Maryland’s search for Gary Williams‘ replacement initially brought up the question of how good the Terrapins’ job was. Please note, that’s the job, not the program as it stands today.
The latest question four days after Williams departure is whether Maryland will land a name coach.
But if it doesn’t, would it really be in bad shape?
That’s a trick question, since the more important matter for Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson is to hire a good coach rather than a big name. But as a matter of perspective, there have only been 13 power conference hires in the last six years to be plucked directly from other BCS conference gigs:
* Kelvin Sampson, Oklahoma to Indiana: Sampson happily picked up the phone to talk to the Hoosiers. It didn’t work out well for Indiana when Sampson ran afoul of the NCAA sheriff again and didn’t even make it through two seasons.
* Herb Sendek, N.C. State to Arizona State: Sendek was not fired, so there’s no revisionist history going on here. But he wasn’t exactly beloved in Raleigh, and it certainly made him more available for the Sun Devils to lure away.
* John Beilein, West Virginia to Michigan: Beilein has spent exactly five years at each of his Division I stops to date (Canisius, Richmond, West Virginia). Interestingly, he’ll enter Year Five in Ann Arbor next year.
* Billy Gillispie, Texas A&M to Kentucky: Billy Clyde made the understandable leap to Lexington, though it didn’t quite work out for him. He lasted only two years.
* Bob Huggins, Kansas State to West Virginia: Huggins returned to his alma mater after just a season in the Little Apple.
* Tubby Smith, Kentucky to Minnesota: A move not dissimilar to Sendek’s a year earlier. An increasingly discontented fan base didn’t do much to deter this leap.
(Stan Heath, fired at Arkansas, took the South Florida job in the 2007 offseason)
* Tom Crean, Marquette to Indiana: Crean took over Sampson’s mess in Bloomington and still hasn’t quite dug his way out. Still, it was a jump to one of the sport’s traditional powers in a hoops-crazed area.
* Trent Johnson, Stanford to Louisiana State: Reports at the time suggested Johnson would double his pay with the move. Plus, the Lopez twins had just left Palo Alto. Those were two excellent reasons to find a new situation.
* Tony Bennett, Washington State to Virginia: A total curveball at the time, Bennett got a sweet deal (five years, $1.7 million annually), a gorgeous arena and an escape from a program with little recent traction.
* Jeff Bzdelik, Colorado to Wake Forest: It seemed like an unusual hire when it was made, and Bzdelik’s first season in the Dash did little to assuage any doubts.
* Oliver Purnell, Clemson to DePaul: The private Chicago school backed up a figurative armored truck to Purnell’s doorstep. He accepted. As a result, a guy with a history of taking on rebuilding projects got one of the biggest he could ask for.
* Mike Anderson, Missouri to Arkansas: Anderson had strong ties to Arkansas, so in many ways this was a logical move.
* Frank Haith, Miami to Missouri: Hardly an anticipated move, Haith never had a winning conference record in seven years at Miami. Haith gets points for self-preservation; he might have faced pressure if Miami didn’t reach the NCAA tournament next season.
Lessons? Three of the dozen went to guys heading to crown jewel program. Two more (Huggins and Anderson) had strong ties to the school. A few seemed to be looking, to varying degrees, for an escape hatch. Purnell got a giant payday.
It’s worth noting only one of the coaches on this list would be considered a smashing success (Huggins), though it’s still far too early to tell on a number of the hires. Sendek, Beilein, Smith and Johnson all have led their new schools to NCAA bids and remain on the job.
In short, such moves do happen. Historically, though, they just don’t happen every day.
—- Patrick Stevens