Men's Basketball

Mark Story: College basketball coaching carousel's winners and losers

Frank Martin took over the head job at South Carolina, a program that has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 1973. Martin had taken Kansas State to four of the past five NCAA Tournaments.
Frank Martin took over the head job at South Carolina, a program that has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 1973. Martin had taken Kansas State to four of the past five NCAA Tournaments. MCT

The cable network TNT is bringing a modern version of the 1980s prime-time melodrama Dallas back to TV.

When it comes to back-room dealing and multimillion-dollar gambles, J.R. Ewing at his most conniving is no more intriguing than the annual spring time soap opera that is the men's college basketball coaching carousel.

After the latest version of hoops musical chairs has mostly wound down, here is who is up and who is down.

Up: South Carolina. For a program that has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 1973 to land Frank Martin, a coach who had taken Kansas State to four of the past five NCAA Tournaments with a berth in the 2010 elite eight, is an out-and-out hiring coup.

Down: Frank Martin. Eddie Fogler and Dave Odom are darned good basketball coaches. Darrin Horn was one of the sports' up-and-comers after he took Western Kentucky University to the NCAA Tournament round of 16 in 2008. They are the last three coaches at South Carolina. None was able to sustain success in Columbia.

The hard-charging Martin had apparently fallen out with Kansas State Athletics Director John Currie, but history says he gave up a much better job than he is taking.

Up: Bruce Weber. After his tenure at Illinois went stale and he was ousted this year, Weber landed very much on his feet at Kansas State. He should be set up for immediate success after inheriting a roster scheduled to graduate only one scholarship player from a team that reached the NCAA round of 32 in 2012.

Down: Kansas State. By reputation, Weber is said to be "too honest" to recruit well. Whether true or not, his tenure at Illinois foundered over an inability to lure top high school players out of the city of Chicago, long known for its "Wild West" of a recruiting scene.

My question: If you struggle to attract top players at Illinois, the number one college team in a talent-producing state, how are you going to get the high-level prospects at Kansas State?

Up: LSU. Even though he won the SEC regular-season crown in his first season (2008-09), Trent Johnson never seemed "a fit" in Baton Rouge. New Tigers Coach Johnny Jones, however, should be as at home in the Bayou as crawfish étouffée. If the former LSU standout guard and Dale Brown assistant can successfully recruit a talent-rich state — and I'm guessing he can — then he eventually should be able to get a football- and baseball-crazed LSU fan base to tune back into basketball.

Down: TCU. On the verge of moving into the muscular basketball league that is the Big 12, the Horned Frogs first saw incumbent head coach Jim Christian depart for the MAC (Ohio U.). Then the Fort Worth school hired LSU head man Trent Johnson — who was 12-36 in SEC games over the past three seasons.

Up: Florida International. At 29, Richard Pitino's bloodline is the most impressive thing on his coaching resume (though his time working as an assistant for his dad at Louisville and Billy Donovan at Florida should also be good training). In his first head coaching job, the bar to clear is low for young Pitino. A potted plant would be an upgrade at FIU over the hapless Isiah Thomas.

Down: SMU. The only man to win both NCAA and NBA championships as a head coach, new SMU head man Larry Brown is a certifiable coaching legend. But the Basketball Hall of Famer has not been a college head man since 1988 and is returning to the youth-oriented world of college recruiting at the advanced age of 71.

We won't even dwell on the fact that a school with SMU's death-penalty past hired a coach whose two most recent college employers, UCLA and Kansas, both wound up on NCAA probation.

Up: Steve Prohm. Sure, the first-year Murray State head coach's iron was hot after MSU's joy ride of a season in 2011-12. He had at least a feeler from Mississippi State, too. But Prohm was smart to sit tight at Murray and gain more seasoning before attempting to break into a major conference.

Down: Coaches from the state of Kentucky. One year after John Pelphrey (Paintsville) got pink slipped at Arkansas, Darrin Horn (Lexington) was ousted at South Carolina, Jerry Eaves (Louisville) was fired at North Carolina A&T and Rick Stansbury (Battletown) was nudged into retirement after this season at Mississippi State.

For many coaches from the commonwealth, the coaching carousel has, with a distressing frequency lately, ended with the boot.

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