What to expect from SEC basketball coaching resets

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Almost half of the SEC basketball coaches are new to their teams. Along with Mike White’s move from Florida to Georgia, the SEC had added five coaches new to the SEC. Three of the SEC’s exiting coaches have resumes with the second-highest accomplishment for the profession; making an NCAA Tournament Final Four. Ben Howland had teams in the Final Four for three straight seasons 2006-2008. Tom Crean took Marquette that far in 2003. Frank Martin had South Carolina in the Final Four in 2017.

The Final Four milestone has traditionally been a major boost to a coach’s job security. The firings of Howland, Martin and others show it is less so today.

Based on the recent SEC hirings, schools are willing to risk bringing a guy up from a lesser conference as Alabama did with Nate Oats and Arkansas did with Eric Mussleman. Speaking of Musselman, with the Hogs progressing to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight (and maybe beyond), will he be viewed as the SEC’s top coach for next season? Just days ago Rick Barnes, Bruce Pearl, John Calipari and maybe Buzz Williams would have gotten votes as the SEC’s best coach. The first three currently have some ugly black eyes.

It remains to be seen if Musselman has SEC staying power. But based on his stint at Nevada and now Arkansas, no SEC coach is better at roster development through transfers – not even Calipari and Pearl, who also do it well.

SEC Basketball Hot Seats for 2022-23 Season

The hottest seat early will belong to Kermit Davis at Ole Miss. In five Ole Miss seasons, Davis is 64-61. He recently received a “vote of confidence” from the school, signaling a tenuous status.

If John Calipari, working under a lifetime contract at Kentucky, did not have a purported $50M buyout, he might be on a hot seat. After 13 seasons in Lexington, Calipari has won one National Championship. At most schools that would be enough, but not at Kentucky. With back-to-back disappointing seasons, the Cats fanbase is rapidly losing faith in Calipari.

New SEC Basketball Coaches

Arguably the best of the new SEC coaches, based on head coaching record, is Chris Jans. Jans was a Wichita State assistant who moved up to be the Head Coach at Bowling Green for the 2015 season. After leading the Falcons to a 21-12 season, Jans was fired over what was deemed inappropriate conduct, having nothing to do with coaching basketball. He did not get another head coaching job until New Mexico State hired him for the 2018 season. His record with the Aggies was 122-32 with four NCAA Tournament appearances.

The next best track record for incoming SEC coaches belongs to Matt McMahon. In seven seasons at Murray State, McMahon was 154-67. He coached two teams to NCAA Tournament wins, benefitting in 2019 by having one of college basketball’s best players, Ja Morant. The 2023 season will be tough for McMahon and his LSU team. After the firing of Will Wade, several players and recruits have bailed on the Bengal Tigers.

The other three new coaches have less impressive resumes. Longtime FSU assistant under Leonard Hamilton, Dennis Gates was 50-40 at Cleveland State in three seasons. He too has a roster depletion problem at Missouri. Bruce Pearl’s protege, Todd Golden was 57-36 at San Francisco and had the Dons in this season’s NCAA Tournament. It was San Francisco’s first Big Dance since 1998. In five seasons leading Chattanooga, Lamont Harris was 87-72. Harris got the Mocs back to the Big Dance this season, for the first time since 2016.

Next. A one-and-done JD Davison. dark

These generally younger and less experienced coaches may all prosper in the SEC. But for four of them, it will be a greater challenge than coaching in the OVC, WAC, Southern and Horizon conferences.