Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Coaching Carousal Part 7 -- 5 Years Out

Graveyard of Coaches?
I was perusing Ken Pomoroy's Blog the other day (looking up an entry about experience...) when I came across an old coaching carousal post from 2004, "Graveyard of Coaches", in which Pomeroy identified and commented briefly on eight recent (to 2004) coaching vacancies. I read the post with interest, initially two of the openings he wrote about, St. John's and Georgetown, both of the Big East, caught my eye (and peaked my curiousity). Ironically, he wrote that of the eight (Auburn, Georgetown, Houston, Miami (FLA), St. John's, Southern Mississippi, UNLV and Utah), the Johnnies, in his opinion, offered the best position. One of the three interviewees he identified, Norm Roberts, did get the job. His review of the other schools (he correctly identified John Thompson III as the leading candidate...JT3 was offered the job and accepted; the rest is history) gave me 2 small surprises (one of them was not that Roberts still had the Red Storm job)...
1. Of the 8 coaches, only Ray Giacoletti, hired by Utah in April of 2004, is no longer with the school. Particularly Surprising given that Giacoletti had a pretty good (117-83 .585) record going in, and of those 8 coaches, he probably had the best 1st season, compiling a 29-6 record on his way to a Sweet Sixteen finish. Yet after 2 subsequent sub .500 seasons, Giacoletti announced his resignation (effective at the end of the season) 2 games short of the 2007 off season.
2. After panning Houston's decision to hire Tom Penders, Pomeroy moved on to review Houston's CUSA Conference mate Southern Mississippi. He began with a throwaway line -- "It will be interesting to see where Houston and USM are in five years..." -- as he turned to review Southern Mississippi's hire, ex-Iowa Coach Larry Eustachy.

The line caught me by surprise, as this off season was in fact the 5th since those two were hired. It has been 5 years and 4 months since Pomeroy posted that entry, time to take the long view...

How Did They Do?
Pomeroy's point of contrast is that while Larry Eustachy's faults flowed from regrettable personal choices (and judgements), Tom Pender had left every program he led in worse shape than he found it. Would the same hold true for these two on their CUSA stop?

WLPctWLPctHi FinishPost?
Tom Penders101600.62749290.6283rd 2XNIT 2X
Larry Eustachy71690.50725410.3794th 2XNo

Pender's last best conference finish was 2007-08 when the Cougars finished 3rd in CUSA with a 11-7 conference record and 23-9 overall. Their work earned them a bid to the inaugural CBI tournament where they ran to the semi-final round. The Cougars of the pre-Pender Era had a single winning conference record since joining CUSA in 1997. Penders has reeled off 5 winning (if not elite-level) seasons since 2005. He turned 64 this past May, and has been noticeably absent from candidate short lists the past 2-3 seasons, an indication his job chasing days may be at an end.

Eustachy has not been able to recapture the lightening from his early years at Iowa State. In the 5 seasons prior to his arrival in Hattisburg, the Golden Eagles had a single winning conference record, but it was a good one, earning them a 1st place and NIT bid. Eustachy has managed a conference record that hovers at the .500 point...just a touch on the up side. His success has come after a rocky start. Especially disappointed in the Golden Eagles' 2009 season, Eustachy returned a $25,000 bonus.

Penders made his teams through transfers and JUCOs, a pattern he has continued at Houston. The Cougars will return 3 starters (2 All Conference), 3 rotation players and 8 new players, including 3 JUCOs. Eustachy's Southern Miss team will return 4 starters and 3 rotation players, 7 total. Eustachy adds at least 4 others (according to the CUSA site, 8 others) 3 of whom come from the JUCO ranks.

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