Commentary

Catching up on the coaching carousel

Originally Published: April 8, 2010
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

The coaching carousel has spun quickly, but hasn't reached the highest level of the game just yet.

It may not, either. Try as it might to be deemed a marquee job, Oregon is only in that category because of the money Nike has invested in the university. Otherwise it is simply a Pac-10 school no different than most and certainly behind UCLA and Arizona as the two most recognizable names in the conference.

So far the annual coaching carousel hasn't delivered a blockbuster move like a year ago when Kentucky was open and filled by John Calipari. But it's still early. For now the jobs have been solid, not spectacular. Here's a rundown of the hirings that have occurred so far:

Auburn

Out: Jeff Lebo

In: Tony Barbee

The move: Solid hire. Barbee comes from UTEP, where he was quick to reload and reshuffle the Miners. Billy Gillispie and Doc Sadler started the rebuilding process quite well with success and Barbee was able to take another step and win a conference championship. The former John Calipari assistant should be more in his comfort zone in the SEC, can navigate the waters of the South well and has the connections to get players.

Important step: The home schedule. This may seem odd, but Auburn must get off to a fantastic start in its brand-new building to create a buzz. North Carolina was once going to be the opener with the Roy Williams-Lebo connection. If Barbee can get marquee games at Auburn -- and win -- that should be a great jumping-off point.

Boise State

Out: Greg Graham

In: Leon Rice

The move: As a Mark Few assistant, Rice has been a mainstay in the Northwest for the past decade. You can't go wrong with plucking into the Gonzaga tree with the Zags' success. Rice could have perfect timing with Boise poised to be possible expansion fodder for the Mountain West.

Important step: Boise State has to establish more of a winning culture. The WAC has been dominated by Utah State, New Mexico State and Nevada of late. There's no reason why the Broncos can't join this group.

Boston College

Out: Al Skinner

In: Steve Donahue

The move: BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo didn't handle the firing of Skinner well. If he was going to do it, then just say he's fired and move on -- don't hide behind the cover of a mutual agreement. Skinner had two disappointing seasons in the past three years. That is the truth. But so is going to seven of the past 10 NCAA tournaments and leaving a roster that has the potential to get back in 2011. Donahue was a huge success at Cornell the past three seasons. Coaching is coaching, but recruiting isn't the same at all levels. Which means …

Important step: Donahue must sign significant players this summer for 2011-12. There is a gap in classes and the Eagles will take a nosedive if they can't get players who can play immediately at an ACC level. They don't have to be All-Americans. That was never the case at BC. But find hidden gems like the previous staff did with players like Jared Dudley and most recently Reggie Jackson. The outgoing staff doesn't get enough credit for finding Jackson, who could play anywhere.

Central Arkansas

Out: Rand Chappell

In: Corliss Williamson

The move: Williamson was a huge name for Nolan Richardson's 1994 national champion Razorbacks, so this move was a big hit in the state of Arkansas. Scottie Pippen's alma mater will become a full-fledged Division I member this fall. Will success in the Southland Conference follow?

Important step: This is a classic case of brand name that wins the news conference and gives the school instant name recognition for the foreseeable future. Time to capitalize on it.

DePaul

Out: Jerry Wainwright

In: Oliver Purnell

The move: This was classic money/retirement move by Purnell. No reason not to bolt if you're 56, have been a head coach for 22 years and someone is going to give you $15 million for seven more seasons. Purnell's style of play is exciting to watch and the niche could do well in the Big East.

Important step: Purnell must have a Chicago-slanted staff. This is one of those provincial jobs where staff matters in the city. DePaul said there was no guarantee he would or has to hire the holdovers, but in this case it would really help him mend some fences in a tight-lip city. The local coaches on record weren't exactly thrilled with this hire.

East Carolina

Out: Mack McCarthy

In: Jeff Lebo

The move: Athletic director Terry Holland went for a coach who he's familiar with from his days in the ACC. The recently fired Auburn coach was a point guard at North Carolina from 1986 to 1989. It makes sense.

Important step: Lebo has to attempt to make the Pirates relevant. Unlike its football program, ECU hoops has no national profile. He must attempt to change that or East Carolina will continue to be swallowed up by the teams in C-USA that are simply plodding along.

