College Basketball Nation: Eric Musselman

3-point shot: LSU hires Musselman

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19

Andy Katz discusses LSU's hire of Eric Musselman, Arizona signee Stanley Johnson, and Elfrid Payton's rise.

3-point shot: Summer school for hoops

August, 29, 2013
Following up on more August trips, here is what three teams learned.

1. Arizona State: The Sun Devils went to China and according to the staff had a tremendous cultural bonding experience. The post-trip buzz was about how well the three freshmen played, according to associate head coach Eric Musselman. That means ASU expects to get production out of wing Egor Koulechov, Chance Murray and Calaen Robinson, who is listed as a sophomore but didn't play last season. The Sun Devils were in search of a backup point guard on the trip and likely found two in Murray and Robinson. ASU desperately needs more options and depth to be an NCAA tournament team. The Sun Devils figured out they've got to incorporate more touches for JC transfer Shaquielle McKissic and Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall. They will be led by point guard Jahii Carson (with an assist from forward Jordan Bachynski), but Carson can’t do it alone. Musselman said the staff was impressed by the young core, but "Carson has stepped up his game both on and off the court skill-wise and with leadership.''

2. Wisconsin: Coach Bo Ryan said he realized "Canadian basketball is much better than people realized, better than it's been.'' He said the Badgers learned how to play with more tempo and movement. The freshmen picked up the drills and the style in which the Badgers will play. He said the management of Josh Gasser's minutes was critical, since the point guard who sat out last season with a torn ACL must be ready to go for the start of the season. Gasser will share the position with Traevon Jackson. "Josh is still tentative and that's to be understood. He's not quite there yet,'' said Ryan. "But he shot it pretty well. This trip gave him a chance to do a lot of shooting.'' Ryan said the Badgers showed they have more depth on the perimeter. He said working with a 24-second shot clock was beneficial to handle late-game situations. The Badgers definitely played to the fast-paced game, giving up 95 points in a loss to Carleton to start the trip and 92 in a win over Ottawa. Expect those defensive scoring numbers to be much lower once the Badgers get into the season with a traditional 35-second shot clock. Wisconsin has to get the defensive numbers down with a brutal nonconference schedule with games against St. John's in South Dakota, Florida, at Green Bay, Saint Louis (and then ODU or West Virginia) in Cancun, at Virginia and Marquette. The Badgers did get a Big Ten "break" with three of the first five conference games at home.

3. Clemson: Coach Brad Brownell said the Tigers will shoot much better this season than last after the 10-day trip to Italy. Clemson averaged 95 points on the four-game trip. "We still don't know how our young post players will react under real pressure,'' said Brownell. The only two posts who played on the trip were Landry Nnoko (11 blocks and 11.5 rebounds) and Josh Smith (13 boards a game). Jaron Blossomgame still wasn't healthy enough to play after offseason surgery and JC transfer Ibrahim Djambo and freshman big man Sidy Djitte of Senegal didn't go on the trip. "Everyone on the perimeter is a year older and just better than last year,'' said Brownell. That helps. This team will still rely heavily on K.J. McDaniels, who was scoring at a clip of 15 points, grabbing nine boards and blocking a total of 12 shots. McDaniels had to play more because of the thinning forward crew. Spokesperson Philip Sikes had a complete report on the trip and noted the improved play of Damarcus Harrison, who was in shape, Jordan Roper for his consistency and Devin Coleman for getting through the games and travel after returning from a torn Achilles.

