From Mark Cuban to Geno Auriemma, it seems everyone is panning the current state of men's college basketball.
If only the hoops powers-that-be could figure out a way to make the games even one-tenth as entertaining as the deal-making melodrama that is the annual coaching carousel.
As the latest version of coaching musical chairs winds down, here is my verdict on who is up and who is down in the mad, mad world of college hoops job switching:
UP: Texas. Across the years, major hoops programs courted Shaka Smart at VCU with the fervor of the Suitors of Penelope (think The Odyssey). UCLA, Maryland, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Illinois and Minnesota all made eyes at the coach who took VCU from the First Four to the Final Four in 2011. All felt the sting of Shaka's rejection.
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It is a tremendous coup for Texas Athletics Director Steve Patterson that he is the AD who finally wooed Smart, 38, away from VCU. The coach's dynamic personality and up-tempo style of play should allow him to do at Texas what Billy Donovan has done at Florida and Thad Matta at Ohio State — use a major football school's vast resources to build a basketball power.
DOWN: The Billy Donovan coaching tree. Ex-Florida assistant Anthony Grant was fired after six years at Alabama (117-85) with only one NCAA Tournament trip. Grant's demise followed the 2011 firing of old friend John Pelphrey, another Donovan protégé, at Arkansas (69-59 in four seasons). To restore some luster, the Billy D. coaching tree really needs Shaka Smart (Florida assistant 2008-09) to hit it big at Texas.
UP: Tennessee. Chaos has been more than a theory in Big Orange athletics. Since 2008, UT has had four different head football coaches and four different head men's basketball coaches — including three in the past 12 months. So after Donnie Tyndall was forced out amid an NCAA investigation of his prior program at Southern Miss, the Vols were fortunate to lure deposed Texas head man Rick Barnes.
Sure, at the end of his 17-year tenure in Austin, Barnes underachieved. However, Barnes, 60, is mature, knows how to run a basketball program in a "football conference" and gets his teams to the NCAA Tournament (22 times in 28 seasons as Division I head man). He should provide exactly what the Rocky Toppers need now — stability.
DOWN: St. John's. Chris Mullin is, arguably, the greatest player in St. John's history. He was an NBA all-star and member of the original Dream Team. Having worked in NBA front offices with Golden State and Sacramento, Mullin has stayed in the game. What he had never done until his alma mater hired him as its head man, however, is coach.
Mullin seems to have some early recruiting momentum, so maybe this works out. But, if his name were "Chris Johnson," not Chris Mullin, would he have been deemed qualified to be a Big East head coach?
UP: The SEC. With Tennessee hiring Rick Barnes (2003 Final Four), Mississippi State Ben Howland (three straight Final Fours at UCLA (2006-08) and Alabama Avery Johnson (two 60-win seasons as Dallas Mavericks head coach), a league mired in men's hoops mediocrity in recent years seems serious about employing some cold $EC Network cash to get serious about basketball again.
DOWN: Mississippi State. On paper, Ben Howland is a clear coaching upgrade on the deposed MSU head man, Rick Ray. But having hired Ray with the mandate to change the off-the-court culture in a program that had seemingly lost its way late in Rick Stansbury's reign, State should have given the coach more than three years even if he had a subpar 37-60 record.
UP: Gregg Marshall. As Marshall has presided over a golden era in Wichita State hoops history, speculation has been rampant over when the coach will move to a more high-profile league.
This offseason, Marshall parlayed a job flirtation with Alabama into a seven-year contract extension that will pay him, on average, $3.3 million a year. Turns out, Marshall did not have to leave Wichita to be paid like a high-profile league coach.
DOWN: Travis Ford. With one NCAA Tournament victory to show for seven years as Oklahoma State head man, the ex-UK guard heard the jackals braying this spring. A $9.6 million contract buyout likely saved Ford's job in Stillwater for now. Still, this looks like the time Ford should have made a "Tubby goes to Minnesota" style career move.