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Hold Off On Those Firings, SEC Fans… No One Wants Your School’s Crappy Job

gfx-honest-opinionSoutheastern Conference basketball stinks.  No matter how you slice it, hoops in Dixie is just as bad as Southern football is good.  Meaning it’s really, really bad.

Three NCAA Tournament bids last year.  Just 23 NBA draft picks since 2007 (about 20 of which came from Kentucky).  A lack of high school roundball stars from inside the SEC’s geographic footprint.

Bad.  Bad.  Bad.

Hell, as of right now only two SEC squads — Florida and Kentucky — appear to even be locks for the NCAA tourney.  Sure a Missouri or Tennessee will probably sneak in, but one can’t completely rule out the possibility that the Big Dance might feature just two SEC squads.

Naturally, such overall suckage has left a number of SEC coaches sitting on scorching hot seats as we speed toward March.  Let us compare their situations.

For the purposes of making an apples-to-apples comparison, below we’ve listed the league record for each current SEC coach over the past three seasons.  To the right of those numbers, the coaches’ overall career SEC marks are listed.

Do not expect to be dazzled…


  Coach   3-Year SEC Record (Win Pct.)   Career SEC Record (Win Pct.)
  J. Calipari (Kentucky)   38-9 (80.8%)   62-17 (78.4%)
  B. Donovan (Florida)   37-10 (78.7%)   188-100 (65.2%)
  C. Martin (Tennessee)   28-19 (59.5%)   28-19 (59.5%)
  F. Haith (Missouri)*   18-13 (58.0%)   18-13 (58.0%)
  A. Kennedy (Ole Miss)   27-20 (57.4%)   72-70 (50.7%)
  A. Grant (Alabama)   25-22 (53.1%)   43-36 (54.4%)
  J. Jones (LSU)*   16-15 (51.6%)   16-15 (51.6%)
  K. Stallings (Vanderbilt)   24-23 (51.0%)   117-122 (48.9%)
  M. Anderson (Arkansas)   22-25 (46.8%)   22-25 (46.8%)
  M. Fox (Georgia)   22-25 (46.8%)   36-43 (45.5%)
  B. Kennedy (Texas A&M)*   13-18 (41.9%)   13-18 (41.9%)
  T. Barbee (Auburn)   12-35 (25.5%)   16-46 (25.8%)
  F. Martin (S. Carolina)*   7-24 (22.5%)   7-24 (22.5%)
  R. Ray (Miss. State)*   7-24 (22.5%)   7-24 (22.5%)


* Just two years as SEC coach


Nasty stuff, huh?  Only two Southeastern Conference coaches have won more than 70% of their league games the last three seasons.  You have to round up Cuonzo Martin’s record just to find three league coaches who’ve won 60% of their games or better.

Depending on who you ask, Anthony Grant (did anyone tell his team they had a game last night?) and Tony Barbee are all but gone down in the Yellowhammer State.  The aforementioned Martin is believed to be in trouble at Tennessee (thanks in large part to the ever-growing reputation of Bruce Pearl, who appears to gets better with each game he doesn’t coach).  Mark Fox looked like a dead man walking two months ago but now his Georgia team stands at 8-5 in conference play (which says more about the league than the Bulldogs).

Throw in guys like Mike Anderson ($2.2 million per year for a 46% winning clip inside a bad league?), Billy Kennedy, Frank Martin and Rick Ray and more than half the league’s fanbases are grumbling.

But before anyone gets tossed overboard, perhaps a few folks need to look around the SEC and realize this: No “sure thing” coach will want your school’s crappy job even if it does come open next month.

Let’s just nix all the fantasies and hopes and dreams right here and now.  The SEC has a bad reputation for basketball.  On top of that, every “name” coach in the country knows that football is king in the SEC and as a result he’d have to be part carnival-barker to grab fans’ attention.  For those of you now screaming “Pearl, Pearl, Pearl!’ just know that a team of NCAA sleuths will likely eyeball his every move at his next stop.

In recent years, up-and-coming coaches like Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart have stayed put at hoops-first schools like Butler and VCU rather than jump to traditional basketball powers like UCLA and NC State.  If UCLA and NC State can’t lure guys like that, what hope is there for the Alabamas and Auburns of the SEC?

Before you say it, of course, Bama did land Smart’s predecessor at VCU back when Grant was the hot name in the country.  Aside from his bank account, Grant has plenty of reasons  today to wish he’d just stayed put in Richmond and passed on the Crimson Tide gig.

Most SEC schools — like it or not — have to go the up-and-comer route due to all those negative issues we have outlined above.

Grant came from VCU.  Barbee was at UTEP.  Fox was at Nevada.  Jones was at North Texas and is an LSU alum.  Ray was an assistant at Clemson (suddenly Rick Stansbury doesn’t seem so bad, eh?).  Frank Haith was a so-so coach at Miami running from a program that had the NCAA on its tail.  Andy Kennedy was an interim coach at Cincinnati.  Tennessee’s Martin was at Missouri State while Texas A&M’s Kennedy came from Murray State.  Longtime Vandy coach Kevin Stallings came from Illinois State.

Even Florida’s Billy Donovan came from Marshall.

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Florida Drops One-Point Decision At Arizona, SEC Goes 4-5 In Saturday Hoops



Illinois Could Target Bama’s Grant After Smart Says No

“Thanks, but no thanks.”  That’s what Shaka Smart told Illinois officials who offered him their head coaching job and a salary that was reported to be north of two-and-a-half million bucks per year.  (Anyone else think this guy will someday be stuck at VCU wondering why he didn’t get onboard when his ship came in?)

