Teams aren't only ones on bubble in March
For some coaches, getting into the tournament — or not — can affect their future.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
Ah, the ubiquitous bubble, that word that creeps into every March basketball conversation at the rate of about once per three sentences.
But as conference tournaments loom, a lot of guys will tell you the bubble ain't a great place to be, especially when it references their livelihoods. A look at the coaches whose futures appear most in jeopardy:
The Big East beleaguered. Everything is bigger in the Big East, right? That includes the number of coaches being whipsawed by the bullies above them.
As in: Jerry Wainwright, DePaul. The Blue Demons have trended down in his four years (51-70), and it's never a good thing to be winless (0-17) in your league.
Norm Roberts, St. John's. Like DePaul, this was a prominent program a generation ago. Roberts is only 63-82 in five years, but has been dogged by injuries, and he got a vote of confidence a month ago from his athletic director, Chris Monasch.
Fred Hill, Rutgers. Tuesday night, Rutgers led Syracuse by a point at halftime. It lost by 30, dropping Hill's three-year record to 31-59. The heat on Hill intensified recently from, strangely, retiring Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese. On a Sirius/XM radio show, he said, "If you don't win, you're going to make changes. ... I don't see any administration staying with any coach for a long period of time when they're winning zero, one, two, three or four games."
Bobby Gonzalez, Seton Hall. The New York Post had Gonzalez all but gone after his second season a year ago, writing he was likely to be fired not only for his record but for an outburst on officiating and writing a newspaper column with tips on how to pick the NCAA tournament. But he's 15-13, and has a talent infusion ready to help next season.
Some other coaches feeling the hot breath of the alumni and/or administration:
Dereck Whittenburg, Fordham. The Rams are 3-24 and Whittenburg might need a savior on the order of Lorenzo Charles rising to grab Whittenburg's air ball and slam it home, as Charles did to win the NCAA title for NC State back in 1983. Whittenburg's ace in the hole is a contract extension through 2013 signed before last season.
Matt Doherty, SMU. It's not an easy place to win, but the Mustangs have slipped to 33-56 under the former Tar Heel.
Steve Cleveland, Fresno State. FSU is an afterthought these days, but it's partly because Cleveland, in his fourth year, inherited a team headed for probation until 2010. He's 12-18, atop 13-19 last year. Being a hometown guy and ex-FSU student will help him.
Larry Eustachy, Southern Miss. Eustachy has had an unremarkable five years since his alcohol-fueled exit from Iowa State. He's 14-15, 74-78 overall.
Paul Hewitt, Georgia Tech. The ACC can beat you up, and it has mauled Hewitt, 29-50 in league since Tech's surprise run to the 2004 NCAA title game. But elite recruit Derrick Favors is coming next year, auguring well.
Jeff Lebo, Auburn. We throw Lebo's name out only to suggest that it might not be too late for those losing hope to make a case. With a five-year SEC record of 21-50 exactly a month ago, Lebo was being fitted for a pair of cement boots, even as his athletic director wouldn't comment on his future and workers were pounding away on a new arena, heightening the urgency for the coach.
Out of nowhere came seven victories in eight games, and Auburn now stands 20-10 and 9-6 in the SEC. There you have it: All you need is a good streak and a bad league.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
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