Fordham

Out: Dereck Whittenburg

In: Tom Pecora

The move: Fordham desperately wants to be relevant in New York. Pecora is beloved in the city by the local coaches. He didn't go to the NCAA tournament while at Hofstra, but in this case, having an in locally might suffice.

Important step: The Rams have to continue to upgrade their talent, but ultimately they have to win. It's as simple as that. Whittenburg had times when he made Fordham relevant, but it fell apart at the end. Pecora has an engaging personality. But it'll be a heck of a challenge to turn Fordham into a contender in the loaded A-10.

Hawaii

Out: Bob Nash

In: Gib Arnold

The move: Nash had his three-year shot to get Hawaii turned around. It was an impossible task to follow longtime coach Riley Wallace. Recruiting suffered, attendance waned and the Warriors had to make a move. Hawaii is a provincial job like DePaul, and Arnold has local ties since he is the son of former UH coach Frank Arnold and he finished high school in Honolulu.

Important step: Arnold must recruit internationally and with junior colleges to immediately upgrade the talent. Hawaii is a destination for older players more than it is for freshmen. That's how Wallace was a success. If Arnold can tap that market again he can be a success.

Hofstra

Out: Tom Pecora

In: Tim Welsh

The move: Welsh was a home run hire for Hofstra. Welsh knows New York well and can succeed in the CAA. If he makes the NCAAs, it will prove to be quite a hire since Pecora could never get the Pride over the hump.

Important step: Hofstra doesn't have trouble getting interest on Long Island, nor do the Pride lack for star players (see: Charles Jenkins). But Hofstra never had that breakthrough nonconference success. Welsh has to schedule well and put the Pride in position to possibly get a bid. Scheduling is an art that not all coaches have mastered.

Houston

Out: Tom Penders

In: James Dickey

The move: Penders insists that he retired and wasn't forced out. He wanted a new change in life and will be doing some clinics in Switzerland over the summer. That's a great gig for a coach who consistently has never shown the stress of coaching. Houston is a tough job. There are players in the state, but the facilities pale in comparison to those at other C-USA programs. Dickey did more with less when he was at Texas Tech prior to the new digs in Lubbock. He is a veteran coach who was never faulted for his ability to coach up players.

Important step: Dickey must do a great job of promoting the program. Penders was a master at getting people to talk about Houston, but it didn't translate at the stands. He recruited exceptionally well and was a face of the program. Dickey must be just as aggressive in getting the word out.

Iona

Out: Kevin Willard

In: Tim Cluess

The move: Willard landed the Seton Hall job without getting Iona deep into the MAAC tournament or into any form of the postseason. It was quite a coup for Willard. Iona considered going with ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, but he withdrew. Cluess was a major success at the Division II level at C.W. Post.

Important step: Now the chore for Cluess is to introduce himself to those that don't know him, which for the masses is everybody. He has to get out and make a name for himself before the season starts so that he can start to draw interest. Clearly he can coach, but Cluess must work on the name recognition in a conference that has done well of late.

Iowa

Out: Todd Lickliter

In: Fran McCaffery

The move: The Hawkeyes were wandering at the bottom of the Big Ten with little hope for moving upward. Clearly the Lickliter experiment wasn't working. Iowa had to completely change direction to get fan interest going again. Hiring McCaffery, if he can deliver with the uptempo style like he succeeded with at Siena, will be a huge hit. Tom Davis' fast-paced Iowa teams were always a good watch. McCaffery's will be too -- eventually.

Important step: The talent level at Iowa is down … way down. McCaffery has had great success recruiting in the Northeast, but he may need to convince some to head to the Midwest. He's got to have a tremendous recruiting class this summer to start the process of rebuilding.

Louisiana-Lafayette

Out: Robert Lee

In: Bob Marlin

The move: Marlin was a huge hit at Sam Houston State, where he was consistently putting the Bearkats at the top of the Southland Conference. Lafayette is a solid hoops market and there's no reason the Ragin' Cajuns can't contend in the Sun Belt. This was one of the best hires of the carousel.

Important step: Just get players. Marlin can coach them without a problem.

Pennsylvania

Out: Glen Miller

In: Jerome Allen

The move: Penn athletic director Steve Bilsky didn't hide the fact if Miller wasn't successful he would be out. And after an 0-7 start, he was indeed out. Allen, a star player and a tremendous representative of the school, was a natural replacement. He did wonders for his image when he took down Cornell to hand the Big Red its first Ivy League loss. Allen got the job because there was really no other better choice at this particular time.

Important step: Talent level has dropped at Penn. Allen has to use his charm to land a few other players like himself on this roster. Once he does, the Quakers will immediately climb back near the top. Penn may be the best overall Ivy in terms of city, history, academics, access to high school players and the Big Five.

Sam Houston State

Out: Bob Marlin

In: Jason Hooten

The move: Marlin made Sam Houston State a success. Hooten was his assistant. That's not easy to slide over one chair, but the onus will be on Hooten to continue the success.

Important step: It might not come until the season actually starts, when coaching will be the issue. Plenty of assistants have done well in replacing the head coaches, most recently Chris Mack replacing Sean Miller at Xavier. But we won't know until we see how Hooten handles not having Marlin around.

St. John's

Out: Norm Roberts

In: Steve Lavin

The move: The Red Storm did what Providence and Boston College have done in the past year: they made a move with a senior-dominated team waiting in the wings. So Roberts was out before getting a chance with that group. The Storm desperately needed a face of the program, and they've got that with Lavin. He wins the news conference and will be a home run hire for the PR staff at St. John's, which will be able to trot him out whenever they want to get the Red Storm some New York-area pub.

Important step: Lavin must hire a staff with New York connections. He has made one move so far with Tony Chiles, who definitely has New York ties. But most importantly, he has to sign a significant class this summer. The depth behind the upcoming seniors is weak. Lavin can't afford a cliff dive after next season.

Seton Hall

Out: Bobby Gonzalez

In: Kevin Willard

The move: Gonzo was out of control at times and the Pirates needed to settle. There were also too many issues with the players. There had to be a change made. Willard wasn't the first choice. He hasn't made the NCAAs, but he comes to the Hall without any wild antics. Sure, Mike Rice of Robert Morris has won more and been a success in the postseason. But I still wonder if Rice's animated sideline behavior was a negative, considering the need to have someone more tame in the post-Gonzo era. Rice should get a quality job, but maybe the timing wasn't right here.

Important step: Willard has to repair the bridges that may have been broken with Gonzo. How Willard handles the job in the community and on campus and with the media might be the most important thing he does all summer. There is talent in this program. But he has to repair the image of Seton Hall first.

Siena

Out: Fran McCaffery

In: Mitch Buonaguro

The move: McCaffery left Siena after three straight NCAA appearances. This has long been considered one of the best non-power six jobs in the Northeast because of the passionate fan base in Albany, the facilities and the proximity to players. Buonaguro was once a head coach at Fairfield so he knows the MAAC well. He was McCaffery's top assistant the past five seasons, so this was clearly a move to keep everything in-house. Hey, it's worked well at places like Gonzaga, Butler and Xavier.

Important step: Buonaguro obviously has to get players, but he also must introduce himself to the populous at large. He's largely an unknown outside basketball circles. Siena has had plenty of pub for its NCAA wins and McCaffery's ability to work national and regional folks. Buonaguro must do the same.

Toledo

Out: Gene Cross

In: Tod Kowalczyk

The move: MAC jobs are extremely difficult and are thankless endeavors. The fan bases are passionate, but outside of the MAC, few appreciate how tough it is to win on the road and have sustained success. Kowalczyk knows the Midwest well and has good genes in the biz.

Important step: Cross wasn't at Toledo long, which means Kowalczyk may have to repair some bridges and get the Rockets' name out in the Midwest as Toledo attempts to make inroads again in recruiting. You can move up quickly within the MAC.

Tulane

Out: Dave Dickerson

In: Ed Conroy

The move: Dickerson held the program together in the post-Katrina world in New Orleans. He should be given credit for what he did. But clearly the Green Wave faithful weren't satisfied. Conroy did well in a unique situation at The Citadel.

Important step: Tulane has to have a feel within the community. Getting players is a must, but Conroy must put a face on the program locally to continue to draw interest. C-USA is in constant flux and stability is a must at some of these middling schools.

