Thursday, April 12, 2007

X’s and O’s and Player Development

In order to evaluate coaches, I needed to determine the head coach at over 200 Division 1 schools for each of the last 5 years. (My database includes the top 15 conferences plus any school with a 15 seed or better in the NCAA tournament at some point in the last 5 years.) Two websites were of particular value in determining historical coaching information. First Hoopville lists all the major coaching changes for the last 7 years; second CSTV is a dependable site for information on the coaches whose contracts have been terminated. Thanks to both websites for providing such quality information.

Today when I evaluate coaches, I’m going to throw out the value of recruiting. I do this for several reasons.

1) Recruiting is part ability and part luck. Yes, Dan Monson recruited Rick Rickert and Kris Humpries but was that recruiting ability? Or did he just happen upon a couple of Minnesota players who wanted to go to the only Division 1 basketball program in the state?

2) A coaches recruiting ability is very difficult to separately identify from his school. Did Tubby Smith get good recruits because of Kentucky’s reputation or because of his ability? There may be some ways to try to back out the school’s recruiting ability (think National Titles, ect.), but there are instances where that is impossible. Can you really separate Coach K’s recruiting ability from Duke’s recruiting ability?

3) Most coach hirings come from the mid-major level where very few coaches have stellar recruiting records. In most cases, BCS teams hope that they can bring a coach with solid fundamentals to a bigger name school and that the coach will then be able to capitalize on the school’s reputation.

Throwing out recruiting, here are the coaches that have added the most NCAA appearances and wins to their teams by developing players and having good game management skills. I break down whether the coaches earned those wins during the regular season or post-season. This covers the last 5 years:

Top 30       RegSeason  Tour Total
Thad Matta        6.83  1.55  8.38
Mark Few          9.82 -2.23  7.59
Bo Ryan           7.26  0.29  7.55
Ben Howland       4.04  3.21  7.25
Al Skinner        7.24 -0.17  7.07
Bruce Webber      6.06  0.97  7.03
Roy Williams      3.06  3.80  6.86
Jim Calhoun       4.19  2.61  6.80
Bruce Pearl       6.33  0.44  6.77
Billy Donovan     2.85  3.73  6.58
John Thompson III 3.73  2.52  6.25
Jamie Dixon       5.91 -0.34  5.57
Chris Lowery      5.23  0.11  5.34
Todd Lickliter    2.66  2.35  5.01
John Beilein      1.44  2.87  4.31
Bob Knight        3.68  0.44  4.12
Mark Fox          4.69 -0.63  4.06
Jim Larranaga     0.55  3.50  4.05
Bob Thomason      3.44  0.61  4.05
John Calipari     4.54 -0.53  4.01
Rick Barnes       3.71  0.23  3.94
Phil Martelli     4.91 -1.23  3.68
Kelvin Sampson    5.94 -2.28  3.66
Tubby Smith       4.93 -1.49  3.44
Mike Anderson     2.12  1.32  3.44
Billy Gillispie   2.80  0.49  3.29
Jim Boeheim       0.88  2.35  3.23
Pat Flannery      1.82  1.23  3.05
Tom Crean         2.32  0.67  2.99
Gregg Marshall    2.59  0.28  2.87

-Some coaches (like Mark Few) earn a high seed during the regular season, but tend to flop come tournament time. Other coaches (like Ben Howland) have earned decent tournament seeds, but have also gotten their teams to perform at an even higher level in the tournament.

-I know Thad Matta has received some criticism this year, but the last 5 years have been a tremendous run for the coach. All he’s done is earn a 7 seed and 3 seed with Xavier level talent. All he’s done is earn a 2 seed and 1 seed at Ohio St. All he’s done is win 4 tournament games at Xavier and 6 tournament games at Ohio St.

-Iowa and Michigan just added two of the top 15 coaches in the country according to my ratings.

-I was a little surprised that Roy Williams is ranked as a good tournament coach, but remember, his Kansas team went to the championship game in 2003 in addition to his National Championship in 2005. And while his teams have lost earlier than expected the last two years, they still won some tournament games before being eliminated.

-Jim Larranaga’s high rating comes almost entirely from the 2006 Final Four run.

-If you remember my Kelvin Sampson discussion from a few weeks ago, I now have the data to support my claim that he has done a fantastic job in the regular season, but has struggled in the post-season.

-Where’s Coach K, Gary Williams, ect? Remember, I’m only using 5 years worth of data, and the last 5 years have not been good for some famous coaches.

