There ended up being just one coaching change in college basketball’s top seven conferences in the 2020 cycle with Steve Forbes taking over for Danny Manning at Wake Forest. With universities bracing for the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis, many that may have made changes under normal circumstances opted to let their coaches continue for another season rather than pay a buyout and pony up cash for a new coach.
Now the bill may be coming due for some of those coaches that got a free pass after last season. College football‘s active coaching carousel removed the stigma from executing a coaching change during the pandemic, and there has already been more movement on the basketball side this season than last. Penn State and Wichita State have been operating under interim coaches this season after parting with their former head coaches just before the season following internal investigations, while Boston College fired Jim Christian on Feb. 15.
In total, there are already 11 Division I openings, and that total figures to grow significantly in the next few weeks as team’s end their seasons and athletic directors evaluate their programs. So for this week’s edition of the Dribble Handoff, our writers are naming the coaches whose seats are the hottest.
Dave Leitao, DePaul
DePaul finished alone in last in the Big East standings in 2017, tied for last in 2018, tied for last in 2019 and alone in last in 2020. Consequently, Dave Leitao was on everybody’s hot seat lists entering this season. Now that his Blue Demons are once again alone in last in the Big East standings, just 2-10 in a league where everybody else has at least six conference victories, there’s just no reason to expect him to still be in charge next season — especially not with first-year athletic director Dwayne Peevy anxious to make what will be the first headline-grabbing hire of his career.
Peevy spent 12 years at Kentucky before he accepted the job at DePaul, so he knows what a quality basketball program looks like. And this isn’t it. So the surest bet connected to the coaching carousel, at this moment, has Leitao being removed next month and replaced by someone who will be asked to return DePaul to a respectable place in the sport. — Gary Parrish
The Golden Gophers have had their table turned over in the past six weeks. This is a team that was 10-2 four days into the new year, looking well-established and well on its way to the NCAA Tournament. Minnesota’s gone 3-8 since, putting its Big Dance outlook in jeopardy and, in the process, bringing Pitino’s job security into question. I agree with Parrish’s pick of Leitao; a change there is a matter of time. But beyond him, Pitino’s situation could be as hot as anyone else in a major conference given how Minnesota is losing (and losing by large margins) lately.
This is Pitino’s eighth season with the program. He’s made two NCAA Tournaments and had a sub-.500 team last season. Overall record: 140-118. For me, it comes down to this: If Minnesota makes the NCAAs, Pitino stays. If it doesn’t, he doesn’t. — Matt Norlander
Well, this is awkward. Hours after I selected Bruce Weber for this hot seat exercise, the Wildcats went and knocked off the fourth-place team in the Big 12 standings in Oklahoma. After losing 13 straight in conference play, Kansas State is riding high with two wins in a row. With a home game against Iowa State to close the regular season, it’s possible that Kansas State will enter the Big 12 Tournament having won three of its final four games. That definitely changes the feeling around this 2021 team, but it might not be enough to change Weber’s hot seat status.
Weber’s high points in his nine-year run in Manhattan are undeniable, claiming a share of the regular season conference title in 2013 and 2019 and leading a run to the Elite Eight in 2018. But a 3-15 conference record in 2020 hinted at concerns that were confirmed with the general lack of competitiveness in Big 12 play for most of 2021. Kansas State athletic director Gene Taylor has offered support in the form of acknowledging the youth on this year’s team and the complications of the COVID season. But the fan base spent most of the year frustrated, and Weber’s buyout reportedly drops from $2 million to $1 million in early May. — Chip Patterson
Since taking over the Georgia Tech program in 2016, Josh Pastner has failed to guide the Yellow Jackets to the NCAA Tournament, only twice finished a season with a winning record and once led the program to a finish in the top half of the ACC regular season standings. His predecessor, Brian Gregory, had a very similar resume but saw his watch end after five seasons. With three consecutive wins since Valentine’s Day, Pastner has guaranteed an above .500 finish in the regular season, but it very likely won’t be enough to get into the Big Dance.
That should leave AD Todd Stansbury, who inherited Pastner (both were hired in 2016 only months apart), with an interesting decision on whether to stick by him or start anew. Hitting reset doesn’t seem imminent, but falling short of the tournament this season and retaining his job would mean Pastner’s seat would be among the warmest in the sport entering 2021. — Kyle Boone
Steve Prohm, Iowa State
Sixth-year Iowa State coach Steve Prohm kept the program on the trajectory established by former coach Fred Hoiberg in his first two seasons on the job. Things got so bad last season, though, that it made me question Tyrese Haliburton’s legitimacy as an NBA lottery pick. Surely a team with a player of Haliburton’s supposed caliber could find a way to at least go .500, right? Even before Haliburton suffered a season-ending injury in February, Iowa State was just 10-13. With Halburton now in the NBA proving that he is indeed a star with the Sacramento Kings, the Cyclones have gotten significantly worse. They are just 2-17 (0-14 Big 12) with their only wins coming against against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Jackson State of the SWAC, who are ranked 265 and 343 in the NET, respectively.
Simply put, this has been the worst imaginable season for a major conference program, and the memory of those first two quality seasons under Prohm feels distant as Iowa State is now 18-50 in the Big 12 over the last four seasons. Perhaps a stunning upset over No. 2 Baylor on Tuesday night could have changed the narrative. But Iowa State came up short in the end, which has been the case far too often recently. — David Cobb