Out of their league

Updated: May 21, 2004, 6:46 PM ET
By Ron Buck | ESPN.com

Mike Montgomery is turning pro after 26 seasons of college coaching. Well, good luck with your new Bay Area gig. But don't worry, the door is always open for your return to campus.

Nothing against Montgomery, but the recent track records of successful college coaches on NBA sidelines is, well, not good. And we're not just talking about the Jerry Tarkanian era in San Antonio, which lasted all of 20 games (9-11) in 1992.

Maybe Monty will succeed in turning around one of the NBA's worst organizations. Maybe he'll end Golden State's decade-long playoff drought. Maybe he'll be the one who proves a college coach can get it done (long term) in the multi-million dollar world of the NBA.

Or, maybe he'll simply join the following list of big men on campus who found themselves out of their league.

Leonard Hamilton | Miami To Washington (2000)
College Résumé: Hamilton turned Miami into a Big East player, guiding the Hurricanes to three straight NCAA bids and the Sweet 16 in 2000 -- his 10th and final season at Miami. In 14 college seasons, he won 200 games at Oklahoma State and Miami, reaching the postseason seven times.
NBA Tenure: As Michael Jordan's choice to guide the Wizards, he lasted just one season, going 19-63 before being fired by MJ.
These Days: Hamilton is back on campus in the Sunshine State rebuilding Florida State's program. The Seminoles went 19-14 this past season -- Hamilton's second in Tallahassee -- and reached the second round of the NIT.

Lon Kruger | Illinois to Atlanta (2000)
College Résumé: In stops at four schools, Kruger compiled a 318-233 record over 18 seasons with nine NCAA appearances. But his best work came at Florida and Illinois. In six seasons in charge of the Gators, he was named SEC coach of the year twice (1992, '94) and guided them to the 1994 Final Four. He spent four seasons at Illinois, reaching the NCAAs three times.
NBA Tenure: Hired to replace Hall of Fame coach Lenny Wilkens, the Hawks won just 58 games in his two full seasons on the bench. Kruger was replaced 27 games into the 2002-03 season by Terry Stotts after Atlanta started his third season 11-16.
These Days: Kruger was on the Knicks' staff before being dismissed in January when Wilkens was hired to replace Don Chaney, but will be back on a college sideline near you next season as the latest man entrusted to turn around UNLV's fortunes. Kruger replaced Charlie Spoonhour in March as the sixth head coach (not counting interim faces) since Jerry Tarkanian's departure in 1992.

Tim Floyd | Iowa State to Chicago (1998); New Orleans (2003)
College Résumé: Considered one of the brightest young coaches when he took over Iowa State in 1994, Floyd won at least 20 games in his first three seasons with the Cyclones and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament each year. Prior to Iowa State, Floyd guided the University of New Orleans to five postseason appearances in six seasons, twice reaching the NCAAs.
First NBA Tenure: Hired as Chicago's Director of Basketball Operations in 1998, it wasn't long before Floyd was on the bench for the 1998-99 season when Phil Jackson took a year off, prompting Floyd's promotion to the bench. But without Michael Jordan and company, he floundered as Chicago struggled to rebuild. In three-plus seasons, Floyd won just 49 games, while losing 190, before being let go 25 games into the 2001-02 season.
These Days: Floyd's second chance as an NBA coach wasn't as bad as his first, but it ended earlier this month after just one season in New Orleans. Floyd was fired after the Hornets went 41-41 and lost to Miami in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

Rick Pitino | Kentucky to Boston (1997); Providence to New York (1987)
College Résumé: One of college basketball's most successful head coaches, Pitino won the 1996 national championship with Kentucky after guiding Providence to the '87 Final Four. In 18 seasons on a college bench, Pitino has won more than 400 games and reached the NCAA Tournament 10 times.
NBA Tenures: A decade after getting his first taste of the NBA as the New York Knicks head coach from 1987-89, Pitino once again was lured away from the college ranks to become the president and head coach of the Boston Celtics. While in New York, he reached the playoffs twice, winning 52 games in 1988-89 and sweeping the 76ers in the first round. After leaving the Knicks for Kentucky, his second time around the league wasn't as successful. While Boston improved by 21 wins his first season, Pitino failed to guide the Celtics to the playoffs in any of his three full seasons before resigning in 2001 with a 102-146 record.
These Days: Back in the Commonwealth, Pitino is wearing red instead of blue and coaching his biggest rival while at Kentucky -- Louisville. Taking over for Denny Crum in 2001, Pitino's last two UL squads have reached the NCAAs while residing in the top 25 for much of the past two seasons.

John Calipari | UMass to New Jersey (1996)
College Résumé: Building a program from the ground up, Calipari created an Atlantic Ten powerhouse at the University of Massachusetts during his first eight seasons as a head coach. The Minutemen went to five straight NCAA Tournaments from 1992-96, reaching the Final Four in Calipari's final season. His UMass teams also went to three Sweet 16s and two Elite Eights in winning five straight A-10 titles and 193 games in eight seasons.
NBA Tenure: While he won just 26 games in his first season in charge of the Nets, Calipari did get New Jersey into the playoffs in 1998, where they were swept by Chicago. And after a 43-39 season, Calipari appeared on the way to turning the Nets into a winner. But a 3-17 start to the '98-99 season signaled the end of Calipari's NBA coaching career.
These Days: Calipari has revived the Memphis program, guiding the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament the past two years and into the postseason in each of his four seasons. Memphis has won at least 20 games in each season, including 27 in 2001-02, advancing to the NCAA's second round this past season.

Jerry Tarkanian | UNLV to San Antonio (1992)
College Résumé: As the man behind UNLV's rise into the nation's elite, Tarkanian won 509 games in 19 seasons of Runnin' Rebel basketball. UNLV, which reached nine straight NCAA Tournaments under Tarkanian, won the 1990 national championship and nearly won back-to-back titles, winning its first 34 games in 1990-91 before losing to Duke in national semifinals.
NBA Tenure: After a long battle with the NCAA, Tarkanian left the college ranks in 1992 to become the San Antonio Spurs head coach. He lasted less than a year in the NBA, leaving the Spurs bench after just 20 games and a 9-11 mark.
These Days: Tarkanian retired from the bench in 2002 after returning to coach his alma mater Fresno State from 1996 to 2002. He won 104 games in five seasons, guiding the Bulldogs to the postseason each year, including a bid to the NCAA Tournament in 2001.

Ron Buck is the men's college basketball editor for ESPN.com.

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