Ranking the coaching hires in the ACC
Posted May 13, 2011
I wrote in one of my blogposts a couple of months ago that the quality of basketball coaches in the ACC had gone through a significant upgrade over the last couple of years, and that I anticipated there would be more to come this offseason. At the time of that post, there were only two openings in the ACC (NC State and Georgia Tech). We saw two more jobs open up, as Frank Haith left Miami for the Missouri job, and Maryland's Gary Williams suddenly decided to retire.
So how much did the ACC's coaching fraternity really improve? Which school made the best hire? Here's how I think they stack up.
1. NC State- The Wolfpack made the biggest improvement in moving from Sidney Lowe to Mark Gottfried. For the first time in 5 years, State will have an honest-to-goodness COLLEGE basketball coach on their sideline. Gottfried has a track record of success at a high-level program, and he won't have to learn the game as he goes like his predecessor did. There will be immediate improvement in Raleigh, and he will have the Pack back in the NCAA Tournament within two years, and if Gottfried is able to get the ball rolling at State, I could see him staying there for a while.
2. Miami- As far as immediate impact, this is probably the best hire. Jim Larranaga is a HUGE upgrade over Frank Haith as far as a bench coach. Larranaga also inherits some talent at "The U". The issue I have with this hire is where it leaves the future of the Hurricane program. Larranaga is 61 years old. That will be an issue in recruiting, and I'm sure it's an issue that all 37 people who actually care about Miami basketball are concerned about.
3. Maryland- Not many people expected this job to come open, and Maryland was in a tough spot having to find a new coach so late in the game. By all accounts, Sean Miller was ready and willing to jump from Arizona to College Park, but Terps AD Kevin Anderson was unable to close the deal. Maryland also had to hear a couple of other 'no's' before Mark Turgeon finally said 'yes'. Turgeon had a good 4-year run at Texas A&M, getting the Aggies to the Big Dance all 4 seasons. However, he never got them past the 2nd round. Terp fans are hungry for their program to get back to the days when they were consistently in the Sweet 16. Is Turgeon the guy to get them there? I have my doubts. At first glance, the loss of Gary Williams looks like a blow for the ACC. But the truth is that Maryland's program has stagnated the last few years, and maybe it was a case of the game, or more accurately the "game within the game", passing Gary by. Credit to him for being self-aware enough to realize it.
4. Georgia Tech- The Yellow Jackets went the opposite route from Miami and went with youth in hiring Brian Gregory from Dayton. Gregory has had some modest success with the Flyers in his 8 seasons on the bench, getting them to two NCAA Tournaments, and winning an NIT Championship in 2010. Tech has been the most inconsistent program in the ACC over the last decade under Paul Hewitt, and while the ridiculous buyout that the school had to pay Hewitt may have hamstrung them, this is a lateral move, coaching-wise. Sometimes any change can be good, and that was the case for Tech. They needed a new voice in that locker room.
These are not really the names we hoped to see when these jobs came open. There is no Sean Miller, no Jamie Dixon, not even a Josh Pastner. While I think this group is still an overall upgrade from the group they are replacing, at least in the short-term, I think there is a very good chance that at least a couple of these schools will be in the market for a new coach again within the next few years.