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Keatts vs The Field: Hot Seat Hires

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How’d first-year coaches do at programs where previous coaches had been on the hot seat?

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

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 second edition investigates programs that should’ve been prepared to make a quality new hire as their head coach had been on the hot seat for a while.

Patrick Ewing

Georgetown believed they could J.Q. Adams or G.W. Bush this thing with John Thompson III... thinking the bloodline would keep them in the conversation of the college basketball elites. After a Final 4 in 2007 JT3 had Georgetown regularly bowing out during the first weekend. Married to an unappealing style of play, recruiting woes and a fluctuating Big East, the last few years of JT3’s tenure were a question of when and not if. Despite JT2’s presence, Georgetown made a bold, uncompromising brave choice to do what’s best for the program by defying their legendary coach, firing his son and hiring...well uh his close mentee and best former player Patrick Ewing. The Hall of Fame center, after years of being denied a head coaching gig in the NBA, would get his chance to lead his alma-mater back to its peak...as long as his knees hold up

Georgetown

Coach (Reason; Prior Job) JT 3 (Fired) Patrick Ewing (NBA Asst.)
Coach (Reason; Prior Job) JT 3 (Fired) Patrick Ewing (NBA Asst.)
Record (Conference) 14-18 (5-13) 15-15 (5-13)
KenPom Rank (Offense; Defense) 69 (102; 58) 98 (85; 119)
Post-Season (Result) none none
Recruiting Ranking (2016; 2018) 113 31

Point Total

Overall Record: +1

Conference Record: 0

KP Overall: -2

KP Offense: +1

KP Defense: -2

Postseason: 0

Recruiting Rankings: +2

Total: 0 Overall

Prognostications: Ewing got a wide-range of grades. Considered “risky” by some USA Today gave him a B+ while SI was less accommodating grading the hire as a C-. Most with “no idea how this will work out.”

Analysis: Full disclosure: Georgetown was my first favorite college team because of JT2 and the players he produced into the league. So even though that has waned over the years there’s still a special place in my heart for that program. All that said, this haphazard analysis shows that Ewing didn’t do much in year one. His +1 for overall record could even be disputed as insignificant in comparison. Where Pat Ewing shines is asking the best rhetorical questions in a huddle and recruiting. Georgetown should improve just due to that factor alone. No question being coached by one of the greatest post-players in college and pro history helps bring players to Georgetown...hell we’ve seen it first hand.

Comparison: Keatts had the better year by a long shot...and interestingly would’ve been a great fit for Georgetown had State not moved so efficiently to hire him.

Mike Hopkins

Year after year, Lorenzo Romar came to bargain with UW officials. He was the guy who’d lose 3 pickup games in a row and beg for you to “run it back.” He continually just wanted “one...more...match” and received it despite previous shortcomings. For a stretch of 4 years Romar’s Huskies won either the Pac-12 regular season title, tourny title or both. Yet from 2011-2017, he failed to make the NCAAs with only 3 NIT appearances in that span. Romar seemed to hang on because (similar to his running buddy Mark Gottfried) he could recruit at a high level and provide hope that with this next class Washington would return to its early success. Despite players like Terrence Ross and Markelle Fultz, Romar couldn’t get out from under a relatively weak Pac-12 and it always seemed his departure was a forgone conclusion. Even with the promise of Michael Porter Jr and family, Washington knew it was time and hired long-time, former coach-in-waiting at Syracuse, Mike Hopkins. Hopkins had a few games as head coach under his belt but his lack of professional experience in the Pacific Northwest made this hire seem like a long-term prospect instead of a “win now” choice...and frankly, he looks to be ahead of schedule.

