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May 4, 2009
Monday tip: Hewitt, Kent will be on hot seat
Now that the college basketball coaching carousel has stopped spinning, it's time to look ahead to next season – and the coaches who will be occupying the hottest seats.
For our weekly Monday Tip feature, we asked Jason King and Mike Huguenin to choose the coach from a "Big Six" conference team who will be on the hottest seat entering next season.
Georgia Tech officials have been patient with coach Paul Hewitt, who has had one winning ACC record in his nine seasons at the school. That one winning record came in 2004, when Tech was 9-7 in the league but still made it all the way to the NCAA final.
The Jackets were 2-14 in the league this past season, finishing last, and two of the top three scorers from the team were seniors. The No. 2 scorer was sophomore forward Gani Lawal, who has declared for the NBA draft but hasn't hired an agent. If Lawal returns for his junior season, expectations actually will be high. Center Derrick Favors, one of the top five recruits in the nation, is expected to start immediately and lead the Jackets in scoring. Point guard Iman Shumpert is solid, and if Lawal returns, Tech will have a "Big Three" that should make the Jackets quite competitive in the ACC. There also are three four-star freshmen heading to campus, including shooting guard Glen Rice, whose dad played 15 seasons in the NBA.
All that talent likely would be enough to get the Jackets into the NCAA tournament for the fifth time under Hewitt. If Lawal returns and Tech again fails to make the NCAA field, Hewitt will be looking for a new job.
Oregon alum Ernie Kent has had moderate success (two Elite Eights) during his 12 years as the Ducks' coach. So it was understandable when athletic director Pat Kilkenny decided not to fire Kent following a 2008-09 season that saw Oregon finish last in the Pac-10 with a record of 8-23 and 2-16 in the conference. Still, all loyalties aside, a repeat performance next season would almost certainly spell doom for Kent, the dean of the league's coaches.
A successful recruiter in the past, Kent hasn't been able to lure a top-30 player to Oregon since Malik Hairston in 2004. The excitement and buzz that once hovered over the program has simmered, which is never a good thing when you're planning to open a new arena. It also wasn't encouraging that Oregon's dreadful performance in 2008-09 came during a particularly weak season for the Pac-10, and rival Oregon State's ascension under new coach Craig Robinson certainly puts more pressure on Kent to succeed.
Kent has already made one smart move this offseason by hiring Mike Dunlap as an assistant. Dunlap won two national titles at Division II Metro State before joining George Karl's staff with the NBA's Denver Nuggets. A master game tactician, he spent last season as an assistant to Arizona interim coach Russ Pennell and was considered the mastermind behind the Wildcats' unlikely run to the Sweet 16. When it comes to X's and O's, don't be surprised if Dunlap ends up calling at lot of the shots at Oregon this season. Who knows? He may even become a candidate to replace Kent 11 months from now.
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.