Marquette – Shaka SmartGrade: C
Five missed tournaments in seven seasons was enough to pull the plug on Steve Wojciechowski. The former Duke player longtime Coach K assistant failed to win 20 games four times at Marquette and never won a tourney game.
Shaka Smart didn’t win a tourney game in five seasons at Texas and hasn’t reached the Second Round since 2013 at VCU. He was a miserable in-game coach and was never able to build a decent offense in Austin. Smart will recruit well at Marquette but unless he revamps a stale system, this won’t be a prosperous marriage.
Minnesota – Ben JohnsonGrade: B
Richard Pitino lasted longer in Minnesota than most expected after Norwood Teague hired the 30-year-old FIU coach in 2013. Also hired in 2013 was Ben Johnson as an assistant coach. Eight years later, Johnson is replacing his former boss.
A Minneapolis native and former Gophers’ player, Johnson spent five years with Pitino before joining Travis Steele’s new staff at Xavier in 2018. Unlike Craig Smith, Brian Dutcher, and nearly every other prospective candidate for athletics director Mark Coyle, Johnson has zero head-coaching experience. He does, however, have strong local ties and will attempt to build the program with in-state talent that’s been leaving the state for decades.
Utah – Craig SmithGrade: A+
Larry Krystkowiak rebuilt the Utes into a stable program in annual contention for Pac-12 titles and NCAA Tournament bids but never got over the hump. He went 45-42 (26-29, Pac-12) over the last three years.
A disciple of Tim Miles, Craig Smith is a former lower-division coach who rebuilt South Dakota and went 74-23 in three seasons at Utah State. He’s done well identifying lower-ranked recruits and built one of the nation’s best defensive teams. Rumored to be a potential candidate Minnesota, the 48-year-old Minnesota native signed an extension at Utah State just four weeks ago.
Prediction: Smith will win a Pac-12 Championship and reach (at least) the Elite Eight within five years at Utah. This will prove to be one of the best hires in college basketball this decade.
I'm seeing it, he's going to be very successful with a higher caliber of recruit. Craig Smith criticism is classic overthink imo. We used to hear about a Tubby Smith hire football, Smith was our Fleck hire for basketball.
Correct. His kids are into middle and high school age too. Only reason he’d probably want to come back would have to be a Dutcher situation and be only family related. I honestly wonder if Niko would come back if we are looking in 4 years.In taking the Utah job, he might be committing to living in Utah and coaching in the PAC12 long term. He's in his late 40s. At some point you might want to settle down and take roots.
Beat me to itCorrect. His kids are into middle and high school age too. Only reason he’d probably want to come back would have to be a Dutcher situation and be only family related. I honestly wonder if Niko would come back if we are looking in 4 years.
Here’s to hoping Ben gets it done and it doesn’t matter.
Hasn’t Utah been to that level more recently than Minnesota?
Not that I disagree with any of those points, but the overall sentiment epitomizes the confusion and pretzel thinking that plagues decision making. It's not a labyrinth of confounding considerations. It's only confusing if you confuse easily or over-think or outsmart yourself. Hire the best coach you can find. It's really that simple.
I agree, but it has to be mutual and $$ talks. Some show interest just to get more money from current school.Not that I disagree with any of those points, but the overall sentiment epitomizes the confusion and pretzel thinking that plagues decision making. It's not a labyrinth of confounding considerations. It's only confusing if you confuse easily or over-think or outsmart yourself. Hire the best coach you can find. It's really that simple.
Four of our last seven men's basketball coaches have been Black. The Gophers have not been the problem in the world. Indeed, it looks like we're showing the world how it's done. Up until this hire, though, the Gophs HAVE hired the most qualified, available guy.Let’s just say it, there was no way the Gophers were not hiring a black coach. I fully understand it and I have no problem with it. White coaches get way more opportunities simply because they’re white, and don’t give me this just hire the best candidate stuff. You know how many times white coaches have been hired and have not been the best candidate? See Richard Pitino.
Also, how are black coaches supposed to be the best candidate with head coaching experience if extremely few are hiring them as head coaches at any level? You can’t tell me there aren’t qualified black coaches that are denied opportunities at smaller schools. Ben Johnson gets turned down at Montana St and Northern Illinois but gets hired at Minnesota? How many cases do we not here about? At even lower levels? Minnesota is giving a black man an opportunity who happens to be from Minnesota, played at Minnesota, graduated from Minnesota, and loves Minnesota.
I disagree with those who say it diminishes Ben and his accomplishments and he wouldn’t want that. He’s well aware of it and even spoke to it at his presser. He knows the reality of the whole process and understands it completely.
Recruited Tyler Peterson and Dan Jech from MN while at USD. Was a lead recruiter for Tim Miles at NDSU...
Utah basketball has a huge in state following, it may not be a recruiting hotbed but they get a lot of support, with the way the Pac-12 is performing in the tournament it may be the top conference in the country right now.Hasn’t Utah been to that level more recently than Minnesota?
they’ve also finished a season ranked 9 times since 1995. Gophers? Once. And it was vacated.