Washington

Coach (Reason; Prior Job) Lorenzo Romar (Fired) Mike Hopkins (Syracuse Asst.)
Coach (Reason; Prior Job) Lorenzo Romar (Fired) Mike Hopkins (Syracuse Asst.)
Record (Conference) 9-22 (2-16) 21-13 (10-8)
KenPom Rank (Offense; Defense) 163 (111; 224) 97 (140; 73)
Post-Season (Result) none NIT (Second Round)
Recruiting Ranking (2016; 2018) 33 35

Point Total

Overall Record: +1

Conference Record: +1

KP Overall: +2

KP Offense: -2

KP Defense: +2

Postseason: +1

Recruiting Rankings: 0

Total: +5 Overall

Prognostications: Similar to Ewing, Hopkins got a few wait-and-see grades. CBS called the hire “risky” while USA Today gave him a B+. SI rated him as a C. The belief was that Hopkins years of prep in becoming a head coach would bring wins to Washington...just not right away.

Analysis: Hopkins had the kind of year you’d tolerate from a first year head coach in a new setting. They got back to the post-season, had a winning record in conference and scored some big wins against Kansas and Arizona. While the offense suffered, everything else improved and it’s at least a good sign that recruiting remains on par with Romar’s efforts 2 years prior.

Comparison: Hopkins had the type of year you’d want out of a new coach rebuilding but Keatts walked into a similar situation and vastly improved State in a tougher conference at that.

Will Wade

Gott had DSJ, Romar had Fultz and rounding out the unholy trinity of coaches who lost their jobs due to a failure of doing anything with a lottery pick, Johnny Jones had Ben Simmons. All three of these so-called program transforming recruits came in, put up big numbers, provided memorable moments and did not improve their teams. Jones didn’t just have Simmons though, as he recruited well throughout his tenure but after losing a lead to BeeJay Anya in the NCAA, Jones’ coaching was in question for the next two years. ESPN tailor-made LSU as a contender with Simmons but no postseason led to the nail in the coffin and Jones was DOA starting the 2016 season. So, the inevitable happened and LSU made a smart hire in the young VCU coach (and former NC State POAPS) Will Wade. Heck, Clemson could’ve easily been on this list had Wade committed to coming there last year. Still, Wade’s hiring follows a trend of the SEC using its massive football revenue to hire quality coaches in basketball which may elevate that conference in the future. As for Wade last year, the hire definitely helped, all despite some controversy (in a BAD time for controversy) to keep an eye on...

LSU

Coach (Reason; Prior Job) Johnny Jones (Fired) Will Wade (VCU)
Coach (Reason; Prior Job) Johnny Jones (Fired) Will Wade (VCU)
Record (Conference) 10-21 (2-16) 18-15 (8-10)
KenPom Rank (Offense; Defense) 172 (80; 280) 66 (34; 135)
Post-Season (Result) none NIT (Second Round)
Recruiting Ranking (2016; 2018) 51 4

Point Total

Overall Record: +1

Conference Record: +1

KP Overall: +2

KP Offense: +2

KP Defense: +2

Postseason: +1

Recruiting Rankings: +2

Total: +11 Overall

Prognostications: Consensus gave the Wade hire a B across the board with the idea that we’d have to wait-and-see. Belief was that Wade would “breathe life” into LSU but the worry is the hire of a 35 year old with limited coaching experience could be premature.

Analysis: In every metric Wade improved LSU. There was a time where they were even being considered for the NCAA in 2018, but the SEC’s strange across-the-board mediocrity left only a few spots open for NCAA bids. Still, he’s recruiting at a high level (ahem...) and has blown ole’ JJ’s Kenpom metrics out of the water. Finding more wins as coaching improves in the conference...hello Tom Crean...may be tougher as time goes on. LSU made a great hire to earn back its respect with the understanding that they got a guy the big boys will be analyzing to poach in the next few years.

Comparison: Long-term this could be a serious debate...Wade has all the metrics going in his favor, more so than Keatts in some areas. The thing is Keatts notched some huge wins and took a program in a stronger conference to the NCAAs. I’d still say KK had the better year.

Our last series will target the B1G footprint with Illinois, Indiana and the Big East’s Butler. So that means yes Archie Miller is on the way...and if you haven’t been following the numbers may surprise you