2019-20 Preseason Hot Seat Report

Welcome to the first Hot Seat Report of the 2019-20 season! If you are new to Coaches Database, the Hot Seat Report is an updating list of college basketball head coaches with low job security. Each week, coaches are added/removed/shuffled around based on their performance.

Throughout the season, the doomed coaches will be organized and re-organized into four categories that correspond with the actual *hotness* of their seat.

For a recap of the coaching changes from last season, check out our 2019 Coaching Carousel. Once the first head coach gets the axe in 2019-20, they find themselves on this year’s version.

Note: Coaches in each category below are sorted alphabetically.

YOUR CHAIR IS ON FIRE, SIR

Coaches at the end of the line at their current school.

  • Pat Chambers (Penn State)
    • Outside of the 2018 NIT championship squad, the Nittany Lions have been a complete non-factor in the Big Ten since Chambers took over in 2011. Two winning seasons and two postseason appearances (1 NIT and 1 CBI) are all Chambers has to show for his tenure, which surprisingly did not end after last season’s regression. Apparently a few upsets over ranked teams and a 7-3 finish to Big Ten play were enough to offset finishing 10th or worse in conference for the seventh time in eight years. Expectations are not super high, as the basketball program always has and always will struggle for relevance in Happy Valley, but the trouble with Chambers extends beyond what is on the court. His often-fiery temper boiled over during a road game in Ann Arbor when ESPN cameras caught the coach shoving one of his players in a huddle (leading to a one-game suspension). Chambers’ contract is not public so we don’t know the buyout situation, but the school did extend him through 2021-22 in 2018.
  • Jim Christian (Boston College)
    • Christian’s Eagles sported an ugly 29-67 (6-48 ACC) record through his first three years. After seemingly turning things around in 2018, winning 19 games and going to the NIT, things regressed last season and BC finished three games below .500. At this point, the only thing that should save Christian’s job is a spot in the NCAA Tournament (BC hasn’t danced since 2009). This won’t be the easiest task, as the team is young and last season’s brightest star – Ky Bowman – decided to go pro a year early. The BC job would be pretty enticing for up-and-coming coaches this coming offseason if AD Martin Jarmond decides to make a change.
  • Dave Leitao (DePaul)
    • Leitao led the Blue Demons to their most recent NCAA bid (2004), then bounced for the Virginia gig a year later. The school brought him back in 2015 but things have not been the same on the court in the second go-around. After averaging under 10 wins in his first three seasons, Leitao’s squad did turn some version of a corner last year by finishing as the CBI Runner-up with a 19-17 overall record. But – despite what the eye-test may say – DePaul is a high major program and fans rightfully want more from their team. The program is also on NCAA probation, with Leitao earning a three-game suspension to start the year for failing to “promote an atmosphere of compliance.” Senior leader Max Strus is gone and Leitao might be leaving too if he can’t win some more games.
  • Jeff Neubauer (Fordham)
    • Fordham keeping Neubauer was one of the biggest surprises of the past offseason, as AD David Roach continues to hold out hope that his basketball coach will turn things around. Neubauer left Eastern Kentucky to take the Fordham job in 2015 after three straight postseason appearances (including the 2014 NCAAT), then won 17 games and went to the 2016 CBI in his first season. But in the three years since the Rams have gone right back to the A-10 basement. After back-to-back last-place finishes and two assistant coach defections, Neubauer added two former head coaches (Anthony Evans and Dennis Felton) to his staff to help right the ship in year five. It is worth noting that his predecessor, Tom Pecora, finished in last place four straight years and then third to last in his fifth before he was fired.

 

