No, Coach Cal has not done anything wrong. But we are at that most wonderful of places in collegiate sports where we can start the coaching mill rumors long before it is necessary, just to see where everyone stands going into this year. I was going to limit this to the SEC, then I thought, since Cal's recruiting prowess seems to know no bounds, could his work have some effect on the coaching ranks nationwide?
So, let's just start with the SEC and see where it leads us since that is where we all live and breathe.
The SEC has a fairly good looking crop of coaches this year, but who needs to win, win right now, and win big? Well, the most likely place to start is with our own homegrown hero Mr. John Pelphrey in Arkansas. In John's defense, if something can happen to you as a college basketball coach, short of the NCAA coming in and padlocking the doors to your office, it has happened to Pelphrey. Loss of students, off-court issues, academic situations, and some recruiting picks that looked excellent on paper that turned out to be flops have all plagued Pelphrey while at Arkansas. The vaunted Forty Minutes of Hell defense under Nolan Richardson is long gone, and while Arkansas has played prety well against some really good non-SEC opponents, the Razorbacks have got to step it up and show some real signs of progress this year, or John may be back in the Bluegrass reliving the good old days in Lexington.
Down in Auburn, Tony Barbee should be safe for at least 4-5 years since the new Auburn Arena is going to bring in some much needed cash flow and Barbee and his new staff seem to be ready to make the move from Conference USA to the SEC. At UTEP Barbee was a part of last year's NCAA Tournament field, but don't look for that to happen at Auburn right away. This team is 3 years minimum from challenging for anything in the SEC.
Would Florida send Billy D. packing? Highly doubtful, but in today's world who knows. Florida has struggled since their last NCAA championship and has shown no real signs of recovery, at least not to the point that they were competing at only a few years ago. My bet is here that Billy is safe for as long as his 20+ win seasons performances can hold out.
Fox at Georgia, Calipari, Grant at Bama, Pearl at UT,and Stallings at Vandy are about as secure as it gets. All of those schools are either performing at their best, or not far from it, and watch Fox down there in Athens folks, he may surprise a lot of people this year.
Darrin Horn at S.Carolina, Stansbury at MSU,Kennedy at Ole Miss, and Trent Johnson at LSU are probably also well out of the reach of the long arm of the reaper as well, but all of these guys are now "settled in" at their respective schools, which means they need to start winning steadily and more importantly not losing the games they should not lose. All in all the SEC seems to be pretty well off when the Arkansas situation is taken out of the mix.
Now, nationally, we can bring a lot of people into this. My honest opinion is that there are a few people who are not necessarily standing in the crosshairs, but maybe need to finally make that push to be all they can be, so to speak. First on this list is Bruce Weber at Illinois. Weber has been close, really close a few times, but cannot seem to make Illinois into the powerhouse that everyone thought they were headed to be. My best guess here is that if Weber doesn't make some serious noise this year and next, Illinois starts hunting for another Calipari protege'.
Next would be Sidney Lowe at NC State. He needs to win and win now. No further explanation needed. When Herb Sendek was at the helm, NC State seemed headed in the right direction, but those days are gone, and Lowe has not done what everyone thought he would.
Now, for a "just for grins" pick,( and not because I relish making fun of Pitino's situation, but because it is UL, so I grin) has Rick Pitino done what is necessary to get UL refocused and moving away from the tabloids? My first guess is yes, Pitino needs to be given a chance to return the Cards to their former glory one more time. Tom Jurich is not going to fire Pitino, but Pitino resigning would not be completely out of the question, especially if the Cards don't bounce back from what has been a tough couple of years.
Elsewhere in the coaching ranks there are other question marks, but none that come immediately to mind. So raise your own questions folks, or comment on mine. Let the silly season begin, even before the real one does.