The COVID-19 pandemic that abruptly canceled the 2020 NCAA Tournament back in March also made the coaching carousel that normally spins wildly barely spin at all — evidence being that only one power-conference job actually opened following the season. So who knows how things will go next March/April considering we’ll still likely be dealing with this pandemic? And, don’t forget, athletic departments from coast-to-coast are currently enduring massive financial losses, relative to the revenue normally created, because of their inability to sell tickets to football and basketball games like they normally would.
Will schools be able to afford big buyouts?
Will they even want to try?
That’s my way of acknowledging upfront that it’s impossible to know with any degree of certainty whether jobs will open after this upcoming season the way they might in normal times. But, either way, no preseason would be complete without an annual Coaches On The Hot Seat column that serves as a list of men whose careers could be altered, for one reason or another, if things don’t go well for them.
So here’s a list of coaches on the hot seat:
This is, unfortunately, the third straight preseason Jim Christian has made this list, the result of him entering his seventh year at Boston College without having ever finished better than 10th in the ACC. In other words, the Eagles haven’t sniffed the NCAA Tournament under Christian after making it seven times from 2001 to 2009 under former coach Al Skinner. So unless Christian spends this season improving on his 25-85 record in ACC games — and he likely won’t considering Boston College is expected to finish near the bottom of the league standings — his final game in the ACC Tournament could be his last game as an ACC coach.
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Dave Leitao (DePaul)
Dave Leitao appeared on this list in advance of the 2018-19 season. He then finished last in the Big East but still kept his job. So, understandably, Leitao appeared on this list again in advance of last season. He then, once again, finished last in the Big East but still kept his job. So here we are again. And considering Leitao’s Blue Demons are projected to finish either last or next-to-last in the Big East by basically everybody, the odds of him getting a seventh season don’t seem great. But, at this point, with DePaul, who knows?
This is undoubtedly the first time Gregg Marshall’s name has ever appeared on a list like this list. Needless to say, it’s not here because of too much losing but instead because of allegations that the 2014 Naismith National Coach of the Year. One allegation is that Marshall once punched a player. Another is that he once choked an assistant. In the spirit of fairness, let the record show that Marshall has said he’s “never physically struck a player or colleague.” But Wichita State is currently conducting its own investigation. And if the evidence contradicts what Marshall is insisting, it’ll be hard for the AAC program to justify keeping him — although, it should be noted, that Marshall still has strong ties to some big-money supporters who would prefer to keep him regardless of the outcome of the investigation. So we’ll see.
Arizona recently received a notice of allegations from the NCAA that reportedly features five Level I violations, one of which accuses Sean Miller of lack of head coach control and is punishable by up to a season-long suspension. Given that two of Miller’s assistants (Book Richardson and Mark Phelps) have been fired in the past three years for rules violations, I’m not sure there’s a good way for Miller to argue that he did in fact have control of his staff. So it’s possible, if not likely, that the NCAA will hit him hard. And if it does, there’s at least a chance Arizona will finally decide it’s time to move on and start fresh.
Will Wade (LSU)
Will Wade is basically in the same situation as Miller — riding out an NCAA investigation that probably won’t end well for him. The NCAA has accused the LSU coach of either arranging for, offering or providing impermissible benefits, including cash payments, to “at least 11” potential recruits or others around them. That’s obviously a lot to get around. And if the NCAA ultimately finds Wade, for lack of a better phrase, guilty as charged, the result would be a lengthy suspension that likely ends in a coaching change.
Other “Hot Seat” lists you’ll see this preseason might include, among others, Stanford’s Jerod Haase, SMU’s Tim Jankovich, Indiana’s Archie Miller, Georgia Tech’s Josh Pastner, Texas‘ Shaka Smart, and Kansas‘ Bill Self. But I chose to leave them off of this list because, in the simplest of terms I believe they’re all going to have good-enough seasons to survive or, in Self’s case, survive because his administration seems prepared to fight for him, and then stand by him, almost regardless of what happens with KU’s ongoing NCAA case.
I have Indiana and Texas in the. I have Stanford and Georgia Tech as possible, if not likely, NCAA Tournament teams. I think SMU will finish in the top three of the AAC. So, sure, if things go horrifically bad at Texas, Indiana, Stanford, Georgia Tech or SMU, a coaching change could become a realistic possibility. But, on paper, the coaches at those schools are entering this season with quality teams. So, for now, I’m going to trust them to succeed.