The unrelenting coaching carousel has already claimed its first victim. North Carolina State announced on Thursday that head coach Mark Gottfried will not coach the team after the conclusion of this season. The decision, which had been speculated on for a few days, hardly comes as a shock. What is shocking is that, technically speaking, the Wolfpack aren’t even out of the NCAA Tournament picture. However unlikely it is for them to make it, it’s not completely out of the question.
We haven’t even concluded conference play and we already have a coaching opening at a prominent high-major program. If this is any indication for how the next few months are going to go, make sure to buckle up.
Now that Gottfried has received the ax, who’s next in line?
Many coaches will and should be wondering if their name is called. I looked at this topic early in conference play, so it’s time to re-examine the landscape — it is significantly different.
Lorenzo Romar, Washington Huskies
Romar led the list of coaches that should be gone five weeks ago and continues to lead the list now. At the time of the first piece, Washington was 8-7. Since then, they’re 1-10 in a Pac-12 Conference that is nowhere near last year’s level of success. Also, they have the top prospect in college basketball playing for them. Something has to give.
I also wrote how Romar is one of the many, many coaches that is good at his job but doesn’t work well in the one-and-done era. It’s just not working anymore and it’s time to move on.
The problem: Romar keeps getting these top recruits because he keeps sending guys to the NBA. That’s incredibly attractive to elite prospects, and instead of fighting a logjam of recruits at Kentucky or Duke for the spotlight, Washington is an option for those that want to stand out and do their thing. As of now, the Huskies have the No. 3 recruiting class in the country, which includes top overall prospect Michael Porter Jr., whose father is an assistant coach for the Huskies (package deal and all).
The solution to this continuing problem is easy. Pulling the trigger on it is not. Romar should be fired, though I doubt he will.
Tom Crean, Indiana Hoosiers
I’ll cape for Crean until the cows come home (where the cows are now I’ll never know). He walked into a terrible situation and has done the best he possibly can at Indiana. That doesn’t stop his name from being a constant source of hot seat material.
Nobody should blame Crean for his team’s collapse this season. Injuries have played a major role in it. The failure to recruit next-level players, however, can be attributed to him. Everybody has a bad class here or there and the Hoosiers just don’t have a good one right now, which makes replacing Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams even harder.
Perhaps the solution to Crean’s problem is to look for employment elsewhere before getting fired. Control the narrative. Make the first move. Get out while you can. It worked out pretty well for Josh Pastner, who faced even stiffer expectations than Crean, was always on the “Will He Be Fired” list, and decided to leave on his own time. He may not be fired, though it’s a possibility, which makes leaving a better decision than waiting it out.
John Groce, Illinois Fighting Illini
How he’s still with Illinois is beyond me.
Johnny Jones, LSU Tigers
Jones should be on the hot list, and he was last year. Nobody pulled the trigger after the horrendous Ben Simmons experiment, making it harder to see a move being made just because this year’s team is atrocious.
LSU is dead-last in the SEC. That’s right, even freaking Missouri is ahead of the Bayou Bengals. With everything Missouri has had to fight against to even assemble a team, being behind those Tigers in the standings is laughable. Good for Missouri, though: no longer in the cellar of the SEC.
Make the move, LSU. Time to cut the cord.
One of these guys is going to be the next Gottfried. Which one? That is the question.