With Smart turning down the Illini, his old boss Anthony Grant could be next on AD Mike Thomas’ wish list.  It’s no secret that Illinois wants to hire an African-American coach to tap into the inner-city recruiting zones of Chicago and East St. Louis.  Grant is black.  He built VCU’s program before Smart took it over.  And he’s had some early successes at Alabama.

Still, some writers in the Land of Lincoln aren’t wowed by Grant’s resume or personality.  “The names that are mentioned as Plan B, Alabama’s Anthony Grant among them, wouldn’t even enthuse the Anthony Grant Fan Club,” writes Rick Morrisey of The Chicago Sun-Times.  Ouch.

Grant is also just one of a dozen names that have been kicked around when it comes to speculating about Bruce Weber’s successor.  And we at have been told by multiple sources in Tuscaloosa that Bama’s coach is not interested in the Illinois job.

But until he officially shoots down the rumor or the Illini hire a new coach, expect Grant’s name to continue to mentioned in connection to that job.

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SEC Headlines – 6/28/11 Part Two

1.  Mark Richt — as he’s wont to do — has given offensive lineman Brent Benedict an unconditional release.

2.  This writer says John Calipari won’t leave Kentucky for the NBA over money… or stay in Lexington because of money.  In other words, it ain’t about the money.

3.  This writer makes the case — a valid one, too — that paying huge dollars to coaches like Calipari doesn’t guarantee a school will get past Butler or VCU in the NCAA Tournament.

4.  So why did Clifford Snow leave Kentucky’s football operations job to take the same gig at Louisville?  He says because he wanted to work with Charlie Strong again.

5.  Tennessee linebacker Shane Reveiz sees his hard work pay off with a scholarship from Derek Dooley.

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SEC Headlines – 3/29/11 Part One

1.  Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis is close to being 100% after a back injury.

2.  Jon Gruden believes Charlie Weis will bring UF the best play-action passing game the best perimeter screen game in college football.

3.  Writer: Shaka Smart is not part of Billy Donovan’s coaching tree.

4.  Former Dennis Felton assistant Mike Jones has gone from Georgia to VCU… and the Final Four.

5.  Kentucky and UConn — who meet in the Final Four Saturday — both benefited from late-season losses.

6.  The Wildcats are now the favorite to win the whole NCAA tourney.

7.  Big Blue fans are snapping up the Final Four memorabilia.  (Nice photo, too.)

8.  South Carolina will hold its Pro Day for NFL scouts tomorrow.

9.  AD Mike Hamilton says of Cuonzo Martin: “We just knew he was the guy.”

10.  Ohmygodohymygodohmygod!  Pat Summitt learned of Martin’s hiring from ESPN.  Heads must roll!  (How did UT’s track coach find out?  The swimming coach?  And why must the women’s basketball coach be alerted?)

11.  The Vols want to win… and do it the right way.

12.  The people closest to Martin continue to talk him up.

13.  There will be no quick decision in Vanderbilt’s quarterback race.

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Bama’s Grant Has Built Two Final Four Teams This Year

The hottest name in the coaching world today is Shaka Smart.  VCU’s second-year coach has his Rams all the way through to the Final Four.  It’s a near-miracle run for a team that most ESPN pundits pointed to as the least deserving at-large team in the field.

But while America gushes over Smart’s run — and we at quietly murmur a warning: “Stan Heath” — some credit should be given to the guy who built the VCU team with which Smart is excelling. 

When Anthony Grant takes his Crimson Tide into its NIT semifinal game against Colorado tonight, Bama’s coach can know that he’s had a hand in two Final Four runs this year.  He built the roster for VCU’s journey and he’s coaxed 24 wins out of the roster he inherited — to a large degree — from Mark Gottfried.

At VCU, Grant recruited the Rams’ current juniors and seniors.  Here’s what Kansas Bill Self had to say about them after Sunday’s loss to VCU:  “You can usually tell who can really recruit, what programs do the best job recruiting, because they’re playing with the guys that you look at them when they’re juniors and seniors and think, ‘How in the world did they get them?’  VCU’s program has done that.”

Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News takes that comment, combines it with Grant’s record in his second year at Bama and says UA’s young coach will have the Tide in an NCAA Final Four “sooner rather than later.”

At Alabama, the only current starter signed by Grant is excellent freshman point guard Trevor Releford.  The rest of the main pieces were left behind by Gottfried.

“He left behind a nice nucleus, which Anthony has molded into his image defensively and intensity-wise and grittiness,” said ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla.  “It’s all Anthony Grant basketball now.”

Yes, it is.  And way things have played out might be even more impressive than had the coach built and taken one squad to a Final Four.  Grant showed that he can build a high-caliber roster at VCU.  Then he moved to a new school and has shown that he can coach-up the pieces he inherited.

We at aren’t ready to declare Grant to be one of the nation’s elite coaches yet.  At some point, he’ll have to take a team he’s built and coach it deep into the NCAA tourney.  And we also remember that John Pelphrey and Trent Johnson got off to fast starts in the SEC, too, only to cool quickly.  There are no guarantees.

But when it comes to Grant, there’s no denying that his work at Bama and his previous work at VCU certainly suggest the Crimson Tide program is headed in the right direction.

Next step: Tonight at 9pm ET versus Colorado at Madison Square Garden.

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Vols Advance to NIT Finals, 77-72

Tennessee defeated VCU, 77-72, Wednesday night to improve to 4-0 on the year and advance to the NIT Season Tip-Off finals on Friday.

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