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Keatts vs. The Field: Unexpected Turnover

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How’d first year coaches do at programs that weren’t planning for a coaching search in the first place?

Big Ten Basketball Media Day Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Note: Feel free to reference this post for reasoning and methodology. For comparisons sake here are Keatts’ point totals. Credit to KenPom, 247 Sports, CBS, SI, and USA Today throughout.

Overall Record: +1

Conference Record: +1

KP Overall: +2

KP Offense: +1

KP Defense: +2

Postseason: +2

Recruiting Rankings: -2

Total: +7 Overall

Prognostications (not listed in the previous article): Keatts was credited as a “quality” hire, earning B+s. Compliments on the fit with the program as well as an infectious “hungry” attitude were mentioned.

Our first edition will cover programs which saw coaches (somewhat) voluntarily leave, which left these universities with little time, awareness, or opportunity to fully engage in a coaching search.

Wyking Jones

Cal wasn’t great, but it was ok! A perpetually below average program hired up-and-coming Cuonzo Martin and was starting to make some noise. Then, as Martin tends to do, he left for greener (?) pastures. Cal ditched a national coaching search to promote Wyking Jones, actor & former UofL assistant along with Kevin Keatts. Annnnd it wasn’t as dope as it should’ve been

Cal 2016-2018

Coach (Reason; Prior Job) Cuonzo Martin (Left) Wyking Jones (Cal Asst.)
Coach (Reason; Prior Job) Cuonzo Martin (Left) Wyking Jones (Cal Asst.)
Record (Conference) 21-13 (10-8) 8-24 (2-14)
KenPom Rank (Offense; Defense) 62 (160; 14) 245 (294; 178)
Post-Season (Result) NIT (First Round) none
Recruiting Ranking (2016; 2018) 99 30

Point Total

Overall Record: -1

Conference Record: -1

KP Overall: -2

KP Offense: -2

KP Defense: -2

Postseason: -1

Recruiting Rankings: +2

Total: -7 Overall

Prognostications: Media outlets pegged the Jones hire as “risky” with an average grade of D with the expectation he was set up to fail. One outlet surmised he’d only last a couple of years.

Analysis: Whoa the media may be right here. It is expected that replacing a good coach with one who has no experience as the head of a program would produce worse results. With Jones we see a massive drop off across the board in Kenpom with a failure to make any post-season. His saving grace is that he seems to be recruiting at a much higher level than Martin’s penultimate year, which feels weird to say knowing what Cuonzo is doing at Mizzou.

Comparison: No question Kevin Keatts had a better first year than his old buddy Wyking Jones. And if Keatts ever has a worse year than Jones, I’ll pull a Steven and slow cook a shoe.

Mike Boynton

So, your coach leaves for a comparable school unceremoniously after rumored conflict with the AD. You decided to avoid a national search and hire an assistant. And while that has shown some promise on the court, you are mainly happy you hired the RIGHT assistant. Just like us, OKSU has a (now) former coach implicated in the FBI probe. Difference is Mike Boynton had to deal with his colleague’s transgressions early in the season, yet still avoid tanking the year. He did that and OKSU was a prominent bubble team that came just short of the NCAA despite 3 wins over Big 12 winner and Final Four participant Kansas.

OKSU 2016-2018

Coach (Reason; Prior Job) Brad Underwood (Left) Mike Boynton (OkSU Asst.)
Coach (Reason; Prior Job) Brad Underwood (Left) Mike Boynton (OkSU Asst.)
Record (Conference) 20-13 (9-9) 21-15 (8-10)
KenPom Rank (Offense; Defense) 22 (1; 155) 60 (62; 58)
Post-Season (Result) NCAA (Round of 64) NIT (Quarterfinals)
Recruiting Ranking (2016; 2018) 54 (Travis Ford) 86

Point Total

Overall Record: +1

Conference Record: -1

KP Overall: -2

KP Offense: -2

KP Defense: +2

Postseason: -1

Recruiting Rankings: N/A

Total: -3 Overall

Prognostications: Boynton was seen as “risky” and given an average around a D/D+ with a note that the hire saved the school money (guess T. Boone only cares about football huh?)

Analysis: For a first year head coach dealing with scandal, Boynton did alright getting to the NIT. He improved the defense despite the offense and overall Kenpom numbers suffering. Note that recruiting rankings are N/A because Underwood was only there for a year, so it was unfair to compare Boynton’s class to former coach Travis Ford’s. If we were we’d give a -2 to Boynton so he’s probably ok with that.

Comparison: Keatts has had the better year than Boyton. A couple of games here or there, getting OKSU in the NCAA and this could’ve been a lot closer.

Chris Holtman

Ohio State ate half of their steak medium rare and THEN decided they wanted to upgrade it to medium. Thad Matta’s resignation/firing/retirement was so late in the year and an example of poor management failing forward. Chris Holtman, of POAPS fame, spent a few years maintaining the high quality play of Butler basketball but couldn’t resist the B1G money school in a B1G money conference. Matta had been outstanding for the Buckeyes but Holtman reinvigorated the program and proceeded to have a great year…oh and btw thanks for Braxton Beverly.

tOSU 2016-2018

Coach (Reason; Prior Job) Thad Matta (Fired/Resign) Chris Hotman (Butler)
Coach (Reason; Prior Job) Thad Matta (Fired/Resign) Chris Hotman (Butler)
Record (Conference) 17-15 (7-11) 25-9 (15-3)
KenPom Rank (Offense; Defense) 73 (60; 99) 16 (23; 15)
Post-Season (Result) none NCAA (Round of 32)
Recruiting Ranking (2016; 2018) 42 24

Point Total

Overall Record: +1

Conference Record: +1

KP Overall: +2

KP Offense: +2

KP Defense: +2

Postseason: +2

Recruiting Rankings: +2

Total: +10 Overall

Prognostications: Hard to find much of Holtman on these lists because of how late his hire was but he was referred to as a “rising-star” in SI.

Analysis: Holtman quickly improved tOSU in every way after Matta’s ouster. So significantly that they were spending a lot of time in the national rankings and were a single digit seed in the NCAAs.

Comparison: This project will show that there are few first year coaches who had a better year than Keatts did. Holtman is undoubtedly one of them.