3-point shot: The brutal Big Ten

February, 27, 2013
1. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Tuesday on "Katz Korner" that he told Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski that at least two ranked Big Ten teams might not get byes in the conference tournament, stressing how difficult it will be when the tourney kicks off March 14 in Chicago. He's right. The Big Ten tournament might be more difficult for a Big Ten team to win than the NCAA tournament. This was true for Connecticut in 2011, when it had to get through a five-night, five-day Big East gauntlet to win in New York before winning six to capture the NCAA tournament title. National champs don't always go through three, let alone four, ranked teams to get to the national title. Yet, for a team like Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan or, let's say, Wisconsin to win the Big Ten tournament, it would have to go through a grind like no other this season in at least three consecutive days in Chicago. Whomever gets through that March 17 final will be beaten down, yet will probably feel invincible going into the NCAA tournament. That team probably won't face as daunting a slate of teams, assuming it can get to the Final Four in Atlanta.

2. Arizona State has opportunities many teams on the bubble don't over its final three regular-season games. The Sun Devils can play their way into or out of the NCAA tournament with games at UCLA, USC and Arizona. The Sun Devils suffered a disappointing loss at home to Washington on Saturday. For the Sun Devils to get past UCLA on Wednesday, assistant coach Eric Musselman said, they've got to contain UCLA's wing scorers Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams, cut down transition baskets and establish paint scoring. To beat USC on Saturday, regardless of what occurs against the Bruins, the Sun Devils must defend the 3-point shot and play with intelligence, according to Musselman. ASU can't be pleased that it put itself in this situation, but all is not lost. The Pac-12 could get six teams into the NCAA field if the Sun Devils can show well and win (one of three? two of three?) in the final two weeks. I'm fairly confident Arizona, UCLA, Oregon, Cal and Colorado will all get into the field.

3. Saturday's Miami-Duke game is worthy of the hype. Duke got hammered by 27 in January in Coral Gables. If Duke wins the rematch with the visiting Hurricanes, the ACC regular-season title is still within reach; the Blue Devils could still get a No. 1 seed and likely a No. 1 ranking, for what that's worth, over even No. 2 Gonzaga, after No. 1 Indiana lost at Minnesota on Tuesday (not saying I agree, but voters might do that if Duke beats Miami). But hold on. While I'll assume Miami beats Virginia Tech at home Wednesday, Duke could have a tougher time Thursday at Virginia, where the Cavaliers will make the Blue Devils play their game. Virginia's coaches haven't discussed the Miami-Duke promotional hype (on ESPN) days in advance of the Duke-Virginia game one bit. The coaches are simply locking in on what they do best: Ensure the Cavs defend, play hard and feed off of Joe Harris, who probably is the least-heralded most valuable player to a team in the country (which is from the staff, but another point that I'm on board with). For Virginia to beat Duke, according to the staff, the Cavs must cut the transition baskets and limit the extra possessions.
College basketball is a multibillion-dollar sport. With so much money at stake -- along with the prestige and exposure that comes with consistent success -- there’s always pressure on coaches to win.

The following list doesn’t necessarily include coaches who are on the “hot seat.” Only the athletic directors and insiders privy to the true statuses of these coaches know what’s necessary for each to maintain his current position. From the outside, however, they all appear to be coaches who need to win. Now.

Another lukewarm season might not cost them their jobs. But it certainly won’t help their respective causes.

Here’s my list of 10 coaches who need to win now:

