Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Ranking the coaching jobs: Big 12
By ESPN.com staff
It's Coaches Week on ESPN.com and today we're going conference by conference to rank the best and worst coaching jobs, as voted on by 14 of our writers and television analysts.
A few important notes: This is not an attempt to rank the programs or their histories. A school's tradition was taken into account of course, but more emphasis was given to recent years, and how hard or easy it is for a new coach to win there. Current recruits don't remember much beyond, what, 2008?
When voting, our 14 panelists were asked to take into consideration facilities, expectation level, athletic budget, wins and losses, recruiting base, fan support/pressure, and all of the other factors that go into determining the "best" jobs in the ever-crazy profession of college basketball coaching.
In short: If you were an agent and every single job was open in a particular conference, where would you direct your client? Where would you tell him to avoid if there are better options?
There's no right or wrong answer of course. These rankings are very much up for debate, and we're sure you'll do so in the comments section. But at the very least, this polling of 14 people clued into the inner workings of college basketball offers a glimpse into how the coaching position at your favorite school is perceived on the national scene.
(Editor's Note: Realignment makes the college landscape a confusing one these days, but for the purposes of this poll, panelists were asked to vote based on what each conference would look like for the 2012-13 season.)
1. Kansas: Only a handful of programs in the country can match the Jayhawks when it comes to tradition, fan support and overall prestige. The job pays exceptionally well -- Bill Self makes $3 million -- and attracts national-level recruits on name alone. Allen Fieldhouse is the top home-court advantage in college basketball, which is one reason KU boasts a national-best 22 straight NCAA tournament appearances and eight consecutive Big 12 titles. Former coaches Larry Brown and Roy Williams are both in the Hall of Fame, and Self eventually will be, too.
2. Texas: Stalking the sidelines for a state school in the middle of some of the nation’s most fertile recruiting ground would be a dream job for most any coach. The Longhorns, who tout 14 straight NCAA tournament appearances, are a national brand and have the ability to lure prospects from all across the country and even Canada. Texas is the only school in the league that has mounted a consistent threat to Kansas for the Big 12 crown. Because it’s a football school first, the coach of this program might not face the same type of scrutiny as those at similar-sized programs.
3. Baylor: The school everyone said didn’t belong in the league is suddenly its most successful member. Every single Baylor sport qualified for postseason play in 2011-12, and the Bears set an NCAA record for combined wins in football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball and baseball. The key for the Bears is location. Waco is located 90 minutes away from both Dallas and Austin, and only three hours from Houston. That’s appealing to recruits who want to stay close to home. The school’s emphasis on family and religion is also a plus for most families. Facilities are top notch as well. The one area of concern is fan support. The Bears were a top-10 team for most of last season, but often played in a half-empty arena.
4. West Virginia: The Mountaineers were in the Final Four two years ago, and are led by one of the most high-profile coaches in the game in Bob Huggins. It’s also the alma mater of Jerry West, whose silhouette is featured on the NBA logo. A rowdy fan base makes WVU Coliseum one of the tougher places to play in college basketball. Morgantown’s relative proximity to cities such as Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington D.C. and Baltimore is huge when it comes to recruiting. Huggins makes more than $2 million per year.
5. Oklahoma State: Proximity to Texas, and what can be one of the nation’s top home-court advantages (when it's full) makes winning at a high level possible in Stillwater, where the Cowboys reached the Final Four in 2004. In recent years, Oklahoma State has gone head-to-head with schools such as Kansas for recruits and won the battle multiple times. The job pays well and the facilities are great, thanks in part to the generosity of mega-donor T. Boone Pickens. The fans can be somewhat fickle. When the team is struggling, as it has recently, the support dwindles significantly.
6. Oklahoma: Billy Tubbs and Kelvin Sampson proved you can win -- and win big -- in Norman. Both coaches led the Sooners to the Final Four. Oklahoma, though, hasn’t had much success since Sampson left for Indiana in 2006 -- with the obvious exception of the Blake Griffin-led Elite Eight trip. The rarely full Lloyd Noble Center has been anything but intimidating in recent years and, other than Griffin, the Sooners have struggled to lure the type of top-tier recruits that used to consider their program. Much like it is at Texas, the basketball squad takes a backseat to the football team -- and some would say to the women’s basketball team, too.
7. Kansas State: Frank Martin led the Wildcats to 117 wins from 2007-2012, the most by any Kansas State coach in a five-year period. All of a sudden, a program that was a conference doormat for so long is now on solid footing for new coach Bruce Weber. When it’s full, Bramlage Coliseum is one of the 10 toughest places to play in the country, and probably ranks No. 2 in the Big 12 behind KU. Speaking of the Jayhawks, Kansas State has defeated its in-state rival just twice in Manhattan since 1983. The Wildcats will always struggle to attract the type of high-level recruits that sign with Kansas. Still, this isn’t a bad job. Far from it.
8. Iowa State: Larry Eustachy won a Big 12 title with the Cyclones, so don’t let anyone tell you this program can’t achieve success at a high level. Fans at Hilton Coliseum have been itching for a winner for nearly a decade. The environment in the arena is often referred to as “Hilton Magic.” Second-year coach Fred Hoiberg has relied on transfers to make the program competitive again, but there are enough prospects in Iowa and its neighboring states to change that trend soon. The harsh winters might detract recruits and, even though it features the Big 12’s best restaurant in Hickory Park, Ames isn’t one of the country’s most happenin’ towns.
9. TCU: The Horned Frogs have made the NCAA tournament just once since 1998, and have the Big 12’s worst arena in Daniel Meyer Coliseum. Fan support is sorely lacking for a program that hasn’t been able to land top-tier prospects from the DFW area. TCU’s affiliation with the Mountain West Conference might have contributed to that, as most top players want to compete in one of the six power conferences. TCU is in one of those now in the Big 12. We’ll see if it can capitalize on the recruiting trail -- and on the court under new coach Trent Johnson.
10. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have appeared in the NCAA tournament four times in the past 10 seasons, but they fell off a bit in recent years under Pat Knight, who was probably thrust into a job for which he wasn’t ready. United Spirit Arena is an excellent facility, and Red Raiders fans have proven they’ll support a winner -- but not so much when the times are tough. And the times have been tough lately. It’s possible to build a winning program in West Texas, as schools like Texas Tech and UTEP have proven in the past. The problem is that Lubbock is significantly further from Dallas, Houston and San Antonio than Waco, Austin, Ft. Worth and College Station. Recruits from those cities might be tempted to stay closer to home.