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October 14, 2006

SEC coaches highlight list of those on hot seat

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Coaching isn't easy. Just take a look at the Big 12, where six coaching vacancies were filled this year because of resignation, retirement and relocation.

More turnover is sure to follow this year and could come from names off this list if progress is not made in 2006-07.

Despite previous accomplishments for Tubby Smith, Kevin Stallings and Dave Odom, the pressure is on the three SEC coaches to close the gap between their programs and the two schools in their conference to reach the Final Four.

In the Big Ten, Michigan's Tommy Amaker and Minnesota's Dan Monson have made strides, but both need to show improvement this season.

Nowhere is coaching more difficult than at Oregon and Colorado, where athletic directors are anxious to see more results before offering more support in the form of contracts.

Here's the breakdown of those coaches and more who are on the hot seat in 2006-07:

Coaches on the Hot Seat
1. Ricardo Patton, Colorado
The Big 12 will bring in six new coaches this year and could welcome one more in 2007 if Patton's contract is not extended. On top of missing the NCAA Tournament last year, the university investigated and later cleared Patton on a racial harassment allegation. Lucky for Patton, he and star guard Richard Roby could beat up on the six teams with new coaches this season and improve on last year's 20 wins.
2. Ernie Kent, Oregon
After taking the Ducks to the Tournament in 2003, Kent has overseen a program that has gotten progressively worse, from 18-13 in 2003-04 to 14-13 in 2004-05 to 15-18 last year despite bringing in top recruits like Malik Hairston and Aaron Brooks. Oregon Athletic Director Bill Moos said he hopes to see enough in Kent this season to justify extending his contract beyond 2010.
3. Tubby Smith, Kentucky
There's not a coach on this list who has accomplished more. Yet, no coach is more maligned than Smith. That's life at Kentucky. The Wildcats were 22-13 last year, finished behind Tennessee and Florida in the East and had a worse conference record than five SEC teams. Smith could take a page out of the Billy Donovan playbook and remake his team despite the departures of Rajon Rondo and Patrick Sparks.
4. Dan Monson, Minnesota
Although he brought the Gophers back from the academic fraud scandal under Clem Haskins that led to NCAA sanctions and took Minnesota to the NCAA Tournament in 2005, Monson's job status is uneasy. A year after the Tournament run, the Gophers slipped to 16-15 and second to last in the Big Ten. He'll need to turnaround a team that lost all five starters to continue his tenure in Minneapolis.
5. Mike Brey, Notre Dame
Brey's tenure started off well enough with three consecutive NCAA appearances, but the Irish have cooled off to three consecutive trips to the NIT. Last year, Notre Dame became the poster child for hard-luck losers by dropping eight games by three points or less. The last-second losses hid Notre Dame's porous defense, which was second-to-last in the Big East, allowing 70.7 point per game. Losing leading scorer Chris Quinn and leading rebounder Torin Francis won't do Brey any favors.
6. Tommy Amaker, Michigan
Michigan's last NCAA Tournament appearance, in 1998, predates Amaker by four years. Injuries derailed the Wolverines' Tournament bid at the end of last season, but the Wolverines were encouraged by a run to the NIT championship game against South Carolina. Even so, the clock is ticking for Amaker to bring Michigan back to the Tournament after eight tumultuous years. If not, he could have the same fate of another former Mike Krzyzewski assistant, Quin Synder.
7. Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt
Stallings led the Commodores to consecutive 20-win seasons but only one NCAA Tournament appearance in seven seasons. That appearance yielded a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2003-04 following an 11-18 season in 2002-03. To repeat that turnaround, Stallings will have to overcome a depleted frontcourt while facing Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky in the SEC East.
8. Tim Welsh, Providence
In eight seasons, Welsh has taken the Friars to the postseason only four times twice to the NCAA Tournament and twice to the NIT and has not had a winning season since going 20-9 in 2003-04. The main culprit last year was allowing a conference-worst 74.7 points per game. Welsh can be optimistic for improvement in a depleted Big East with added experience for three sophomores who started last year as freshmen.
9. Dave Odom, South Carolina
Odom has brought back-to-back championships to Columbia. The problem is they were of the NIT variety. That just about sums up the frustration around the Gamecocks. They were able to beat national champion Florida but lost twice to Georgia. The early departure of Renaldo Balkman along with leading scorer Tarence Kinsey will make a trip to the NCAA Tournament a daunting task.
10. Robert McCullum, South Florida
The Bulls are woefully out of place in the Big East mega-conference. Only a win at home over Georgetown in the season finale saved the Bulls from a winless conference season. The Bulls lost two starters including Solomon Jones, who was taken in the second round of the NBA Draft, but they brought in three Division I-A transfers. It can't get any worse than last year.

The Rivals Five: Coaches whose stock has gone up in the last year
1. Billy Donovan, Florida
Donovan cemented his status as an elite coach with a national title. He could improve his resume by repeating.
2. Thad Matta, Ohio State
The program is moving to the top of the Big Ten fueled by the arrival of the Thad Five, led by center Greg Oden.
3. John Brady, LSU
On the hot seat a year ago, Brady responded by taking the Tigers to the Final Four, and he still has Glen "Big Baby" Davis around this season.
4. Billy Gillispie, Texas A&M
Gillispie has taken a team that was 0-16 in Big 12 play to the top of the conference. The Aggies should contend for the Big 12 title.
5. Ben Howland, UCLA
No job in the country is tougher than at UCLA, but Howland has succeeded by taking the Bruins to the title game last year while returning Arron Afflalo and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.



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