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Keatts vs The Field: A Primer

How did Keatts’ season compare to other first-year coaches?

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Coaching Carousel brings about some of the most fun in college athletics every year. Mid-Major darlings getting their shot at the big time, long-time assistants getting to prove their worth and retreads looking for one more chance at glory. Last year produced 11 new coaches amongst the perpetual multi-bid leagues of the AAC, ACC, Big East, B1G, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC. Beginning in 2017-2018, online hyperbole regarding how awful or traitorous the old coach was is replaced by hyperbole about how the new guy will be finally the savior (or how they are a sign the AD should be fired). We experienced this in the form of Kevin Keatts, who somehow managed to both exceed expectations while simultaneously feeling like there were some missed opportunities. Yet across the country there were a mixed bag of results and while the first year doesn’t dictate how subsequent years will go, it’s a good place to start.


My purpose here is to look mostly focus on the 2016-2017 seasons at these high level programs and make inferences on how well the new guy did comparatively in 2017-2018. Also, we will take a look at how Keatts’ year went relative to other new coaches while ranking which coaches best elevated their programs in their first year. This will be done by assigning points to both years’ record, KenPom scores, and post-season play. As another exercise, we will take into account recruiting classes but due to the random fluctuations of the 2017 class (as the transition year), we will compare the 2016 & 2018 classes.


For the new coach, each construct will receive a value (which I acknowledge is arbitrary):

Overall Record: 0 for same record, 1 point for a better record, - 1 point for a worse record (due to the random nature of scheduling didn’t want to prescribe too much weight to this)

Conference Record: 0 for same record, 1 point for winning, -1 for losing (unbalanced conference scheduling also makes this less valuable; note that no one won a conference or regular season title in these years)

KenPom Overall: 0 within 20 ranks, 1 point for +20 difference, - 1 point for -20 difference; 2 points for +40, -2 points for -40 (I agree these distances are COMPLETELY arbitrary but I figured the difference between the #1 and #10 KP teams isn’t as significant as the difference between the #1 and #20 team, if someone has a suggestion for a better way to do this I am happy to make that adjustment)

KenPom Offense: (Same as Above)

Kenpom Defense: (Same As Above)

Post-Season: 0 points if they matched, +/- 1 points for NIT; +/- 2 points for NCAA (Important measure of success. If a coach missed the post-season altogether, the next coach would receive 2 points for taking the team to the NCAA. If the previous coach made the NCAA and the next coach made the NIT they would lose 1 point etc, etc)

Recruiting Ranking: 0 points if within 10 ranks, +/- 1 point outside of 10, +/- 2 points outside of 20 (This is tough if only because the former coaches had more time to establish their recruiting base, while the new coaches are working on getting “their players.” Still there’s an argument that a new coach should bring momentum to get in good recruits and if that’s a problem due to a bad 2017-2018, that’s already reflected in these numbers)

Caveats: Unpaid labor doesn’t allow me to check 1) the specific roster/morale situation they were walking into (we’ll try to account for that by categorizing the nature of the turnover) 2) recruitment and use of grad transfers as impact players (though that could just be tethered to the new coach’s record & KP) and 3) how do these fanbases define success in the first place? (Archie Miller’s year at IU may be perceived as worse than Brad Underwood’s at Illinois, all due to historical expectations)

This is a State blog so Coach Keatts is our barometer in this series. We won’t recap his year because if you’re here you already know it. According to my haphazard system Keatts would look like this (all data rankings from KenPom & 247 Sports):

NC State 2016-2018

Coach (Reason; Prior Job) Mark Gottfried (Fired) Kevin Keatts (UNCW)
Coach (Reason; Prior Job) Mark Gottfried (Fired) Kevin Keatts (UNCW)
Record (Conference) 15-17 (4-14) 21-12 (11-7)
KenPom Rank (Offense; Defense) 109 (46; 229) 46 (21; 108)
Post-Season (Result) none NCAA (Round of 64)
Recruiting Ranking (2016; 2018) 5 25

Overall Record: +1

Conference Record: +1

KP Overall: +2

KP Offense: +1

KP Defense: +2

Postseason: +2

Recruiting Ranking: -2

Total: +7 Overall

Keatts really racked up in KP & making the NCAA but 5 stars DSJ and Y7 were much greater gets than his haul in year one.

Using this data, each week we will compare a set of coaches to this score. Those coaches will be categorized by how the previous coach left the university (quit, fired etc). We will also take a look at how CBS, SI & USA Today ranked these hires to provide even more context or just something to laugh at. Next week we will see where Cuonzo Martin, Brad Underwood and Thad Matta’s chosen (sorta) departures left their previous schools to make quick, program altering hires.

Final note: I am an educator by trade and by calling, constructive criticism is my life’s work. If you have any to potentially improve this analysis before I fully dive in, please let me know!