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Division I Men’s & Women’s Basketball Coaching Changes

As we recently looked at the number one skill needed for new leaders, we referenced the annual College Coaches Coaching Carousel.

Unfortunately, it’s that time of year.

There’s huge excitement with conference and NCAA tournament action, but it also marks the “other” end of the coaching spectrum.  Firings.  Non-Renewals.  If you have been in the coaching profession long enough – you’ve been there.  The shelf life of an NCAA Division I college basketball coach is under 6 years at the same school.  The days of 25+ year careers at the same place are over.  Even 10 years at the same place is rare.

The “Job Boards” are already flowing and everyone hears the “rumors.”  Who’s going – Who’s in – Who might want in – Who’s staying “one step ahead of the posse’.”

This is the part of the profession that is the most difficult.  The one that writers forget exists for coaches and their families.  Coaches are chastised for their exorbitant contracts, country club memberships, courtesy cars, annuities and the like at the highest levels.  Truth is, that very same coach who got the new job,  signed the new contract for the next great opportunity… needed to relocate their family and then could be out of a job in 3 years.  That’s the highest levels.  What about the mid-levels?  The assistant staff?  The contracts and fringes aren’t as large and plentiful, but the risks and results are just the same.

For some coaches in that position, it is their own un-doing.  Bad recruiting.  Bad results.  Other problems.  OK.  But, for many, many others, they worked their tail off, did it the right way, followed rules, graduated players, provided a disciplined and safe environment and simply did not win enough.  How many bank managers, school teachers, CEO’s, you name the profession – can say that.  There is a trade off.

Yesterday, I left my home around 10:00 AM, drove to Ohio for a game.  490 miles each way, 7 hours 35 minutes without stops according to Google Maps… there were 4 stops in all – 9 hours total.  Each way.  Two stops for speeding tickets – $400.00.  Just an added bonus.  I arrived for game at 6 pm, watched the game, talked to coaches – jumped back in the car – hit the Wendy’s drive-thru and drove through a snow storm in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia back home…. parked the car in my garage at 5:30 AM.  19 1/2 hours.  Why?… there was practice at 11:00 AM this morning, had to be back.

All coaches and their families well know… that is the norm, it’s what we do.  The people who aren’t willing to work hard – won’t win.  Every coach out there has a similar story, with a different town, different game – but same story.  Coaches don’t worry about this, they don’t flaunt it, they just do it.  How many bank managers, school teachers, CEO’s have to do that.  There is a trade off.

I’m not saying that other professions don’t work hard.  They do.  Those people who are successful at anything, work hard.  Just… There is a trade off.

Before you chastise the coaches contract, the jumping ship from one school to the next, the perks or anything else… understand the professional hazards and the trade off  – life style – of a college basketball coach.

You won’t find speculation on jobs on this site.  This profession is too difficult to act like an ambulance chaser with my colleagues.  There are plenty of sites out there that will track the comings and goings of coaches.  Those sites are readily available almost as much as tracking the games all the way up to the Final Four.

25 – 30 New staffs will be hired around the country in both Men’s and Women’s Division I Basketball in the next 60 or so days.  That has been the average the last few years.  2009 was a “Down” hiring year in college basketball on both the Men’s and Women’s side – the total number of new coaches in the Women’s game was under 20.  In the Men’s game – 28.  Already for 2010 there are 5 Men’s and 1 Women’s position open at the Division I level.  Everyone sited the turn in the economy in ’09 for fewer coaches losing jobs and less professional movement.  The economy hasn’t really improved.  Also, the fact that less and less schools are likely to “pay someone to go away” and also pay the new coach, rather than just wait out the end of the current coaches contract.  This is especially true on the Women’s side.

As a side note:

No one really knows what goes on at any given school, behind the scenes, except those staff’s… BUT, unless something illegal, immoral or both occurs within a program – firing any college basketball coach DURING the season makes NO sense in the college game.

University’s scream about the “Mission” of their basketball program is about “graduating student-athletes,” “doing things the right way,” ” following conference and NCAA rules,” “helping young men or women grow and develop on and off the court,” “the total student-athlete experience.”

I agree, absolutely.

Then, schools turn around and fire the coach IN SEASON?   How does the message that the firing sends mimic that of the Mission, or reinforce the Mission, or makes the Mission better at that point in time?

An in-season firing says, WIN.  Period.

In the end, you can do everything the right way, you can ensure a fantastic student-athlete experience, you can graduate players, you can follow all the rules… if you don’t WIN, you are gone.  Always.  I’ve never read a release or listened to an interview of an athletic director or university president and heard, “our basketball program continues to lose at a high rate but our student-athletes are graduating, they are healthy and the program is in good order and the coaches follow all the rules.  So we’re extending the contract of Coach X three more years.”  Doesn’t happen.  Ever.

With an in-season firing, an administration doesn’t gain a “head start” on hiring a new coach.  Not any more so than they would by quietly researching potential candidates behind the scenes.  We know that happens, it’s happening right now – search firms are the norm in the hiring of coaches  in both the Men’s and the Women’s game.

A university does not save money with an in-season firing, salaries are still paid, teams still travel and play.  It usually doesn’t help with the chemistry or continuity of the team or staff to make a significant difference in wins.  So, if there isn’t a illegal or immoral reason, why do it?

I wish I knew the answer.

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