Every year there are certain teams that get hot during the postseason and become the “Flavor of the Month” (FOTM). What defines a FOTM? Usually they are a mid-major or smaller team, mostly with high tournament seeds, and they’ll usually reach the Sweet 16. Since the coaching search is what’s dominating all discussions I thought it would be interesting to see what coaches from past years became FOTM and how they fared. This is important because it helps define how much risk there is when looking to hire a Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens.
First off I decided to go back to the 2000 NCAA Tournament for looking at coaches. Why 2000? You try doing this research and see how long it takes you. First you’ll see who I consider the FOTM for each NCAAT. Most are what I defined earlier but others are non-traditional basketball schools having great years and some are just coaches who have been around a long time and are having an unusually good year. First off, your 2011 FOTM Coaches:
2011 NCAA Tournment “Flavor of the Month” Coaches
NOTE: Auto/AL designates if it was an automatic qualifier (won their conference tournament) or an At-Large team.
If you look at past tournaments several of these coaches will be identified as FOTM in previous years (Stevens, Miller, Hamilton) and then there is Fisher who is well into his coaching career but took a team who traditionally doesn’t fair well with the postseason and took them to the Sweet 16. The rest are the true FOTM so lets look at their careers a little closer:
Not too bad. Except for Mooney, Smart and Williams both made their first Sweet 16 in their first 4 years as Head Coach. So how is this supposed to help us with evaluating if any of these coaches will continue, or increase, their success? Let’s go back from 2010 to 2000 and see how other FOTM coaches fared after reaching their first Sweet 16.
2006-10 NCAA Tournment “Flavor of the Month” Coaches
2000-05 NCAA Tournment “Flavor of the Month” Coaches
Let’s look at a couple of years to see how various FOTM mid-major coaches have fared after their (first) one-shining-moment.
Here are all of the seasons:
Now let’s break these coaches down into different categories:
- First one we’ll look at is Mid-majors who become FOTM and immediately move on to a bigger job.
- 2000: Bill Self. In his third year at Tulsa he goes to the E8 and then moves on to Illinois. Yeah, I’d have to say Self became a success.
- 2002: Stan Heath. In his first year at Kent St. Heath took them to the E8. He took the Arkansas job and didn’t have much success. Just over 0.500 overall record but losing conference record. Plus only took the Razorbacks to 2 NCAAT’s.
- 2004: Thad Matta. In Matta’s third year at Xavier, and fourth overall, he took the Musketeers to the E8 (not to mention every year he attended the NCAAT). Off he went to Ohio State and yeah, he was successful too.
- 2004: Trent Johnson. In his fifth year he took the Nevada Wolf Pack to the S16. He then followed this up with taking the Stanford Cardinal to the S16 in just four years. Now he’s at LSU and has struggled with only 1 NCAAT appearance in 3 years.
- 2005: Bruce Pearl. In his fourth year he took Milwaukee to the S16 then jumped to Tennessee. Over 6 years he took the Vols to 6 NCAAT appearances including 2 S16 and 1 E8. Then the fun really started. He was very successful until he got caught.
- 2008: Darrin Horn. In Horn’s fifth year he took Western Kentucky to the S16, jumped to South Carolina, and has struggled to the point he’s on the hot seat after 3 seasons.
- 2010: Steve Donahue. After 10 season’s Donahue was able to take Cornell to the S16 and accepted the Boston College job. In his first season he took BC to the NIT.
- Next category lets look at mid-major coaches he became FOTM but stayed at their job at least another year before moving on.
- 2002: Bruce Weber. In his fourth season at Southern Illinois he took them to the S16 but didn’t leave immediately. He stayed for another season, took them back to the NCAAT, then left for Illinois. He took Illinois to 6 NCAAT appearances in 8 seasons including 1 S16 and 1 National Title game appearance. He’s been successful but the natives are getting restless.
- 2003: Todd Lickliter. In his second season he took the Butler Bulldogs to the S16 but stayed for another 4 seasons and took the Bulldogs back to the NCAAT only once more but it was another trip to the S16. Now after 4 seasons at Iowa he has failed to take the Hawkeyes to the postseason once.
- 2004: Mike Anderson. In his second season he took UAB to the S16 and followed it up with 2 more NCAAT appearances in 2 seasons before moving on to Missouri. In 5 years with the Tigers he took them to 3 NCAAT appearances with one trip to the E8. He just left for the Arkansas job.
- 2006: Mark Turgeon. In his sixth season he took the Wichita State Shockers to the S16 and failed to reach the NCAAT the following season before moving on to Texas A&M. He’s taken the Aggies to 4 NCAAT appearances in 4 seasons.
- 2008: Sean Miller. In his fourth season with Xavier he took them to the E8. He followed it up the next season with a trip to the S16 before leaving for Arizona, where he took the Wildcats to the E8 in his second season.
- The last category we’re going to look at are the mid-major’s who became FOTM yet never left their job.
- 2000: Mark Few. The original FOTM coach. Few took the Zags to the S16 in his first season. Even though his name has come up for ever job since that season he’s stayed put at Gonzaga. In the following 11 seasons he’s made the NCAAT 11 times and returning to the S16 three more times. Here’s the thing about Few, he’s a big fish in a small pond and he likes it. Just don’t expect him to make a run unless he’s loaded with seniors and even still his ceiling is currently the S16.
- 2004: Phil Martelli. In his ninth season he took St. Joseph’s to the E8 (the previous 8 seasons he made 3 NCAAT appearances with 1 S16). The following 6 seasons he’s only been to the NCAAT once.
- 2006: Jim Les. In his fourth season with Bradley he took them to the S16 yet has failed to return to the NCAAT in the following 5 seasons.
- 2006: Jim Larranaga. In his ninth season with George Mason he took them to the Final Four. The following 5 seasons he’s only returned to the NCAAT twice.
- 2007: Chris Lowery. In his third season he took Southern Illinois to the S16 but in the next 4 seasons he’s only taken them to 1 NIT.
- 2008: Bob McKillop. With the help of a certain Curry brother he was able to take Davidson to the E8 in his 19th season. He hasn’t been able to catch the magic again with only 1 NIT appearance in the following 2 seasons.
- 2010: Chris Mack. In his first season with Xavier he took them to the S16 and followed it up in his second season with another NCAAT appearance.
- 2010: Ben Jacobson. In his fourth year he took Northern Iowa to the S16 but failed to reach the NCAAT the next season.
- 2010: Brad Stevens. The Ultimate FOTM coach. He took Butler to the Championship game in only his third season where he followed it up with another trip to the Championship Game. Still playing he could possibly exceed what he accomplished in 2010.
- 2010: Randy Bennett. In his ninth season he took Saint Mary’s to the S16 and could only make the NIT the following season.
Let’s add this up.
- In the first category where the mid-major jumps after becoming the FOTM, 3 out of 6 you can consider successful where the 7th is too early to determine.
- In the second category where the mid-major stays before leaving the FOTM, 4 out of 5 can be considered as successful.
- In the final category where the mid-major stayed at their school only 1 out of 6 (pre-2010 class) has been able to recapture that magic. Of the 2010 FOTM class only Stevens has been able to duplicate the magic the next year. The jury is still out on them until they have a couple of more years to see how they succeed.
So if you want to translate this back to NC State and the media telling Smart to stay at VCU and still be successful; don’t believe them Smart, the odds are against you.