-Notice that these ratings add up the five years for the various coaches, but with only three years worth of data, Chris Lowery is already 13th on the list. Here are the top non-BCS coaches:

Non-BCS Top 10 RegS  Tour Total
Mark Few       9.82 -2.23  7.59
Chris Lowery   5.23  0.11  5.34
Todd Lickliter 2.66  2.35  5.01
Mark Fox       4.69 -0.63  4.06
Jim Larranaga  0.55  3.50  4.05
Bob Thomason   3.44  0.61  4.05
John Calipari  4.54 -0.53  4.01
Phil Martelli  4.91 -1.23  3.68
Pat Flannery   1.82  1.23  3.05
Gregg Marshall 2.59  0.28  2.87

These are usually the top choices for any coaching vacancy and Lickliter is already gone. Who can pry Mark Few from Gonzaga? Mark Fox probably doesn’t get enough credit for Nevada’s success. Gregg Marshall of Winthrop really improved his stock this year. Bob Thomason of Pacific and Pat Flannery of Bucknell have done a great job, just not this last year.

Looking instead at the bottom coaches, here are the coaches who have gotten the least out of their talent over the last 5 years. I don’t separate the tournament failures from the regular season failures, because most of these coaches have not even made the tournament.

Bottom 20
-7.81 Leonard Hamilton
-7.21 Tommy Amaker, Fired
-4.62 Quin Snyder, Fired
-3.67 Dan Monson, Fired
-3.66 Mike Brey
-3.13 Pete Gillen, Fired
-3.07 Jeff Lebo, 3rd Yr
-3.01 Ben Braun
-2.87 Buzz Peterson, Fired
-2.83 Bill Carmody
-2.68 Mike Davis, Fired
-2.57 Gary Waters, Fired
-2.47 Dave Odom
-2.38 Steve Alford, Left
-2.24 John Cheney, Retired
-2.22 Frank Haith, 3rd Yr
-2.15 Steve Fisher
-2.14 Scott Drew
-2.01 Stan Heath, Fired
-2.01 Dennis Felton

Not surprisingly, half of these coaches have been fired or left their schools. I try to give Jeff Lebo of Auburn and Frank Haith of Miami some leeway because they are early in their tenure, but the rest of these coaches should be feeling the heat next year. Scott Drew of Baylor and Dennis Felton of Georgia both inherited terrible situations so they also probably deserve more time, but the clock is going to start ticking soon.

Again, the quickest way to get fired is to have talent and not go to the tournament, but losing in the tournament adds to the pressure. Here are the top 20 tournament disappointments over the past 5 years.

Tournament Flops
-3.13 Mike Krzyzewski
-2.71 Bill Self
-2.52 Dana Altman
-2.42 Steve Alford, Left
-2.38 Skip Prosser
-2.28 Kelvin Sampson
-2.23 Mark Few
-2.19 Rick Stansbury
-1.52 Oliver Purnell
-1.49 Tubby Smith, Left
-1.46 Bobby Lutz
-1.31 Greg McDermott
-1.27 Brad Brownell
-1.23 Phil Martelli
-1.20 Lorenzo Romar
-1.17 Tim Welsh
-1.15 Stan Heath, Fired
-1.06 Bob Huggins
-0.96 Blaine Taylor
-0.96 Steve Cleveland

Incidentally, Oliver Purnell’s flop happened at Dayton where he had earned a 4 seed, not at Clemson. He has yet to make the tournament at Clemson.

Bill Self should be feeling the heat now in Kansas, but I’m not sure whether that is justified. The fact that Coach K who has multiple national titles and more Final Four appearances can be the worst tournament coach over the last 5 years, makes me question why any team that would fire a coach for under-performing in the tournament. Then again, as Steve Alford and Tubby Smith showed, maybe these coaches are more likely to choose to move to a new job, rather than wait to be fired.

Tournament Best (Last 5 Years)
3.80 Roy Williams
3.73 Billy Donovan
3.50 Jim Larranaga
3.24 Tom Izzo
3.21 Ben Howland
2.87 John Beilein
2.61 Jim Calhoun
2.52 John Thompson III
2.41 Paul Hewitt
2.35 Todd Lickliter
2.35 Jim Boeheim
1.76 Jim Les
1.55 Thad Matta
1.48 Kevin Stallings
1.32 Mike Anderson
1.23 Pat Flannery
1.13 Mark Turgeon
1.13 Lon Kruger
1.07 Rick Pitino
0.97 Bruce Webber

When I look at coaches who show up as great tournament coaches, I do wonder if this may be more than just luck. Is it the rebounding and hard-nosed system of Tom Izzo leading to better tournament performance? Is John Beilein’s system too hard to prepare for in a short amount of time?

Remember, the above data uses the models I’ve discussed since last Wednesday. The tournament rating takes actual wins minus expected wins based on seed. The regular season rating takes expected wins based on seed minus expected wins based on talent. The total rating is simply the sum of these two things (or the actual wins minus the expected wins based on talent).

Tomorrow I shall examine the top coaches when it comes to recruiting.