THIS SEAT IS RATHER WARM

These coaches need to start winning right now, but that may not even be enough…

  • Frank Haith (Tulsa)
    • Haith bolted Missouri for Tulsa back in 2014 amid oncoming NCAA violations and had initial success. But after the two initial solid seasons – one NIT and one NCAA – the Golden Hurricane have been mediocre at best. One “hallmark” of Haith’s tenure has been his inability to win the big games: he has averaged 19 wins a year but is just 3-15 against AP Top 25 opponents. Haith is 2-5 in AAC Tournament games and 1-2 in the postseason with Tulsa despite having consistently low strength of schedule (by high-major standards). This is the final year of Haith’s deal, so it would take quite a turnaround to justify giving his a new contract.
  • Steve Masiello (Manhattan)
    • Masiello has had an eventful tenure at Manhattan; he sheparded back-to-back NCAA Tournament teams, accepting the South Florida job in 2014 only to have the offer pulled when the school discovered that Masiello had lied about graduating from Kentucky. Manhattan took the coach back on the provision that he complete his degree (he did), then gave him a four-year contract extension in 2016, but the Jaspers have not been the same since. What kind of momentum does Masiello take into the final year of his contract? Four straight losing seasons in which the Jaspers were complete non-factors in the MAAC.
  • Chris Mooney (Richmond)
    • There was a ten-year stretch were Mooney’s Spiders were reliable winners and earnest competitors in the A-10 race. But things have changed in Richmond with back-to-back 20-loss seasons and there is some revisionist history happening with those early years. Mooney’s five 20+ win seasons were highlighted by a A-10 Tournament crown and Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2011, but outside of that did they really accomplish anything? The A-10 consistently sends multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament, but Richmond hasn’t been there in eight years. Getting back to the Dance would certainly save Mooney’s job, but is that in the cards this season?
  • Josh Pastner (Georgia Tech)
    • This one seems almost inevitable at this point, as Pastner’s tenure at Tech has been a mess both on and off the court. The Yellow Jackets have finished below .500 in each of the last two seasons and Pastner is dealing with sanctions from NCAA violations committed by one of his former assistants. Rebuilding the program will be even harder thanks to scholarship reductions, a postseason ban and recruiting limitations handed down by the NCAA. While Pastner was not directly charged with anything, it seems like Georgia Tech could make a change with cause and avoid having to pay some or all of the hefty buyout. We see schools turn a blind eye to these things all of the time, but AD Todd Stansbury didn’t hire Pastner and the lack of on-court success doesn’t bode well either.

WE’VE GOT OUR EYE ON YOU, COACH

Here are those guys that are having a rough year (or two… or three…) but aren’t in total danger. Yet. 

  • Greg Lansing (Indiana State)
    • Lansing’s tenure in Terre Haute has been on a downward trajectory for several years and the coach has been a regular on this list. In March 2017, Indiana State cancelled the “rollover term” in Lansing’s contract – eliminating what had been an automatic annual one-year extension – but have not cut ties with him just yet. Win totals have improved slightly in each of the last two seasons, but this is a program that won 23 games back in 2014 with Lansing at the helm. Wichita State’s departure left a hole at the top of the MVC last year, but a young Sycamores squad failed to capitalize. However, almost all of their scorers are back this year and Lansing’s contract is financially guaranteed through 2021, so even a modest year over year improvement might be enough to keep AD Sherard Clinkscales from making a change.
  • Fran McCaffery (Iowa)
    • By a lot of measures, Fran McCaffery has been a success at Iowa. He’s taken the Hawkeyes to four NCAA Tournaments and three NITs in nine years, with only two losing seasons (one being his first) along the way. But at what point does the frustration from not being able to turn the corner boil over with fans and alums? Outside of a runner-up finish in the 2013 NIT, McCaffery has not won more than once in any of his postseason appearances. The Hawkeyes win with consistency during the regular season but often fail to capitalize when it matters most. This decision will come down to expectations – are 20-win seasons still a success in Iowa City, or have the goal posts been moved back?
  • Shaka Smart (Texas)
    • Smart was the most coveted head coaching prospect for years as he took VCU to five straight NCAA Tournaments (starting with the famous 2011 Final Four run). When he finally made the leap in 2015, the consensus was that Texas had a grand slam hire. But four years in, Shaka is just five games above .500 with two first round NCAA Tournament exits and a NIT title to show for. He is recruiting at a high-level, replacing NBA draftee Jaxson Hayes with a pair of four-star centers, but he is going to need to develop some consistency on the court to keep his job. His predecessor, Rick Barnes, went to 16 NCAA Tournaments in 17 seasons, but got fired after failing to get past the first weekend eight straight years. Barnes went to the Final Four in his fifth season, but Shaka’s $13 million buyout should set the bar a little bit lower than that…
  • Mark Turgeon (Maryland)
    • The Terps have been good under Turgeon – but not great – and that is precisely the reason why he continues to land on our list. Consistent 20-win seasons and NCAA berths will fly at a lot of schools, but Maryland is a place where players, fans and alums want more. Much more. Last year’s Terps limped back into the NCAA Tournament after getting bounced by 13-seed Nebraska in the Big Ten Tournament, then failed yet again to get out of the first weekend. They have just one Sweet 16 appearance in eight seasons under Turgeon and the fans are underwhelmed (to put it nicely) by his tenure as a whole.
  • Billy Wright (Western Illinois)
    • It’s no secret the Western Illinois job is one of the toughest D-I jobs in the country. The program has never been to the D-I NCAA Tournament, hasn’t won a conference title since 1983 and is consistently overshadowed by nearby programs (high- and mid-major, alike). The Leathernecks finished 10-21 (4-12) last year, the fifth losing season in five years under Wright.  There is no shortage of motivated high-major assistants with Midwest connections, but as always, the question is how desirable will the WIU job be if it opens up. Things can certainly improve, as most of last year’s core – led by junior guard Kobe Webster – is back this season. But if they don’t, it might be time to give some other coach else a try.
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