say yes. He took his first HC job when he was 30, and he moved on from his alma mater to South Carolina when they came calling. So he seems like an ambitious guy who does not shy away from challenging opportunities. To me, South Carolina is not a platform from which you can win a national title. They are and always will be football-first, and their basketball history is sparse. You can win a national title at NCSU and recruit better players than you can to South Carolina. And we are probably willing to pay more for a basketball coach. He might love it at So. Car. and want to stay, but I suspect he'd say yes if offered.
How would I feel if he were hired?
I'd be pretty excited, actually. I didn't know much about the guy beforehand, but I am intrigued by the tangible evidence of defense and an up tempo style. Hypothetically, if you hire this guy and convince Harrow, Brown, and CJL to stick around, you could immediately have a much improved product both stylistically and results-wise.
How would the fan base as a whole feel if he were hired?
I won't break this one out by faction, because I think almost everyone is rapidly moving into the "Please God, just make this stop somehow" category. I think the initial reaction might be surprise/disappointment, but I think most people would get on board once they got more information, though questions about his youth and lack of sustanied success would remain.