  1. [+] EnlargeSmith
    Bruce Thorson/US PresswireTubby Smith has yet to lead Minnesota to an NCAA tournament victory in five seasons on the job.
    Tubby Smith (Minnesota) -- Smith has reached the NCAA tournament twice in five seasons since he left Kentucky to take the Minnesota gig in 2007. But he hasn’t won a game in the Big Dance during his time with the Gophers. The extension he signed in the offseason will mean little if the Gophers miss the NCAA tournament again. New athletic director Norwood Teague came from Virginia Commonwealth, where Shaka Smart helped that program attain national relevancy. Teague expects the same in Minneapolis. So the pressure continues to rise for Smith, who’s endured multiple off-court incidents during his term. Proof that he’s seeking public support: Smith now allows media in the locker room after games, a first in his tenure.
  2. Ben Howland (UCLA) -- Accomplishments in college basketball are quickly forgotten. That’s why Howland’s back-to-back-to-back run to the Final Four from 2006 to 2008 seems like an ancient feat. Howland’s recent years have been plagued by personnel issues and underachievement. But there’s a strong buzz surrounding his 2012 recruiting class. Howland, once again, has a roster than can make a run in March, assuming Shabazz Muhammad is cleared by the NCAA. The flip side of the hoopla is that UCLA’s fan base will likely bemoan anything less. So the Bruins must reach their potential, it seems, to keep Howland’s seat cool.
  3. Bill Carmody (Northwestern) -- Northwestern is not a football school or a basketball school. It’s a school school, one that places a great emphasis on its broad academic imprint. But there is discontent with the men’s basketball team’s inability to reach the NCAA tournament. It has never happened. The Wildcats have come close in the past three years -- the most fruitful stretch in the program’s history -- but those seasons all ended without a bid. The swell of disappointment has grown with each close call. Athletic director Jim Phillips reportedly considered a change but ultimately gave Carmody, who is entering his 13th season, a vote of confidence after another possible berth slipped away last season. He might not receive the same support in a similar scenario this season.
  4. Travis Ford (Oklahoma State) -- In his first two seasons, Ford led the Cowboys to the NCAA tournament. But the program hasn’t met that bar since 2010. Last year, Ford had an NBA prospect (Le'Bryan Nash) and multiple high-level athletes but still struggled in the Big 12 due to a subpar defense (the Cowboys' 70.8 points per game allowed was the second-highest tally in the league). Oklahoma State continues to invest in basketball. Its latest project, a multimillion-dollar upgrade of the program’s locker room, illustrated its commitment to the sport. But it’s equally interested in winning. And Ford has missed the mark in recent years. He had a young team a year ago, but this season’s group is so talented -- enter Marcus Smart -- that youth won’t be a valid excuse again.
  5. Herb Sendek (Arizona State) -- Few programs endured Arizona State’s offseason shift. Sendek added assistants Eric Musselman and Larry Greer, two men who’ve coached in the NBA, to his staff after finishing with a 10-21 record in 2011-12. Sendek also lost top scorer Trent Lockett (13.0 ppg), who transferred to Marquette to be closer to an ailing mother in Minnesota. The good news: Talented point guard Jahii Carson is eligible. But Carson's presence and the additions to his staff won’t guarantee additional years for Sendek, who was the Pac-12’s coach of the year in 2010. He has to find a way to climb out of the league’s basement in 2012-13.
  6. Craig Robinson (Oregon State) -- President Barack Obama’s brother-in-law has gradually upgraded the talent in Corvallis in his first four years. His best player last year, Jared Cunningham, was a first-round pick in the 2012 NBA draft. But Robinson is still trying to prove that the Beavers are on the rise after finishing seven games under .500 in his first four years (64-71). Last year’s 21-win season was both promising and disappointing. Oregon State had its chances but ultimately finished with a 7-11 mark in Pac-12 play. The loss of Cunningham was a tough one for the program. But its greatest problem last season -- a defense that was ranked 154th in defensive efficiency -- was a collective issue. It’s something Robinson must address in 2012-13.
