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January 19, 2004 Columns No Comments

“March Madness” of a Different Kind

by Jim Woods

Hop On-Board the Coaching Carousel

Friday, December 19th St. John’s University parted ways with Head Coach Mike Jarvis in the first ever in-season firing of a Big East head coach. Many, including myself, were shocked and appalled that a coach could lose his job before his team even entered conference play. However, in the increasingly professional world of college basketball, it was only a matter of time before this occurred. Jarvis’ firing not only acts as an indicator that the “win or else” philosophy is firmly entrenched in the mindsets of upper level administrators, but it is also the official start of Coaching Carousel 2004.

Every spring between 30 and 60 Division I head coaching jobs turnover, and this year figures to be no different. Coaches retire, resign, get fired, move onto the NBA, or make moves to “better” head coaching jobs. It sounds like relatively simple process, but it is much more complex than many would think. Nearly every move that’s made by one coach has a cause and effect that can trickle down to countless other coaches. Perhaps no other aspect of college coaching is as unpredictable and stressful as the Carousel. The ride is about more than the “hot low-major” Coach “A” who leads his team to the tourney and is in demand by Big East programs. It is about his assistants who do not know if they get taken along to that next level, the list of guys who will get an interview for Coach “A’s” job if he can move, the players in Coach “A’s” program, or maybe the two guys who Coach “A” has promised assistant jobs. We will not even begin to talk about the spouses and children who get first class seats on the Carousel. Every March, coaches across the country finish their seasons, put away the game plans and begin to figure out their futures. If you are on the phone, you’re either signing a recruit late or talking to a colleague to get the latest job rumor. You can’t be the one left without a chair when the music stops.

For many, the Carousel is about the opportunity to get their first Division I head coaching job. Will the high-major assistant who has worked for years to get himself in position to take over his own program finally make his dream a reality? These guys will be positioning themselves to get interviews and then trying to knock over AD’s and Presidents with their enthusiasm and vision. Each will make friends with their target schools’ beat reporter or anybody who may have the ear of the selection committee. They all just want the chance to take everything they have learned and call it their own. Here are a few guys who are close to making the first big stop on their Carousel.

Chris Collins, Assistant Coach, Duke University

Family bloodlines and coaching pedigree make the decision to hire Chris Collins a no-brainer. Collins joined the Duke staff in 2000 after a two-year stint at Seton Hall as an assistant to current Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker. He has quickly established himself as one of the finest recruiters in the nation, as he was instrumental in helping the Blue Devils land Luol Deng. As a young former successful collegian player, Collins understands what many of today’s student athletes are going through and can easily relate to them. Obviously working for Coach K does not hurt your chances of getting a job at any level of college basketball. I expect Collins to follow in the Quin Snyder/Tommy Amaker mold and take his first head-coaching job in a high-major conference.

Norm Roberts, Associate Head Coach, University of Kansas

This New York native has been making his mark as an assistant coach in the Midwest. After working for four year under the legendary Jack Curran at Archbishop Molloy High School in Jamaica, NY, Roberts moved on to the college level as an assistant coach to Bill Self at Oral Roberts University. He has remained by Self’s side ever since, from Oral Roberts to Illinois and now finally Kansas. This is his second consecutive season as Self’s associate head coach. Roberts is considered by many to be one of the top recruiters in the nation, and in 2002 he helped Illinois put together a consensus Top Ten recruiting class. In addition, he has been a staff member for two Elite Eight teams (2000 Tulsa and 2001 Illinois). Roberts’ strong ties to New York and his Midwest coaching background make him appealing to schools in many different geographic regions.

Fred Hill, Associate Head Coach, Villanova University

Passionate and energetic are two words that best describe New Jersey native Fred Hill. He has been a Division I assistant since 1982 with stints at all levels, and stops include Fairleigh Dickinson, Seton Hall, and now Villanova. At FDU and Seton Hall, Hill tasted the NCAA tournament, and he was responsible for recruiting many of the top players on each of those teams. Twice Hill has been a member of coaching staffs that have landed consensus top five national recruiting classes (2000 Seton Hall and 2002 Villanova). Perhaps no other assistant in the country is as well respected by the top AAU and high school coaches in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. An excellent clinician and teacher, Hill would be a perfect choice for any school, especially one in the Northeast.

