Coaching changes are prevalent in any major college sports nowadays; the coaching carousel has become a significant event year in and year out. When larger programs have head coaching vacancies to fill, they will look to coaches of mid-major schools who have experienced a great deal of success at a smaller school in an inferior conference.
This poaching of coaching talents has gone on for quite some time in the modern era of college basketball. For example, Thad Matta became the coach at Ohio State after leading Xavier to three consecutive 26 win seasons and an elite eight appearance in 2004.
After Matta came Sean Miller, who took the Musketeers to the tournament four total times, won the Atlantic-10 regular season title three times and led them to the elite eight in 2008. After Lute Olson retired from coaching in 2008, Arizona snatched up Miller as their own after Russ Pennell ran the team as interim coach for a season.
The Xavier coaching change saga has a strong possibility of holding up, as current head coach Chris Mack’s name has been heavily thrown around for coaching vacancies; one in particular being Wake Forest.
Even the NBA has snatched up an elite mid-major coach in recent years. Last summer, the Boston Celtics made a splash when they hired former Butler head coach Brad Stevens.
The most recent young, hot shot mid-major coach that has been rumored to be the primary candidate for a myriad of “BCS conference” schools with head coaching vacancies is Shaka Smart, the head coach of VCU.
Yesterday, it was reported that Smart leaving to become the head coach at Marquette was “a done deal.” The next morning, those reports were discredited when VCU athletic director announced “Smart is our men’s basketball coach” and when Smart allegedly told his coaches and recruits that he is not going anywhere. If you need any entertainment, typing “Shaka Smart” on your search bar on twitter is instant humor.
Although Smart is, as of now, staying in Virginia, this media melodrama begs the question: will any of the WCC’s high level coaching bolt for greener pastures?
Rumors that coaches – Mark Few and Randy Bennett in particular – in the WCC are candidates to land various jobs in the Pac-12 and other major conferences has become a mainstay of the offseason since the conferences growth in the 21st century.
For instance, Few was rumored to be a serious candidate for Oregon and UCLA while Randy Bennett’s name came up in Utah’s coaching search a couple years back. These are two names that will frequently come up for coaching vacancies, especially with high profile schools on the west coast.
However, as of now, it would be a long shot to poach these two away from Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s respectively.
Few, as he is portrayed in the media, appears to be a creature of habit. He has shown no indications of leaving Gonzaga, and has said that he intends to stay and raise his family in Spokane. His youngest child is about four years old, so it appears based on that reasoning that Few will be at Gonzaga for a very long time.
Few also loves to enjoy the outdoors, something that is entirely possible while living in the Inland Northwest. Spokane appears to be Few’s niche in this world, and it doesn’t look like he will leave anytime soon.
After all, he did turn down his alma mater Oregon, a school with a plethora of resources that would be at his disposal, especially in terms of recruiting.
Randy Bennett on the other hand, could be lured away a little easier than Few based on the information available. His success at Saint Mary’s has garnered some interest from high level programs, but not as much as Few. The jury is still out on whether Bennett will be a lifer in Moraga or he will use the school as a stepping stone to land a bigger coaching job.
However, as of now, it appears Bennett will not be leaving Moraga anytime soon. Saint Mary’s is constructing new facilities and is still budding as a program. There is still a lot that the school has the offer from a coaching standpoint, and Bennett appears to want to be in charge during these progressive years.
Even though signs indicate that Few and Bennett will be battling it out in the WCC for years to come, there is always the possibility that they could be snatched up by bigger programs. After all, not a lot of people believed Brad Stevens could be lured away from Butler. However, just like Shaka Smart, I predict Mark Few and Randy Bennett will remain in the WCC for many years to come.