Friday, November 7, 2014

Coaching Carousal Part 2015-01: The Short Off Season

The Ebb and Flow...
Economic cycles, conference realignment and the expansion/contraction of Division 1 have disrupted the grander cycle of the Carousal, but the annual cycle, the cycle within any particular season/off season, has remained (with some exceptions) intact. Which party (employer or employee) dominates at any point in the cycle is governed by the timing. As the season winds down, Administrators perform their year-end assessment of their programs, and baskeball underperformers begin to search their souls. Administrators dominate until the third weekend of the NCAA Tournament when the accumulation of open positions and interviews brings job offers and the carousal begins to move. Departing coaches trigger more openings. This multiplier effect powers the carousal for 4-6 additional weeks. The spring signing period ushers in the next phase. General disaffection with job performance (or employer support or brighter spotlights) gives way to specific reasons -- health (Skip Prosser, Wake Forest; Rick Majerus, St. Louis), behavior (Mike Rice, Rutgers; Billy Gillispie, Texas Tech) and internal politics (of succession, for example -- Jim Calhoun, Connecticut; Dave Boots, South Dakota) or even a combination (Jimmy Collins, Illinois-Chicago) -- for the change in leadership. When the turnover occurs outside of the peak period of the cycle -- the end of February through the end of the spring signing period -- the more obvious the reason for change. Though not always initiated by administration, the changeover can disrupt the program.

The last two turnovers -- Doug Wojcik (College of Charleston) and Gib Arnold (University of Hawaii) -- both initiated by management and coming along the cusp of the 2014 and 2015 cycle -- are examples of the exigent circumstances. For Wojcik, the problem was player abuse, a growing concern among Division 1 Athletic Directors. Arnold and Assistant Coach Brandyn Akana were relieved of their duties amid rumors of document tampering during the admissions process of a potential transfer. The allegations, self-reported late last season, resulted in a 14 game suspension for Akana. The investigation continued through the summer and concluded a fortnight into the official fall practice period. Wojcik settled on a payment; Akana has yet to respond publicly; Arnold may well sue. Given the timing, the College of Charleston looked locally and hired Clemson Assistant Coach Earl Grant, a Charleston native and journeyman coach at three South Carolina colleges/universities (and Wichita State in Kansas) before coming home to Charleston. Hawaii promoted Assistant Coach Benjy Taylor as interim Head Coach. Taylor, whose job before Hawaii was Head Coach at Chicago State (3 seasons, 39-53) has held staff jobs at eight different Division 1 and Division 3 schools in a career that spans 22 years.

46 coaching vacancies since fall practice 2013 marked the lowest turnover since 2009. The percentage of Division 1 openings (13.1%) also marks a "bottom" since 2009 (9.3%). The last common trait the current cycle shares with 2009 -- the all-too-brief "offseason". Jim Crews was fired by Army in late September 2009 (the last turnover in the 2009 offseason) while Fordham's Derrick Whittenburg was fired on December 3, 2009 (the first of the 2009-10 cycle), making that coaching carousal "offseason" all of 11 weeks. This one, from August 5 to October 24, was just under 12 weeks.