"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Monday, February 14, 2011

Coaching Carousel Redux

We're pleased to welcome Dr. Blackheart back to the blog for an historical overview of the coaching carousel. Originally, this was scheduled for last week, but then "stuff" got in the way. Regardless, the content in this post is well worth revisiting after yet another road loss.

Back in 2008, right after Tom Crean left Marquette for the “Quadruple I”, the Bleacher Report published an article on fast risers in the college coaching profession. Among the names listed at the time were Anthony Grant of VCU, Brad Brownell of Wright St., Sean Miller of Xavier, Tony Bennett of Washington St. and Keno Davis of Drake (who had just been named National Coach of the Year). All were rumored to have been potential candidates for the vacant Marquette job. Absent from the list was one Brent “Buzz” Williams, a virtual unknown even to ardent MU followers.

Fast forward to February 2011, and each of these names have assumed the head coaching throne at a new, top BCS-level job: Grant to Bama, Brownell to Clemson, Miller to Arizona, Bennett to UVA and Davis to Providence. Also on the list with MU connections besides Crean were former assistant Darrin Horn (who had just taken the South Carolina spot at the time of this article) and Kevin O’Neill, former head coach, who has now assumed the USC lead. And, of course, Buzz has moved down the hall to the corner office in “The Al”.

Recently, blogger Dan Hanner of the Yet Another Basketball Blog (YABB) revisited the coaching hires over the past three years to evaluate which of these head coaches have made a difference. Hanner used Pomeroy efficiency statistics to rate these new coaches versus their predecessors. The surprising results:

  • Besides John Calipari and Mike Montgomery, no other 2-3 year head coach has improved the lot of their new teams more so than “The Buzzer”. Considering that the other two have NBA experience and past high NCAA success, Buzz has been able to move the needle in the right direction for MU—past the “Three Amigos+Zar” era and now with his own recruits—and Crean had left him with a much higher bar to beat than either Coach Cal or Montgomery inherited.
  • Yet, the shadow of doubt and his predecessor still seems to hang over the one not on the 2008 list. Quoting Hanner: “Is Buzz Williams a better coach than Tom Crean? His teams have had better efficiency margins than Crean’s did. And this data includes Crean’s team with Dwayne Wade. Until Williams gets to a Final Four, I think the answer is no. But I will say this: Buzz Williams' teams almost never get blown out. (editor's note - the next Cracked Sidewalks t-shirt will have the "no double-digit losses" banner on the back)
  • Three first year Big East Coaches made the “Positive Impact” list including former MU assistant Mike Rice—along with Steve Lavin of SJU and Kevin Willard of Seton Hall. Each of these also was left with seasoned upperclassmen. The question will be if any of these three will be “one hit wonders”, a tag that Buzz is starting to put behind him?
  • On the “Negative Impact” list are eleven names with 2-3 years on the job at their current gig, including four of the rising stars mentioned with MU in 2008, and MU coaching alumni Crean, O’Neill and Horn. Brownell, in his first year at Clemson after taking over for Oliver Purnell, is near break even. Grant seems to have Bama on the right path with defense, as the Crimson Tide is 8-2 and contending in the weaker SEC West.
So, is MU a much better job than the pundits and the so-called “hot coaches” are willing to admit or recognize? Is Buzz still underestimated, even by the MU faithful? Is the grass always greener at these high visibility jobs? On a day like today, when the fan base questions how good a coach Buzz actually is, the remainder of the season awaits to help answer these questions.

Excellent post, Dr. Blackheart. Thank you very much!


Vandy said...

Look, stats are great and I would be ignorant to ignore some of the good things Buzz has done with the program. He handled the Crean transition well and his teams always play hard. I will, however, be critical of his ability to actually coach a basketball game. His bench skills always seems to put him behind others in the Big East and he rarely "out-coaches" his opponents.

While I am not ready to start the "fire Buzz" campaign just yet, I will ALWAYS question te manner in which he was hired. Under the stewardship of a new AD, in my opinion, the hiring process was a disaster. Crean left right before the Final Four. The fact that MU did not set up a Base Camp at the Final Four is ludicrous. Why didn't we have a presence there? Because our top athletic brass was busy attending the Women's NIT Final Four. Um, excuse me?

Personally, I feel like MU "settled" for Buzz. He has done his best to get the players to buy-in and play hard, but for someone that spends a self-proclaimed (and somewhat ridiclous)20hrs/day on his job, what the hell is he doing during that time? We know he doesn't believe in practicing FTs...

I hope I am proven wrong over the course of time (and I will certainly be happy to admit it if it comes to be,) but it just seems like when crunch time arrives, Buzz teams have issues closing vs teams of equal or better talent. Part of that - if not most if it - is on the coach and his staff.

I still thnk we'll make the NCAA (only b/c of our conf) but this year's team doesn't pass the eye test. I am not sure Buzz does either.

Matt said...

Wait a second. We will make the tourney because of our conference? That doesn't even make sense. So DePaul will make it because of the conference too?

You still have to win games to make it and if MU wins the games they should they will finish 11-7 in the BE and another 20 win season.

The schedule has not been favorable, only three ranked teams in the BE have come to Milwaukee this year, we will have played six road games against ranked BE teams this year. The upcoming schedule is far easier than the last 10 games. In the last 10 games we played 8 ranked teams and gone 4-6. Only one game against a ranked team remains.

Vandy said...

Yeah, thats exactly it. I think DePaul should be in. Way to hit it out of the park.

Unknown said...

I frankly think Buzz is not the long term answer for Marquette and his over reliance on the JUCO system is going to hurt us. MU is getting a very poor reputation. First, its the team that is always "almost" there and Buzz's recruiting of JUCO players won't help us land big time recruits. Players will not want to come to Marquette to play with that type caliber talent.

I am defining talen by not only their physical kills, but basketball intellect to which DJO has practically 0 - he's an idiot. Flat our idiot. Never seen someone try to repeatedly drive through 5 players.

We come out and do great, but then our opponent will adjust at half and we're left clueless.

This team is a joke!