SEC Coaching Changes

Coaching Carousel

By: JJ Lanier news services

When I realized earlier this year the SEC had no turnover within their head coaching ranks after last season, I reacted like you do when you get a perfect pump at the gas stations- I was caught by surprise, immediately told anyone around me what had transpired, and knew that it would be a while before it happened again.

So, while it was a nice story that no head coach lost their job, you knew a few wouldn’t be so lucky this time around.

Of the three coaching changes that have taken place, one you could see coming before the season even started (Arkansas), one made sense even though it wasn’t a foregone conclusion (Missouri), and the other seemed to take place in part due to a poorly timed, even though well executed, end zone celebration (Ole Miss).

Regardless of why any of the changes were made, the only thing that matters is “will their respective replacements be an upgrade?” That’s where things get a little more interesting.

If the adage about not hiring the same type of coach you just fired was ever engraved on a plaque, I imagine you’d see it placed sporadically throughout the hallways of the Ole Miss athletic facility.

In the span of three years the Rebels football team will have been coached by Hugh Freeze, Matt Luke, and now Lane Kiffin, who is basically Hugh Freeze on a steady diet of Red Bull, Jägermeister, and Birthday Cake Oreos.

As far as what Ole Miss can expect to see on the field, it’s a good hire. I think Kiffin is an above average coach, who will recruit well for the program.

The problem is you have no idea what’s going to happen off the field. It’s like driving 120 in a 35mph zone- it’s a great thrill ride, if you make it to the end, but more than likely you’re going to run off the road, drive head first into a tree, and die in a spectacular explosion. Welcome to the Lane Kiffin era, Oxford, I hope you have good airbags.

I can’t blame Eliah Drinkwitz for leaving App. State to go to Missouri- you can’t pass up a 400% raise in salary- but I do question why the Tigers are paying him that much ($4 million) to come to Columbia.

Drinkwitz was in the precarious situation in Boone where he inherited a very talented team and was able to lead them to a very successful season.

Was he the reason for the success, or just in the right place at the right time? Like most things, the answer is a mixture of the two, but that’s still an awful lot of money to pay a coach with one year of head coaching experience, especially when it didn’t seem like there was much competition for his services, outside of Missouri.

As for Arkansas, I don’t know much about Sam Pittman, except he seems to be popular among his peers and was an impactful recruiter at Georgia.

Pittman was the backup plan to the backup plan on the Razorbacks list of coaches, but it doesn’t matter how or why he got the job, only what he does with it now that he has it.

There may still be another coaching casualty after the bowl games, but for right now this is the new crop of SEC head coaches.

It may be a while before the conference goes a year without having any turnover; my bet is at least two of these coaches will be contributors as to why.

Coach Em Up

By: JJ Lanier news services

At the end of every season, regardless of the sport or the level of competition, there is turnover within the coaching ranks.

While a school like UCLA, who fired Steve Alford over three months ago, is still searching for his replacement, SEC schools have been hiring coaches as if they were contestants on “Supermarket Sweep.” In the span of basically two weeks, they filled their four vacant positions.

Alabama: Nate Oats. I don’t follow the inner workings of the Alabama basketball program, so unless there was some sort of internal dysfunction taking place, I was a bit surprised to see them let Avery Johnson go.

Putting my initial reaction aside, I think the Oats hiring has been the best hire, up to this point. The two time MAC Coach of the Year exceeded expectations at Buffalo and has already made an impact in Tuscaloosa, convincing John Petty to take his name out of the transfer portal and stay at Alabama.

His biggest task though is being just as persuasive with All-SEC player, Kira Lewis, whose name is still in the portal. If he can convince Lewis to return, Oats’ inaugural season with the Crimson Tide could be a very successful one.

Texas A&M: Buzz Williams. The former Hokies coach is certainly an upgrade from Billy Kennedy. In his eleven years at Marquette and Virginia Tech, Williams’ teams only twice failed to win 20 games, and only missed out on the NCAA Tournament three times.

It may take a year or two for that success to transfer to the Aggies, but there’s nothing in his past to make you think it won’t ultimately happen.

He doesn’t always have the best demeanor with fans and the media, and while that has absolutely nothing to do with his team’s on the court performances, it should make for some interesting columns in College Station.

Vanderbilt: Jerry Stackhouse. This was an interesting hire just because Stackhouse hasn’t been a name thrown around in the college circles that much, but I have to give Vanderbilt credit for thinking outside the box.

Stackhouse has minimal head coaching experience- he had a short stint in the D-League where he did win Coach of the Year in 2017- and I have no idea how he’ll do on the recruiting trail.

He does have a very good reputation on the NBA level though, and obviously did a good job developing his players in the D-League; hence the COY award.

Personally, I’ve always liked Stackhouse- as much as a Duke fan can like a Carolina player- so I hope he’s able to succeed.

Arkansas: Eric Musselman. Musselman’s a decent coach, but besides Nevada’s Elite 8 run in the tourney last year, I’m not sure there’s anything in his coaching past that makes you think he’s going to be the answer.

I guess when you haven’t made the Sweet Sixteen since 1996 you’re kind of forced to take whomever you can get. I’m not wishing for the guy to fail, but if you were to ask me which of these four will be the first to go, my money would be on Musselman.

The level of play within the SEC has drastically improved over the past few years, so all four coaches have their work cut out for them.

The question now is “Will they make the grade, or will they be forced back on the shelf, waiting for the next coaching cart to swing by and pick them up?”