Monday, February 7, 2011

Have new coaches made a difference?

What can Ken Pomeroy’s Efficiency Margin data tell us about how new coaches have done? Have they turned their programs around?

Scroll down for the tables, but first some comments:

Big Improvements

-In two years, John Calipari’s average efficiency margin has clearly outshined that of former Kentucky head coach Billy Gillispie. But Calipari has even exceeded the average efficiency margin of Tubby Smith’s Kentucky teams from 2003 to 2007. I think that is pretty amazing given the reliance on freshman over the last two years. Like most people, I’m puzzled by the recent close losses, but I think there is no doubt that Kentucky hit a home run when it hired Calipari.

-I hope people are not overlooking the job Mike Rice Jr. has done at Rutgers this year. Sometimes his expressions on the sideline seem overzealous, but he is holding his players accountable and delivering results. I thought his most impressive result of the season was his three point home loss to Pittsburgh, but his team has played well in close losses at St. John’s and at Notre Dame since that game. Interestingly, Fred Hill is starting to look like a negative blip for Rutgers, as Gary Waters at least had Rutgers fielding passable teams from 2003 to 2006.

-Is it fair to question whether Jeff Bzdelik is a good coach at this point? Colorado has improved since he left, and Wake Forest has gotten much worse since he arrived. Of course there are extenuating circumstances. Colorado is a veteran team, Wake Forest lost a ton of talent and has started over with a bunch of freshman. But the decision to remove Dino Gaudio is looking more and more puzzling.

-St. John’s coach Mike Jarvis was fired mid-season in 2003-04, and interim coach Kevin Clark could not keep the recruits. This meant Norm Roberts inherited a disaster. Meanwhile, Steve Lavin has started with a group of experienced seniors and been in much better position to succeed immediately. That’s the story most people tell to be kind to Norm Roberts. But I also think it is also fair to credit Lavin with getting his senior group to play at a higher level. I think Lavin did the right thing in increasing St. John’s strength-of-schedule. St. John’s is not a dominant enough group to win every day. But by playing enough quality teams, they’ve put together enough nice wins to look like an NCAA team at this point.

-No one is surprised to see Mike Montgomery’s teams playing at such a high level once again. The man who once dominated the Pac-10 at Stanford has California playing winning basketball again. (Did anyone see highlights of Saturday’s 3OT thriller against Arizona? The game was not on ESPN3, or any of the three Fox Regional channels on my Verizon Fios box. Where was it? On the Sportscenter U program on ESPNU, they only showed the box score. Did this game really happen?)

-I cannot give enough love to Fran McCaffery for bringing some up-tempo basketball back to Iowa. But he also has his team playing better basketball. They won at Indiana this weekend, something Illinois and Minnesota could not do.

-I’m surprised Mark Fox did not get a job offer for a BCS gig sooner. And Nevada has taken an epic fall since he left.

-Is Buzz Williams a better coach than Tom Crean? His teams have had better efficiency margins than Crean’s did. And this data includes Crean’s team with Dwayne Wade. Until Williams gets to a Final Four, I think the answer is no. But I will say this: Buzz Williams' teams almost never get blown out.

-I’m not quite in agreement that Iowa St. has played well this year. They beat Creighton early in the year before Gregory Echenique was eligible, beat an Iowa squad that was still learning to play for Fran McCaffery, and currently sit 1-8 in the Big 12. Obviously the close losses to Kansas St, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St. Nebraska, and particularly Kansas mean this team is competitive. But until they start winning some Big 12 games, it is hard to proclaim this a success story yet. Realistically, the true evaluation of Fred Hoiberg will come next year when all those transfers become eligible.

Notes on the table:

EM is the average efficiency margin over the coach’s tenure.
Impact is the difference in EM between the current coach and the previous non-interim head coach.

Avg adj off is the average adjusted offense over the coach’s tenure.
Avg adj def is the average adjusted defense over the coach’s tenure.

Scroll to the right to see the average performance of the former coaches. Ken Pomeroy only tabulates data back to 2003, so there is no coaching data before the 2002-2003 season.

Not a Good Start

-Wake Forest suffered a huge talent drain, and Indiana suffered an epic talent drain, but those teams are still performing substantially below historical expectations.

-I actually thought that when Oliver Purnell took over at DePaul, he could get the team to win some Big East games on hard work alone. But no team in a BCS league has fewer natural shooters. At 28.2% from 3 point range, DePaul shoots too poorly to run an effective offense.

-At least Auburn has Earnest Ross who can get hot and make a game fun once in a while. (See OT loss to Georgia, where Ross scored 30 points.)

-I really like LSU newcomer Andre Stringer, but LSU needed more than one player to turn around last year’s debacle. Two years of horrific basketball may have shortened Trent Johnson’s clock.

-Also, shouldn’t Trent Johnson and Tony Bennett get some blame for departing along with their seniors and leaving rebuilding projects at Stanford and Washington St.?

-I think Sean Miller is doing a fantastic job at Arizona, but it is worth noting that he has a long way to go to duplicate Lute Olson’s level of success. I think he’ll eventually get there, but it would help if the rest of the Pac-10 was not so down. Even when Arizona wins Pac-10 games, it has not improved their efficiency margin very much.

-I don’t think anyone thinks the Pat Knight experiment is working.

Notable Non-BCS Impacts

It might seem that non-BCS turnaround projects would be a great place to find prospective BCS coaches. And while that’s true, coaches in the CAA and similar places only tend to get credit when they finish the job. Turning a team from a 1-15 doormat to an 8-8 competitive team is a nice accomplishment, but it usually will not get you hired. You usually have to make it to the NCAA tournament, and maybe even win a game. As such, I am not going to present the whole table for non-BCS turnarounds, but here are some highlights:

- James Madison was a perennial CAA cellar-dweller under Dean Keener, and Matt Brady currently has the team at 7-6 in the conference, the second winning mark in the last 3 years. He probably needs to do more to earn a BCS job, but if James Madison makes the tournament in a couple of years, he will definitely be a top candidate. (For those of you tripping over the name, this is not former LSU coach John Brady who now coaches at Arkansas St.) Matt Brady also coached at Marist in the MAAC which has really struggled since he left.

-With the WAC falling out of national relevance, Don Verlin probably won’t get much credit at Idaho. But he took over a team that was usually the worst in the WAC, and has them playing .500 ball.

-North Florida had a pair of 3-26 seasons under its previous coach which is making Matthew Driscoll look like a miracle worker for finishing near .500 in the A-Sun.

-Finally, the UCF story has been ruined by a terrible performance in conference play this year. Donnie Jones looked like a great prospect for a BCS job in December, but not right now.