THE COACH’S PERSPECTIVE: A SEC CAROUSEL
Written by Pete Wehry on 03/14/2022
Let’s be real. College basketball can be amazing. There is a constant flux of amazing athleticism, incredible athletes playing at death breaking speed, guys that can drive it, dunk it, and stroke it from the outside. To the high- flying slammer, to the mid-range floater, and to the long-range shooter there are amazing plays one after another. In the midst of this season, we call March Madness we see it all. Buzzer Beaters, last second blocked shots, and controversial block charge calls. It is part of this glorious game we all love.
Yet in the midst of this time of year is different perspective. There is an in and out flux of college coaching. Let’s look at each team and do some research on the respective coaches.
Here are synopsis of this year SEC coaches and their prospective schools, and conversations, social media “propaganda”, rumors, and articles that come out daily about these schools and these men.
So, let’s do a rundown of this year’s SEC schools, and their schools head coach. We will actually go by this year’s seeds.
- Auburn and Bruce Pearl: Phenomenal season. He won the SEC regular season, but fell short in the SEC tourney. During the year when the Louisville job opened up, Pearl’s name was mentioned, and Tennessee’s administration squelched that with an eight-year contract for 5.4 million per year. That is a good year!
- Tennessee and Rick Barnes: An amazing job. He was picked preseason 4th. Rick Barnes is third winningest coaches of tenure in the SEC. The Vols had a great regular season, and won the SEC tourney. He is in good spot. It is a good day to be a Volunteer.
- Kentucky Wildcats and John Calipari: He continues to bring in phenomenal talent. He had another successful season. However, it is tough to make Big Blue Nation happy. When you don’t win the SEC tournament that is puzzling to Kentucky fans, and you better make a run in the NCAA tourney. This may be the toughest job in college basketball.
- Arkansas and Eric Musselman: I believe that they had an exceptional year, picked to finish 3rd and were right in the mix. Eric Musselman has re-energized the program. It seems to be good fit.
- LSU and Will Wade: With the looming FBI investigation, LSU pulled the trigger on Will Wade, and let him go. There is an open dialogue now about who will get the job, and with the possibility of sanctions, who can they lure to Baton Rouge. It will be interesting to see how the dominoes fall.
- Alabama and Nate Oats: Oats was picked to finish second in the SEC pre-season polls, but with changes, replacing a glue guy like Herb Jones [New Orleans Pelicans], and guys finding and defining their roles, the Tide struggled with consistency. Yet, for the first time since 2006, the Tide is in back-to-back NCAA tourneys.
- South Carolina and Frank Martin: As I was writing this article, it is announced that South Carolina has parted ways with Frank Martin. It will be interesting who they will hire, and where Coach Martin may end up.
- Texas A&M and Buzz Williams: At one point the Aggies lost 8 games in a row in the SEC. There had to be questions from within and without. Coach Williams helped the team stay the course. They came to SEC tourney and defeated Florida, Auburn, Arkansas, and fell to a really good Tennessee championship game in SEC Tourney. The future looks bright in College Station.
- Florida and Mike White: This is a strange one to even write. At the SEC tournament, the Gators struggled for the first 30 minutes of their opening game against Texas A&M. Then Gator’s team stepped up and took the game to overtime. Then they lost in overtime. Unbeknown to any at that time, it was the last game of Mike White’s tenure at Florida.
- Mississippi State and Ben Howland: They lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Tennessee in the SEC Tourney. They did not make the NCAA tourney. They are playing in the NIT. The rumor is they will part ways after the NIT.
- Vanderbilt and Jerry Stackhouse: Vanderbilt played well against Georgia, then beat the Alabama Crimson Tide in the quarterfinals, and lost to Kentucky in the late game of the semi-finals. It seems the Jerry Stackhouse experiment may be workings.
- Missouri and Cuonzo Martin: After an early exit in the SEC tourney and a difficult season, the Tigers have released Coach Martin. Now they search begins, and you would guess they will get involved as soon as possible to grab a coach before they are beat to the punch by other Power Five programs.
- Ole Miss: There are rumors here, but still much up in the air. It will come down to the patience of the administration and the fan base. This is clearly to be seen.
- Georgia and Tom Crean: Well guess what Mike White name appears again. He is now the new head coach at UGA! It will be hard to see Coach Crean end up in a Power Five school, but most likely a mid-major will offer him an opportunity. The ball may be in his court to see if that is something he would like to do.
So, look at these schools. There are fourteen schools. Seven of these are working through a coaching change or there is good possibility that may occur. LSU, Missouri, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina are done deals , with 2 other schools are part of a rumor mill—Mississippi State and Ole’ Miss.
All this to remind each of us, the game is exciting, the game can be lucrative, and the game can be brutal. May we be reminded that most these coaches have families, and each of these changes directly affects them deeply. It is a carousel, and it is not always a day at the “park”.
Note: I have done all I can to share honestly, but I will not bash a coach. Why? I coached college. At a very low level. National Christian Conference Athletic Association, Division Two. I had some tough season, some would say bad, I say bad, but I might have been my biggest critic. My last season was my best, I was Midwest Regional Coach of the year, and National Coach of the Year, but we still fell short of winning the National Championship. So, I do know this hard, and I was at level that had nominal pressure, other than self-imposed. Understand coaches are blessed, many are paid well, but in reality, it is a difficult business, tough on the coach, his staff, their wives, and their families.