UCF

Out: Kirk Speraw

In: Donnie Jones

The move: Jones did well with the Thundering Herd and found a hidden gem in NBA-bound center Hassan Whiteside. He originally went back to Marshall because he's from West Virginia. But he's no fool. Central Florida has more potential than Marshall and the former Florida assistant seized the opportunity.

Important step: Every coach constantly talks about how this is a untapped job with unlimited potential. OK, so now let's see if Jones can make that happen with recruiting this summer and scheduling more marquee games.

UTEP

Out: Tony Barbee

In: Tim Floyd

The move: Barbee won a Conference USA title and lured Derrick Caracter for a season. Floyd was beloved in El Paso when he worked for the late Don Haskins in the late 1970s and early '80s. He recruited well for Haskins and the Miner faithful have never forgotten. It was an interesting move to say the least, before the committee on infractions issues its final report on USC. But Floyd has the backing from the Miners' administration. The truth is, Floyd is one of the best coaches in the game. He can recruit, as well. This should be a good marriage.

Important step: Whether Floyd wants to or not, he will have to tread lightly once the COI report comes out on USC. It would make sense for him to be as transparent and forthcoming as possible and talk about it once the report is out to clear the air before he starts coaching the Miners and gets off to a fresh start.

Wagner

Out: Mike Deane

In: Dan Hurley

The move: Wagner had wallowed toward the bottom in the NEC and needed a fresh start. Hurley gives Wagner instant name recognition. Wagner was able to get a pop on the hire immediately, something it probably wouldn't have had if someone else landed the job.

Important step: Hurley was a high school coach in his last job, but has also been a college assistant. He shouldn't have problems recruiting with his strong local ties. Judging this hire will come next season when he's on the floor coaching against his peers.

Still To Be Filled:

Charlotte: A hidden gem of a job that could be consistently one of the best in the Atlantic 10. A number of coaches look at this as a potential goldmine. So what's taking so long?

The Citadel: Must be a coach who understands this institution. It is certainly a unique one.

Clemson: Fertile recruiting area, great fan base and an attractive ACC job makes this one a good catch.

Cornell: Donahue left and so did a bunch of seniors. He's a tough act to follow in a league that could return to Princeton dominance at the top.

Dartmouth: Still looking for a replacement for Terry Dunn. It's considered the worst job in the league. Harsh but true.

Gardner-Webb: Rick Scruggs had his moment when he beat Kentucky at Rupp Arena. That will be hard to repeat.

Green Bay: Butler has changed the dynamic in the Horizon League. These jobs are getting harder by the day as the popularity of the Bulldogs grows.

Holy Cross: Sean Kearney was stunningly fired after less than a year. AD Dick Regan will have interested parties for one of the best jobs in the Patriot League, but some coaches may be wary of an AD with a quick trigger.

Howard: Gil Jackson is out. Can the Bison gain a pulse in a league that Morgan State dominates? Howard was just 7-25 last season.

Marshall: Appalachian State head coach Buzz Peterson and Pitt associate head coach Tom Herrion appear to be the front-runners after Mark Gottfried took himself out of the running. It's a solid job with a loyal fan base, but has consistently been stuck somewhere in the middle of C-USA.

Oregon: The Ducks still are attempting to land a big-name coach after overtures all over the country. Once again, this is a case where the coach (Ernie Kent) was fired without a real plan. Strip away the big-time salary and it's still an average power six job.

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights have begun termination talks with Fred Hill, who had a verbal outburst at a recent Rutgers baseball game. Where will RU turn? The aforementioned Fraschilla and Rice are early possibilities, along with former Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien.

St. Francis (N.Y.): Brian Nash resigned after five losing seasons with the Terriers. This is a thankless job. It's one of only a handful of schools who have been in Division I the entire span of the NCAA tournament but have yet to participate.

UC Irvine: Pat Douglass served the Anteaters well, but his tenure had run his course. UC Irvine will likely go with someone that has SoCal ties.

UNC Wilmington: Benny Moss has been out for months and Wilmington still can't figure out what to do. It thought it had Ed Conroy, but lost him to Tulane.

Wake Forest: You may disagree with the firing of Dino Gaudio, but AD Ron Wellman didn't hide in the aftermath. He said Gaudio didn't win enough in February and March. This is a quality job, in the upper half of the ACC and will attract quality candidates who fit Wake. Wellman always keeps the searches close to the vest.

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com