Anthony Grant, Associate Head Coach, University of Florida

A Florida native and a former player at the University of Dayton, Grant has been with Billy Donovan since the beginning in Gainesville. He has played large role in the resurgence of Gator basketball. From game plan preparation to recruiting, Grant is involved in all aspects of the program. While on staff at Florida, Grant has been instrumental in recruiting eight McDonald’s All Americans and developing three first round NBA draft picks. Grant’s name was involved with a few jobs this past spring and I anticipate this spring will be no different. Any Florida school or Southeast school in need of a coach would be crazy to not contact Anthony Grant.

Dave Dickerson, Assistant Coach, University of Maryland

Winning is synonymous with Dave Dickerson. In his thirteen seasons as an assistant coach, he has not experienced a losing season. His seven seasons at Maryland have seen the Terps advance to two Final Fours culminating in a National Championship in 2002. Dickerson has been extremely successful as a recruiter, as he was heavily involved with the recruitment of such stars as Chris Wilcox, Juan Dixon, and Lonny Baxter. He is extremely well respected amongst his peers, and Dickerson will make an athletic director very happy next season.

Notes From “The Sideline”

• You can agree or disagree with his coaching ability or his tenure at North Carolina, but I really enjoyed listening to Matt Doherty as an analyst on the Pittsburgh-Miami game Saturday. He is insightful, interesting, and does not let a schtick get in the way of calling the game. If he does not resurface on the sideline next season (and I think he will), he has a very good future in television. Now Steve Lavin on the other hand….let’s get him back on the sidelines soon.

• Carl Krauser’s length of the court drive to send Pitt to overtime against Miami was a near carbon copy of the Texas/Providence ending last week. I give great credit to the player getting to the basket that quickly, but the defense has to be questioned. You must make a guy change direction coming up the floor in that situation. As the dribbler gets closer to the rim your big defenders must converge and look to challenge the shot. Players need to remember that in that situation referees like to let players decide the game, and you will likely get away with some contact on a final shot. It seemed both Providence and Miami were overly concerned with fouling.

• Congratulations to Marist College coach Dave Magarity who picked up his 250th win at the school against Holy Cross on January 3. The Red Foxes have been getting consistent play out of freshman point guard Jared Jordan who is already a two-time MAAC Rookie of the Week. By the way, how does the McCann Center at Marist have the backboards that light up and the Dunkin’ Donuts Center at Providence does not?

• I am going on record right now and saying that Loyola College will not break the NCAA record for consecutive losses, which is 33 and held by Grambling. I know popular opinion would disagree, but the Greyhounds, who have lost 27 straight, have three of their next six at home and they will get one of them. They grabbed a nine point halftime lead at Marist last Friday evening, but it was not enough as their shooting went cold in the second half and the lead lasted about as long as Britney’s wedding night. If they have a great night shooting in their own building they can win. Best of luck to Scott Hicks and the rest of his staff and players.

• I hope we are not looking at the “Sideline Jinx”, but I hyped Seton Hall in this section last week and they went out and lost to Providence.

• How would you like to be Rick Stansbury today? Your team has a ferocious rally from eighteen down against Kentucky, play outstanding defense in the last minute when you lead by one and you lose. With Kentucky trying to win the game on their last offensive possession, MSU plays great defense forcing a held ball. I have no problem with the possession arrow rule like a certain bald announcer, but it was unfortunate for the Bulldogs that Kentucky had the arrow in their favor. Then they absolutely take Gerald Fitch out of a play that is being run for him (the cross screen, double downscreen “America’s Play” that everybody runs) and force a desperation pass to the rim which they deflect! Too bad it goes right to Erik Daniels for the game winner.


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