Midmajor basketball coaches find fewer reasons to leave

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 31, 2013 - 12:02 AM

The pull of major-conference schools isn’t as strong as it once was.

hide

Butler head coach Brad Stevens

Photo: James Crisp, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

North Florida men’s basketball coach Matt Driscoll worked as he spoke, directing pieces across the wooden surface, leading with conscious ideas of spacing and positioning as he prepared for the night’s event.

Company was coming over to his house, and the deck needed to be cleared.

“I just received my ‘honey-do’ list,” Driscoll said with a chortle Friday. “I don’t think there are a lot of high-major coaches out there that are out there cleaning out gutters and clearing off their decks right now.”

OK, that might be true. But the reality is, in a shifting college basketball landscape, the advantages of high-majors over smaller, non-BCS schools are, as a whole, shrinking.

In recent years, schools and coaches in smaller conferences — led by those like Gonzaga’s Mark Few and Butler’s Brad Stevens — are feeling the difference. Salaries have gone up. Publicity has expanded. Recruiting is easier. Winning? Hey, you can do that, too, without having to leave the small program you helped build.

As a result, midmajor coaches have become more comfortable, more successful and suddenly less attainable for programs like Minnesota. The Gophers reportedly had interest in at least two such coaches — Stevens and Virginia Commonwealth’s Shaka Smart — in their search to replace the fired Tubby Smith. UCLA also reportedly wanted both of them but announced Saturday it has hired New Mexico’s Steve Alford, who also previously coached at Iowa.

This past week, Smart signed a contract extension through 2023 with VCU, while Stevens is reportedly happy at Butler.

“There’s no question things have changed significantly,” said Dan Muller, a longtime Vanderbilt assistant who just finished the first year of his first head job at Illinois State. “A lot of times, that shinier job isn’t always the better job.”

Shifting culture

For decades, the midmajor job was looked at as a steppingstone — something to hold one’s breath through and jump at the first chance to escalate to a power conference. Then, the task was easy: An athletic director at a high-major school would write a figure on a piece of paper and simply blow the candidate away with both money and prestige. That model helped the Gophers pry Dan Monson away from Gonzaga in 1999.

Now, the Gophers are hastily being reminded that’s no longer the case.

Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague coveted Smart, the hot young coach he originally hired at VCU. But Smart — as he has done with multiple overtures from multiple schools in recent years — made it clear that he is quite fine where he is, agreeing to an extension with the Rams. Smart said in a news release he is “very excited about the challenges that lie ahead and the student-athletes that we have the pleasure of working with on a daily basis.”

A day later, rumors about the Gophers chasing Stevens surfaced, only to be replaced quickly by reports that Minnesota is now turning its attention to veteran coach Flip Saunders.

Two attempts, two apparent strikeouts, even from an AD with relationships with the candidates and Big Ten bragging rights. But these aren’t your father’s midmajor schools.

“Guys like Shaka and Brad — and you can go across the board of people who have chosen to stay where they are — it would have been a lot harder to keep them a few years ago,” VCU athletic director Ed McLaughlin said. “In the past, the thought was, ‘I’m going to be here for a few years and then I’ll win and I’ll get to the next level and that’s really where I want to be.’ Well, I think a lot of coaches are seeing now that you don’t have to do that anymore.”

George Mason started the party in 2006, when the Patriots made it to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed. Butler exploded to the title game in both 2010 and 2011, the latter being same year VCU made the Final Four. Gonzaga has authored new heights altogether this season, earning a No. 1 ranking in the AP poll and a No. 1 tournament seed.

This year, Florida Gulf Coast became the first No. 15 seed to make the Sweet 16. And then ninth-seeded Wichita State of the Missouri Valley Conference became the latest midmajor to make a Final Four by beating Big Ten behemoth Ohio State on Saturday.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Chicago 17 FINAL
Detroit 34
Philadelphia 33 FINAL
Dallas 10
Seattle 19 FINAL
San Francisco 3
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Edmonton 0 FINAL(OT)
Nashville 1
ULM 54 FINAL
Robert Morris 71
Santa Clara 57 FINAL
Tennessee 64
Oklahoma 59 FINAL
Butler 46
Austin Peay 79 FINAL
Brown 58
Princeton 56 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 62
Coastal Carolina 67 FINAL
Chattanooga 78
Kansas 76 FINAL
Rhode Island 60
Wisconsin 68 FINAL
Georgetown 65
FIU 53 FINAL
USC Upstate 68
Long Island 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 73
San Diego 71 FINAL
Xavier 82
Illinois 88 FINAL
Indiana State 62
Cal State Fullerton 67 FINAL
Wright State 62
Western Ky 62 FINAL
Saint Josephs 59
Michigan State 77 FINAL
Rider 45
UCLA 56 FINAL
North Carolina 78
Long Beach State 73 FINAL
Western Mich 55
Marquette 72 FINAL
Georgia Tech 70
Stephen F Austin 73 FINAL
Prairie View 61
UAB 47 FINAL
Florida 56
Rice 71 FINAL
Mercer 77
San Jose St 56 FINAL
Washington 78
Washington St 43 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 71
Baylor 71 FINAL
Memphis 47
LSU 23 FINAL
Texas A&M 17
(6) TCU 48 FINAL
Texas 10
Northern Ill 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
UCF 12/4/14 6:30 PM
East Carolina
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Hartford 43 FINAL
Furman 53
Clemson 77 FINAL
Ohio State 86
Idaho State 53 FINAL
San Diego State 68
East Carolina 58 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 69
Santa Clara 0 Cancelled
Texas-El Paso 0
Florida State 68 FINAL
Washington 80
Wichita State 39 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 56
Wisconsin 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 67
Kansas State 0 Cancelled
LSU 0
BYU 73 FINAL
BYU-Hawaii 52
Charlotte 58 FINAL
Montana 67
Illinois 77 FINAL
(9) Kentucky 71
Central Michigan 61 FINAL
Richmond 56
Oklahoma 68 FINAL
South Florida 83
Princeton 72 FINAL
Wake Forest 55
(19) Oregon State 85 FINAL
Butler 53
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pm

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Will the Gophers bring home The Axe?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close