Sunday, May 9, 2010

Any Culture Changers at Villanova?

Program Changers Defined
Over on a stats blog -- SR/College Basketball (CBB Blog) -- Neil Paine posted (back in March) a list of 120 coaches, "program changers", whose influence, he suggested, were responsible for "Changing the Culture" of their respective programs. Fans of the Big East will recognize more than a few of the names (the Big East portion of the list is reproduced below), especially given the large write-up he devoted to Louie Carnesecca of St. John's. Filtering his results to focus on those who coached at least 120 games in a program that had played at least 120 games before he arrived, Paine presented his list of 120 culture changeing coaches (based on their winnig percentages versus their predecessor's winning percentage). Among Big East programs, the list includes (note a few predate the creation of the Big East conference)

Record Before...Coach's Record
Coach FinalYr School Gms WLPct.Gms WLPct.Pct Diff
Peck Hickman 1967 LOU 4381892490.4326264431830.7080.276
James Freeman 1936 STJO 3812191620.575208177310.8510.276
Al McGuire 1977 MARQ 9505054450.532375296790.7890.258
Jamie Dixon 2010 PITT223712499880.558242188540.7770.219
Ed Jucker 1965 CIN 10095894200.584141113280.8010.218
Fred Schaus 1960 WVU 8915253660.589183146370.7980.209
Edmund Dollard 1924 SYRA 13770670.511210151590.7190.208
George Smith 1960 CIN 7994353640.544210154560.7330.189
John Thompson 1998 GTWN 12216615600.5418225892330.7170.175
Hugh Greer 1963 CONN 5532982550.5393862741120.710.171
Tom Young 1985 RUTG 10795515280.5113552391160.6730.163

Pitt's Jamie Dixon may surprise a few, but Pitt fans know he has not only sustained the winning mentality instilled by his mentor Ben Howland, but has managed to maintain a high level of performance for nearly a decade. [Note -- I revised Dixon's numbers to reflect results in 2010].

Citizens of the Nova Nation may wonder why the Mainline is so under represented -- zero Wildcat coaches made the list. I was, so I compiled the records of Villanova's coaches going back to the program's first season of record (1921), and applied the same criteria as blogger Paine. My numbers look like this...

Record Before...Coach's Record
CoachFinal YrGms WLPct.GmsWLPct.Diff
Michael Saxe19260NANANA9464300.681NA
Rube Cashman19299464300.6814721260.447-0.234
Doc Jacobs193614185560.60311862560.5250.079
Alexander Severence19612591471120.5686144132010.6730.147
Jack Kraft19738735603130.641333238950.7150.042
Rollie Massimino199212067984080.6625963552410.596-0.119
Steve Lappas2001180211536490.6402841741100.6130.017
Jay Wright2010208613277590.636302203990.6720.060

And there, at the beginning of the list, is the answer -- Michael Saxe -- Villanova's first men's basketball coach set the tone for his successors by compiling a 0.681 winning percentage. Had the program maintained a 0.681 winning percentage through it's history, the 'Cats would rank #7 on the All-time list by winning percentage. Through seven successors, only one managed to tally a losing record (and his tenure lasted three seasons) while five managed winning percentages within 100 points (+/-) of Coach Saxe. Having eight coaches over 90 (or so) seasons is uncommon (though not extraordinary); having a single coach in that period with a losing record is unusual.

How to Classify?
The Big Blue News blogger used three categories, "game changer", "solid former assistant..." and "rock bottom" to describe the cycles at Kentucky and how they fit within Neil Paine's original framework. Villanova does not appear to follow the Kentucky pattern. Lack of losing records, or even a pronounced (or prolonged?) downward regression did not really happen in the period after Coach Severence. Doc Jacobs seemed to have steared the program (back) into proper direction, with Coaches Severence and Kraft building on the foundation re-established by Jacobs. Coach Severence, on the other hand, comes very close to the "culture changer" described by Neil Paine, though he falls just short of the 0.160 percentage bump identified in the SR/Blog posting. Coach Kraft logged a winning percentage of nearly 0.072 above the program winning percentage when he took over, the second highest among Villanova's eight coaches, as he led the Wildcats to the post season in 11 (six NCAAs & five NITs) of his 12 seasons. Coach Massimino's winning percentage ranks him #6 out of Villanova's eight coaches, but he is ranks considerably higher in the Nova Nation because he delivered the National Championship that eluded his two predecessors. Coach Lappas may be even more of an enigma than Coach Massimino. Though he notched a winning percentage better than Coach Mass, while bringing Villanova a Big East Tournament Championship (the only one earned in Villanova's 29 years in the conference) and an NIT Championship, making Villanova one of 18 Division 1 programs to have earned both an NIT and NCAA Championship. Though he did not match Coach Kraft's winning percentage, Coach Lappas led Villanova to seven post season tournaments (four NCAAs & three NITs) in his nine seasons, nearly matching Coach Kraft's post season efficiency. Through nine seasons, Coach Wright has a winning percentage that nearly matches Coach Severence's. 25 seasons may be much to ask, but Coach Wright has been running a very hot streak since 2005, compiling a 151-53 record, good for a 0.740 winning percentage, approximately 25 points above Coach Kraft's mark for his Mainline tenure.

No comments: