John Clay

SEC basketball: Ranking the coaches from top to bottom

The SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament tips off Wednesday night in Nashville, which can only mean one thing.

Time for the coaching speculation season.

Missouri’s Kim Anderson has already been asked to find employment elsewhere. Johnny Jones is a good bet to find a pink slip in his mailbox once LSU is eliminated in Music City. Georgia Athletics Director Greg McGarity squashed reports the Bulldogs are ready to move on from Mark Fox.

Even if the rest of the league’s coaches are safe, some are on better footing than others. Here’s a ranking of 1-14 from lifetime contract to trending to, as the Eagles might say, already gone.

1. John Calipari, Kentucky: What, you thought someone else would be at the top of this list? You want a ridiculous stat: Calipari’s conference record after eight seasons is 111-27. He has the No. 1 recruiting class — same as it ever was — for next season. Case closed tight.

2. Bryce Drew, Vanderbilt: The 42-year-old is cementing his status among the game’s bright young lights. After playing the nation’s toughest non-conference season and some early conference struggles, Vanderbilt is playing its best basketball of the season.

3. Mike White, Florida: The 40-year-old was voted SEC Coach of the Year by his peers. After going 9-9 in White’s first season trying to fill Billy Donovan’s rather large shoes, Florida improved to 14-4 this season. The success should help White in recruiting.

4. Avery Johnson, Alabama: Never mind the Crimson Tide’s slow fade the second half of the SEC season, Johnson has a star-studded collection of newcomers ticketed to hit Tuscaloosa in the fall. Rivals ranks Alabama’s 2017 class fourth in the nation.

5. Mike Anderson, Arkansas: After success at UAB and Missouri, Anderson appears to finally have the Razorbacks pointed in the right direction. He missed the NCAA Tournament his first three years, but this season should mark Arkansas’ second appearance in the past three years.

6. Frank Martin, South Carolina: Like Anderson, it has taken time for Martin to get things moving forward. This year’s 22-9 team is his best in Columbia. Only problem is Martin loses his best player, senior Sindarius Thornwell.

7. Billy Kennedy, Texas A&M: This year has been a disappointment, but the 53-year-old Kennedy got the Aggies to the Sweet 16 last season. He’d love for Robert Williams to stick around (doubtful) but getting point guard J.J. Caldwell eligible for next season fixes this year’s biggest problem.

8. Bruce Pearl, Auburn: Admit it, you thought Pearl would have had the Tigers closer to a turnaround by now. The ex-Tennessee coach is 16-38 in the SEC on the Plains. The good news is Rivals ranks his 2017 class 18th in the nation.

9. Ben Howland, Mississippi State: Howland won 16 games his first two seasons at Northern Arizona, then 21 his third. He won 32 games his first two seasons at Pittsburgh, 29 his third. He won 29 games his first two seasons at UCLA, 32 his third. He has won 29 games his first two seasons in Starkville.

10. Rick Barnes, Tennessee: The Vols finished the year losing five of their last seven. Did UT get the Barnes who went 73-23 in the Big 12 his first six years at Texas or the Barnes who was 35-37 his final four seasons?

11. Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss: It’s not that Kennedy has done a bad job in Oxford. But after going 19-12 overall and 10-8 in the league in a season without much hope of an NCAA bid, are Rebels fans growing restless?

12. Mark Fox, Georgia: Same goes for Dawgs fans. At 18-13, Fox can still get to 20 wins for a fourth straight year. And yet this is likely to be the sixth time in Fox’s eight seasons that Georgia won’t hear its name called on Selection Sunday.

13. Johnny Jones, LSU: History says there are plenty of great athletes in Louisiana, and Dale Brown and John Brady both proved this program can make the Final Four.

14. Kim Anderson, Missouri: The mess Frank Haith left behind was more than the affable Anderson could overcome. Still, he leaves Mizzou a more attractive post than the one he accepted three years ago.

SEC TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

All times ET. Seeds in parentheses. First three rounds on SEC Network. Semifinals and finals on ESPN.

Wednesday

Game 1, 7 p.m.: Mississippi State (12) vs. LSU (13)

Game 2, 9:25 p.m.: Auburn (11) vs. Missouri (14)

Thursday

Game 3, 1 p.m.: Georgia (8) vs. Tennessee (9)

Game 4, 3:25 p.m.: Alabama (5) vs. Game 1 winner

Game 5, 7 p.m.: Vanderbilt (7) vs. Texas A&M (10)

Game 6, 9:25 p.m.: Ole Miss (6) vs. Game 2 winner

Friday

Game 7, 1 p.m.: Kentucky (1) vs. Game 3 winner

Game 8, 3:25 p.m.: South Carolina (4) vs. Game 4 winner

Game 9, 7 p.m.: Florida (2) vs. Game 5 winner

Game 10, 9:25 p.m.: Arkansas (3) vs. Game 6 winner

Saturday

Game 11, 1 p.m.: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner

Game 12, 3:25 p.m.: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner

Sunday

Finals, 1 p.m.: Game 11 winner vs. Game 12 winner

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