As we enter the final stretch of the 2011-2012 college basketball season, the seat is definitely starting to heat up under some well known coaches of power six conference teams. It is likely too late for these five coaches to save their jobs and keep from getting fired once the season ends.
Bruce Weber, Illinois
TSB founder Paul M. Banks appropriately summed up Weber’s attitude after the Illini’s loss to Purdue in this article when he wrote Weber “sounded like a dead man walking.” Illinois’ embarrassing “bounce back” attempt resulted in a 23-point loss at Nebraska and might have sealed Weber’s fate.
Illinois has underachieved under Weber the past several seasons and this year is no different. The Illini are 5-9 in the Big Ten and have now lost eight of their last nine. Barring a miraculous turnaround, Illinois is in jeopardy of missing out on the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the last six years. On top of that, Illinois has been a one-and-done in two of those three tourney trips.
New U of I Athletic Director Mike Thomas dropped the hammer on football coach Ron Zook this off-season and even if the Illini quickly stabilize themselves and turn things around before tourney time, Weber will likely be fired as well.
Seth Greenberg, Virginia Tech
The Hokies are 4-8 in what is considered a down ACC this season and have been the kings of “close but no cigar.” Six of their eight conference losses have come by four points or less while their four victories have been determined by a total of six points, most recently squeaking out a one-point overtime victory at home against last place Georgia Tech.
After having their bubble burst on the past two Selection Sunday’s, the Hokies aren’t even close to competing for an at-large bid this season meaning it will be five straight seasons that VA Tech has missed out on the dance. Under Greenberg, the Hokies have made only one trip to the tournament in nine seasons. It seems like it could be time for a change in Blacksburg and if so, expect VCU’s Shaka Smart to be the first name to come to mind as a replacement.
Kevin O’Neill, USC
At 6-21, 1-13 in the weak Pac-12, the Trojans are painfully bad this season. Not only that, but USC beats out Notre Dame and half the Big Ten as the most boring power six conference team to watch play. They rank 341st out 344 Division One teams in scoring which isn’t exactly going to make the recruits flock to Southern Cal. That’s how O’Neill runs his team though; defense and toughness are stressed while the offense plays at a snail’s pace.
Injuries have factored into this season’s struggles and USC does get a few transfer players eligible next year so maybe O’Neill gets a free pass on this season. Consider this though; O’Neill’s last three tenures as a college head coach (Tennessee, Northwestern, Arizona) have all lasted three years or less. He very well could have worn out his welcome already and find himself unemployed in the off-season. If that does occur, St. Mary’s head coach Randy Bennett could be USC’s target as their new head coach.
Herb Sendek, Arizona State
If the Janet Jackson “what have you done for me lately” mantra prevails, Sendek could be on his way out of town. It certainly doesn’t help his cause that his team trailed Washington State 36-8 at the half on Saturday. I mean, really? 8 points?
After finishing a Pac-10 worst 4-14 last season, the Sun Devils are 8-19, 4-11 in the Pac-12 and will miss out on the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season. In fact, the only Sendek-coached ASU team to make the tourney during his six-year tenure was the ’08-’09 squad led by James Harden which was knocked out in the second round.
Besides the poor record, Sendek has also dealt with his share of transfers and having to kick players off the team which has certainly added to the team’s struggles. ASU also suffered a huge blow when highly-touted freshman Jahii Carson was ruled ineligible by the NCAA. If Sendek does get the boot, Bennett or Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall could be possible candidates.
Darrin Horn, South Carolina
An ominous sign for your future as a certain team’s head coach; your club regresses in every season you’ve been under the helm. That has been the case for Horn who is in his fourth season with the Gamecocks. SC posted a 10-6 SEC record in Horn’s first year, but have finished 6-10, 5-11, and are currently 2-10 this season with their two victories coming by a whopping three points total.
Historically, South Carolina has been a difficult place to build a winning basketball program as they have only made the NCAA Tournament once since 1999. That might allow the leash to be a bit longer around Horn’s neck but having his team head in the wrong direction each season could mean the end of his tenure with the Gamecocks.
Other Power Six Conference Coaches on the Hot Set: Andy Kennedy (Ole Miss), Craig Robinson (Oregon State)
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.