  7. Kevin Ollie (Connecticut)/Chris Walker (Texas Tech) -- Both Ollie and Walker were placed in similarly uninspiring situations during the offseason. After Jim Calhoun retired, Ollie signed a one-year contract to coach a Huskies team that lost top talents Jeremy Lamb, Andre Drummond, Roscoe Smith and Alex Oriakhi and will not compete in the postseason due to a subpar Academic Progress Rate score. After former head coach Billy Gillispie’s messy offseason exit, Walker inherited a Texas Tech squad that earned one Big 12 victory last season (1-17). Neither Ollie nor Walker is promised anything beyond this season. And their circumstances will limit their abilities to turn their “temporary” tags into permanent ones.
  8. [+] EnlargeJeff Bzdelik
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesJeff Bzdelik enters his third year at Wake Forest with just five total ACC victories to his credit.
    Jeff Bzdelik (Wake Forest) -- From 2001 to 2005, the Demon Deacons reached the NCAA tournament. They also secured back-to-back trips in 2009 and 2010. But Bzdelik’s first two seasons were rocky. Under his watch, Wake Forest achieved one ACC victory in 2010-11 and four last year. That’s progress. But is it enough to satisfy a fan base that will watch the neighbors on Tobacco Road (North Carolina State, North Carolina and Duke) enter the season as potential national championship contenders? Bzdelik is on the right track, and Travis McKie and C.J. Harris should help the program move forward in his third season, too. Any movement in the other direction, however, will encourage more scrutiny of Bzdelik’s job status.
  9. Andy Kennedy (Ole Miss) -- Kennedy averaged more than 20 wins in his first six seasons, but his program’s name was never called on Selection Sunday. And close never suffices in college basketball. Kennedy’s legacy won’t be defined by his consistency as much it will be marked by the program’s ongoing NCAA tournament drought and his efforts to end it in 2012-13. That’s crucial for Kennedy, who might have a tough time convincing his superiors to keep him with another respectable finish that doesn’t involve a trip to the Big Dance.
  10. Ken Bone (Washington State) -- Bone’s program returns the Pac-12’s leading scorer, Brock Motum (18.0 ppg last season). But Motum’s presence only intensifies the expectations for the Cougars. Bone hasn’t led the team to the NCAA tournament since replacing Tony Bennett in 2009. The Cougars have been inconsistent. A suspect defense (141st in defensive efficiency last year) hasn’t helped. But this season’s Pac-12 is filled with unknowns. Washington State can rise in the standings if it’s tough on both ends of the floor. Another mediocre year sans an NCAA tournament berth, however, will not help Bone extend his time in Pullman.
1. An NFL-style lockout of officials can’t and won’t happen in college basketball. The officials are independent contractors and the consensus among the group is to keep the status quo. “It’s no different than if we paint your house, we get a 1099 from the IRS and we’re responsible for our own insurance, our own tax filings, deductions and receipts, including retirement,’’ said one high-profile official. “We have the flexibility.’’ Officials work in multiple conferences. They don’t have job security or a pension but they do have the freedom to hold day jobs, and the majority does. For the officials to be under one roof, the NCAA would have to hire them. If you paid 50 officials a salary of $100,000 with benefits, that’s $10 million -- but you’d still need to hire 350 more officials to cover the 5,000-plus games, according to an officiating head. Making officials employees would be too cost-ineffective. “The system is fine, as it is now,’’ said one officiating head.

