How long should a team give a coach to turn a program around?
It’s an interesting question, and one that seems to be on the lips of many an NC State fan after the past couple of basketball seasons. Me, I am not saying one way or the other that State should “do something” about head coach Sidney Lowe, as I think that will be decided by next year’s results. I think that’s only fair, to let a coach build his own team according to his designs. But I do think that next year will be the proverbial fish-or-cut-bait season for Lowe, and that his tenure will be decided about this time of year in 2010. One thing is for sure — other schools are not waiting that long to come to a conclusion about their own coaches.
Opinions are of course all over the NC State map on this question, with some saying fire Lowe now, others saying fire Lowe, Fowler and Chancellor Oblinger now, all the way to folks who think Lowe should get a raise and a contract extension. I guess with a family as large as Wolfpack Nation, a range of opinions that wide is to be expected.
Here’s something I found today that I think is interesting. I’m guessing that this was written by one of our younger fans, someone who probably never witnessed the days of NC State being highly competitive in ACC basketball. It’s a comment I found about Kentucky potentially firing head coach Billy Gillespie after the Willdcats have underperformed for the past two seasons under his guidance.
“Kentucky is not NC State. They have won 3 SEC championships since 2000 and 7 more during the ’90s. How many ACC championships did we win during that time span? The rebuilding job is not the same so they can’t be held to the same standard, imo.”
On the surface, this is true — the UK program’s heritage, both recent and historical is far deeper than NC State’s. Facts are facts.
But some other facts jump out that are equally interesting:
- “Along the way Gillispie grew more publicly critical of his players, often foisting the blame onto their shoulders.”
- “Playing time for some players rose and fell seemingly on a whim.”
- And most damning, the Wildcats record was 22-13 with only a .500 conference record in the sub-par SEC and no NCAA bid for a team that considers these bids to be a birthright.
If the first two don’t sound familiar, they should. Sounds like a movie we just saw…I forget the name, but I think it was a disaster movie.
More to the point, however, let’s take a look at how long it can take a good coach to turn a marginal team around.
- Sean Miller is in his fifth season at Xavier and has made the NCAA four of those years, with an Elite 8 and a Sweet 16 to his credit the past two years.
- Mike Anderson is in his third season at Missouri and is going to the Elite 8, after defeating #1 seed Memphis last night. Keep in mind that Mizzou was on three years NCAA probation until 2007.
- Travis Ford took Oklahoma State to the NCAA second round in his first season.
In other words, it doesn’t take twenty years, ten years or even five years to turn the ship on a major D1 program. And if you don’t think NC State is a major D1 program, have you noticed the size of the University and the investment it has made in its basketball facilities? Indeed, NC State may not be Kentucky, but then again, neither is Mizzou, Xavier or a host of other schools. They turned around quickly and to say that NC State cannot do so it utterly ridiculous.
Schools like Kentucky and UNC don’t wait long to fold losing hands — we saw that with Mat Doherty and we are seeing that with Billy Gillespie now. Gillespie will probably be shown the blue door in the next few days (my suspicion is during the Final Four. UPDATE: It’s official) People may ask, what is Kentucky waiting on? I would guess buyout considerations and maybe ensuring that they have someone to step in immediately. Schools like UK don’t tend towards coaching searches conducted in secret bunkers on Kerr Lake in a bass boat where there is spotty cellphone coverage. Most importantly, schools like Kentucky DO take decisive steps to protect their perceived place in the college basketball world and there, WTNY doesn’t cut it. Maybe that’s why a Kentucky is a Kentucky?
At the end of the day, I think that the author of that comment is drinking Fowler-flavor Kool-Aid. And I am certain it doesn’t take five or ten years to turn around a mediocre and underperforming hoops program.