It’s about that time of year where teams are either looking one way or the other. Either you’re vying for a spot in some sort of post-season or you’re trying to play the spoiler role because the hole you have dug yourself is far too deep. Even some teams that are going in what may seem to be the right direction are really underacheiving paper tigers who’s expectations out-weigh their coaching or talent. The first person that gets the blame in 99% of the instances is the coach. Rightfully so or not. These coaches aren’t getting much love on this Valentine’s Day. May just be a matter of time before they get dumped…
Tubby Smith – Minnesota
I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence, but in the last 24-hours I have read one column detailing why the Tubby Era at Minnesota is a disappointment and another rumoring Tubby to replace Paul Hewitt at Georgia Tech should he be fired after the season. From an outsiders perspective, you would think Tubby was doing very well by Golden Gopher standards (17-8 6-7). However, Smith has been openly critical of players and school facilities to the media which has caused some to grow sour on the national champion coach. As we saw at Kentucky, when the pressure and criticism grows to much for Smith to take, he’s not afraid to bolt elsewhere.
Paul Hewitt – Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech has lost 5 straight highlighted by a Hewitt ejection in a 25-point loss to Virginia Tech. The honeymoon is almost over for the coach that took the Jackets further than any coach could, the title game in ’04. As Mark Bradley points out in the AJC, since then Hewitt’s teams are 70-101 in the ACC and only 7 games over .500 overall. His firing wouldn’t be any more than a formality were it not for his $7.1 million buy-out. That’s a hefty price to pay to get rid of a guy that still brings talent to Atlanta, but doesn’t really get the most out of it. Georgia Tech is ranked 304 of 345 teams in the land in FG%.
Sidney Lowe – NC State
Lowe was rumored to be fired already this season and the reports turned out to be false. or it just could be a case of the athletic department at NC State wanting to save the embarrassment of firing an alumni during the middle of a season. Lowe has underachieved during his 5 seasons at State, not once reaching the NCAA tourney. This season, he suspended star freshman CJ Leslie for a big game against Duke for the dreaded “violation of team policy”. You can just tell when a coach has what it takes to coach big time college hoops and I just don’t see it in Lowe. Expect a change. However, Wolfpack fans need to realize it’s going to take years for them to catch up to in-state rivals Duke and North Carolina…if ever.
Mick Cronin – Cincinnati
Cronin’s bunch came out of the gates 15-0 to start the season playing a non-conference schedule where the highest ranked team they played had an RPI of 71 (Dayton). Cronin looked to be off the hot-seat. In the last 10 games the Bearcats are 4-6 and on the outside looking in on a bid. Cincy fans were spoiled by Bob Huggins and expected something similar with Cronin. Although this will more than likely his first 20-win campaign at Cincy, if Cronin fails to make the NCAA yet again in his 5th season his time may be up.The recent suspension of big-man Yancey Gates, who has been out two straight, doesn’t help the former Pitino’s assistant’s cause either. Cronin has done enough to keep his job, but I’ve seen coaches let go with better resumes.
John Pelphrey – Arkansas
Pelphrey made the NCAAs in his first season with the Razorbacks 3 years ago and hasn’t come close to making it again since. He has the #4 PG in the country coming in next season in BJ Young along with the best class Arkansas has seen in a while, but is that enough to save his job? His team ranks 140th or lower in points, boards, assists and FG%. I’d say he is safest on the list, yet as recent as today he has had to defend himself to disparaging fans and media over calling this year’s squad “overachievers” when many think quite the opposite. Pelphrey may make it to next season alive, but with his head barely above water and absolutely no breathing room with the class he has coming to Fayetteville next season.
Jeff Capel – Oklahoma
Now this is a case where the coach should be given more time, but matters outside of the basketball court could prevent that. Capel’s Sooners lost 9-straight to end last season amid the beginning of what could be ugly NCAA investigations. This season OU continued their losing ways to the tune of 12-12 and scraping the bottom of the Big 12. Capel had a good run with Blake Griffin on his squad, but it has been a mess in Norman ever since. If the NCAA water gets too hot for Capel, he could go from one of the promising young coaches in the country to the unemployment line in the blink of an eye.