2. Conference USA is discussing how to divide the league when it changes members and has 14 teams in 2013. The key question will be 16 or 18 league games and which teams will play each other twice every season. You can group a few natural rivals. The foursome of Charlotte-Marshall-Old Dominion-East Carolina will likely be together in some rivalry combination. UTEP and UT-San Antonio make sense as a pair. Tulsa and North Texas would be ideal, too. The interesting dilemma will whether the league pits small private schools Rice and Tulane against each other or pairs up intrastate Tulane and Louisiana Tech. The best chance for natural rivalries would be pitting Tulane against Rice and pairing Southern Miss against Louisiana Tech and Florida International against UAB, since those last two don’t really have any other school to pair up with based on the geography.

3. Former New Mexico State and Sacramento Kings coach Reggie Theus is on the verge of getting the job as head coach of the Los Angeles D-Fenders in the NBA Development League, replacing Eric Musselman, who left for an assistant’s job with Arizona State. The deal is done, according to a source, but Theus hasn't signed it yet; there is a tryout Saturday and Theus will be there. Theus has been anxious to get back into college basketball but hasn’t been able to get a quality sniff of late. Getting a head-coaching job, regardless of the level, is crucial for him to convince an athletic director and/or school president that he’s worthy of another shot.
1. Mississippi State is down to nine usable scholarship players after first-time head coach Rick Ray dismissed Shaun Smith and Kristers Zeidaks for repeated violations. The team's 10th scholarship player, Jacoby Davis, is out with a torn ACL. So what is Ray doing? "The biggest thing is to establish a culture of accountability," said Ray. "It's no reflection in the past." Ray said that to be PC, but Rick Stansbury's program did have its issues lately by enabling Renardo Sidney. "The programs I've been at in Clemson and Purdue we've held guys accountable and doing things the right way. Ultimately that's the way you win and build programs." Ray said his intent is to make sure he’s putting together a program for the short term and the long term. "It's a misconception that I'm laying down the foundation for the future," said Ray. "It's not just the future. It's for now." Ray said the Bulldogs won’t be deep but in college basketball most teams play nine players anyway. “We still have eight or nine guys who can play. It’s not doom and gloom."

2. The Big East released its conference schedule Wednesday. The opener on New Year’s Eve day has two teams flying a bit under the radar in Cincinnati at Pitt. South Florida can show that it’s a serious player to start the Big East by hosting Syracuse Jan. 6. The final day of the Big East season is March 9 with two marquee games in Notre Dame at Louisville on CBS and Syracuse at Georgetown on ESPN. But don’t be surprised if the Big East Network game of South Florida at Cincinnati has a role in the top seeds for the Big East tournament.

3. New Arizona State assistant coach Eric Musselman said what he needs to do more than anything is help Herb Sendek with some NBA ideas and "eventually, hopefully with recruiting." Musselman made it sound like he was in for the long haul with Sendek. Sendek did lean on his relationship with the Van Gundys (Jeff and Stan) and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau before deciding on hiring Musselman and former Portland assistant Larry Greer. He also spoke with former Blazers coach Nate McMillan.

3-point shot: ASU to add Musselman?

August, 30, 2012
1. Arizona State coach Herb Sendek could be on the verge of a coaching coup. He lost two assistants this month when Scott Pera left for Penn and Lamont Smith departed for rival Washington. Multiple sources said that Sendek has had serious conversations with L.A. D-Fenders head coach Eric Musselman. The Sun Devils, who finished 6-12 in the Pac-12 and 10-21 overall, get high-profile Jahii Carson back after he sat out last season. Musselman was a head coach with Golden State and Sacramento and an assistant with Minnesota, Orlando and Atlanta and also the head coach of the Venezuelan National Team. The Sun Devils need all the help they can get to climb in the Pac-12 and adding a teacher like Musselman will only help speed up the process.

2. Loyola (Md.) coach Jimmy Patsos said he credits MAAC commissioner Richard Ensor for making sure there was no movement to overturn the bylaws regarding the departure of Loyola to the Patriot League and the rules that allow the Greyhounds to still compete for championships this season. “He loves the league and wants to do what’s right,’’ said Patsos, who added he’d like to keep a home-and-home series with Manhattan when Loyola leaves for the Patriot in 2013. The addition of Loyola was warmly received by other coaches like Lehigh’s Brett Reed and American’s Jeff Jones, who added that Patsos will find the transition interesting. However, Navy coach Ed DeChellis said, “The NCAA bid continues to get harder to achieve." DeChellis advocated for moving the conference tournament to a neutral site instead of the home of the highest remaining seed.

3. A source said Wednesday that La Salle would have no interest in going back to the MAAC from the A-10, despite having much more success in the former league. The MAAC should focus on getting Quinnipiac or Monmouth as a replacement for Loyola. Both schools have poured money into athletic department facilities. Either one would be a good fit for the MAAC. The other option could be Albany, but I’m not sure Siena would be on board considering the two schools share the same city. Stony Brook would be a great get but the Seawolves seem poised to make a bigger jump at some point if they leave. The MAAC board of directors will meet Tuesday to discuss Loyola’s exit and likely realignment issues.