SEC Basketball: Rebuilds, builds and windows of opportunity


It could be argued the 2021-22 SEC basketball season and the few weeks after it ended were the most tumultuous in SEC history. Six teams will have new coaches in the 2022-23 season. Filling five of those new hires are five, formerly mid-major coaches, facing their biggest career challenges.

Historically the SEC is patient with its basketball coaches. Since the beginning, the SEC has had 161 head basketball coaches. Seventy-four of them had tenures of six or more seasons at the schools they coached. Forty of them coached 10 or more seasons for their respective programs.

One absolute exception, because of his long tenure was Adolph Rupp who coached the Kentucky Wildcats for 39 seasons. While Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant was Kentucky’s head football coach, Rupp was honored at the end of a season with a new Cadillac. Bryant, who had a strong season as well, was given a watch. The snub was a big reason why Bryant became an Aggie.

The current, longest-tenured SEC head coach at one school is Kentucky’s John Calipari with 13 seasons. Auburn’s Bruce Pearl has 14 years in the SEC, but that includes six seasons at Tennessee.

Next in longevity is Mike White, who will coach his eighth SEC season at Georgia, after seven seasons with Florida. There is a bit of a side story with White as well. Florida insiders claim the Gators might have fired White, if not for his buyout. If true, the Bulldogs bailed them out by hiring White and saved the Gators reportedly around $8M.

Among the five new-to-the-SEC guys, which one has the best path to success? There have been 17 SEC coaches who failed to make it past their first season. That number does not include ‘acting’ or ‘interim; coaches. Probably only one of the 17 moved on willingly. That was Ron Greene, who as the Mississippi State head coach, won SEC COTY in 1978. Greene was given a raise by the Bulldogs and soon afterward, left Starkville, for his alma mater, Murray State.

A few of the others had one-season careers as head coaches, including two who coached the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Absent a Donnie Tyndall type of meltdown, leading to a ‘show cause’, none of the new five SEC coaches will be gone after one season. It is likely all of them will get three to four seasons to build or rebuild their new programs.

New SEC Basketball Coaches

Matt McMahon at LSU should have a two-season honeymoon. He has inherited such a Will Wade, created-mess, in Baton Rouge, the LSU roster had to be rebuilt around incoming transfers. There is incoming talent, but none can blame McMahon if the Bengal Tigers are in the range of seventh to the tenth best team in the SEC.

Though the circumstances at Missouri are different from LSU, the new head coach, Dennis Gates also deserves a couple of seasons of patience. His new Tigers team might finish in the SEC cellar.

The highest expectations for the five new coaches fall on Todd Golden in Gainesville. The Gators roster is too good for another season of under-performance. In his first season, Golden should be expected to have Florida in the top seven of the league. Finishing below that would quickly end his Florida honeymoon period.

If Missouri does not finish last in the SEC, it will likely be because either Georgia or South Carolina does. After long, listless years under Tom Crean, Mike White must satisfy a frustrated Georgia fanbase with marked improvement.

The lowest expectations for an immediate turnaround go to new South Carolina head coach, Lamont Paris. A good basketball coach failed in Columbia (Frank Martin). Paris will deserve considerable patience.

Chris Jans at Mississippi State will get time to build the Bulldogs with a more contemporary style of play.

Next. More on the new coaches and the SEC's hottest seat.. dark

Note: Sports Reference is the source used for the SEC coaching data.