Everyone loves lists. They are always debatable, everyone has an opinion, and they are easy to relate to. So in effort to continue to add more content to the basketball coverage for RealDawg, I figure a bunch of lists would provide some information and entertainment for the readers. It just so happens that being in the Pac-10 it works out perfectly as normally everyone enjoys, well, the top ten of anything.
So here’s the first entry of something I will call “Ten of the Pac-10.” It may or may not make sense at first, but that is the only catchy title I can come up with so far.
I will base the rankings off of history and potential.
10. Whoever takes over at USC
Whoever has the bravery (stupidity may be the better word) to take over a program in such great trouble will have as much of a daunting task turning around a basketball program that no one has faced before.
It has to be someone who is an unbelievable recruiter to convince the talent rich L.A. market to jump aboard an already sunken ship.
Someone from the L.A. Times threw out a name such as Jamie Dixon, but that has about as high of a chance of happening as Lil Romeo ever being considered a legitimate college basketball player.
Expect someone like Memphis hired in Josh Pastner, a young and energetic coach who will recruit out of his mind.
Master P may be on the phone with USC right now trying to secure the position.
9. Johnny Dawkins, Stanford, 2nd Year
Johnny Dawkins may have the talent to be one of the top coaches in the Pac-10, but as the head coach of Stanford it may take awhile to accomplish that. His stay in the Pac-10 will always have an expiration date due to the fact he un-officially has the title as “Mike Krzyzewski’s Replacement” as it is widely considered that Dawkins will bolt for Duke whenever Coach K decides to call it quits in Durham.
Last season Dawkins was able to lead Stanford to a quick 10-0 start, however their schedule was made up of schools like Yale and Northern Arizona, which was a schedule that may have allowed even NJIT to look like a respectable team.
Dawkins didn’t have the talent at Stanford to succeed last season, and hi first recruiting class was assembled quickly with sub-par talent which should prevent Stanford from improving immediately. While coaching at Duke, Dawkins was considered an ace recruiter, so his upcoming recruiting class should be much improved compared to last year.
It may be awhile before things in Palo Alto get better.
8. Ernie Kent, Oregon, 12th Year
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Had this ranking been done a few years ago the Oregon program and their head coach would be near the top of the list. But after last season’s 8-23 disaster things are bleak in Eugene.
Kent had been considered an ace recruiter (an argument can be made that he still possesses those talents seeing as Oregon was in the John Wall race late, but that may be Nike appeal as much as anything) but his last few recruiting classes seem to display that forte of his coaching resume can no longer be lister as a “strength.” While Michael Dunigan was a tremendous get for the Oregon program, Malik Hariston in 2004 was the last truly sought after recruit he was able to secure before Dunigan. Kent also missed out on arguably the biggest recruiting year ever in Oregon history when Kevin Love and Kyle Singler both left the state for other schools in 2006.
The one thing keeping him from the bottom was his coaching history and ability to lead the Ducks to the Elite Eight in 2002 and 2007.
But his time as Oregon coach may be running out as Mike Bellotti will become the new A.D. and Phil Knight will want the new basketball arena to not open up to a “lame-duck” coach.
7. Ken Bone, Washington State, 1st Year
I have tremendous respect for Coach Bone because of his work at Washington while an assistant for Romar, his incredible work as the head coach of Portland State, and his tremendous effort to keep Tony Bennent recruits in the Cougar fold for his first year in Pullman. Bone was the one head coach I did not WSU to land because I believe he has a tremendous chance at becoming a top coach in the Pac-10.
Unlike his predecessor, Bone wants to stay in the Pac-10 and build his own program, and perhaps no other program offers him a better opportunity to do that other than WSU. While in the future a program like Stanford could be attractive to him, Bone should be the Cougar coach for awhile unless he fall on his face.
Bone is obviously this low because he has yet to put a year into the Pac-10. It will be difficult to judge him this coming season, but in year two it could be big things for him and the Cougar program as he will be able to bring in his first class and build off the players that Bennett left the program.
6. Sean Miller, Arizona, 1st year
Miller is ranked ahead of Bone because of a few reasons. First he is at the University of Arizona. Bone is at Washington State University. That is all you need to read to understand why Miller has a better chance at succeeding as a Pac-10 coach.
Second Miller has proven to be a tremendous recruiter while at Xavier. Anyone who can bring in players into the Xavier program and turn them into a winning program has great talent as a basketball coach. At Arizona it should be even easier for Miller to build the Wildcat program into what it once was instead of recruiting for an A-10 school.
The fact the Miller was able to bring in such a talented first class to Tucson in his first year should do wonders for the program in the long term as most coaches struggle to secure significant players when a program is facing a turnover similar to Arizona’s.
But since Miller has yet to coach as game in the Pac-10, he does not have the ability to be near the top of the list. But don’t get me wrong; I absolutely think that Arizona made the right call in selecting Miller. I had no idea what they were doing with Floyd during that whole fiasco, but the fact that Floyd turned down the job may have been the biggest blessing for the Arizona program since Lute Olson was able to bring a title back to Tucson.
5. Oregon State, Craig Robinson, 2nd Year
This is when the rankings get incredibly difficult as it could be argued that Robinson should be a spot higher on the list.
Robinson has two things going for him at Oregon State. The first is that he demonstrated his incredible coaching ability by making a hapless Beaver team into a surprisingly competitive school in just his first year. With his first full recruiting class signed, sealed, and delivered; he is beginning to insert his own players into his intricate offensive and defensive game plans.
The second advantage is something I just touched on, and that is he has perhaps the biggest recruiting advantage in the entire country. If you have not heard that Robinson is the brother-in-law of Barack Obama by now, just, I don’t go away. His relationship to the president is highly publicized (although it could be said that it would be more of a recruiting advantage by being Michelle’s brother seeing as how the country is madly in-love with the First Lady) and provided him with as much coverage, if not more, than a Coach K or Roy Williams.
I believe there is only one place for Robinson to go, and that is up on this list if he is able to continue to build. At one point he could be considered one of the elite, but right now its to early in his Pac-10 career to put him there.
4. Herb Sendek, Arizona State, 4th Year
Let me make it clear that in a year from now I expect Sendek to be lower on this list because ASU will likely have gone through a disappointing year in the first season of the post-Harden era. But right now he is my #4 coach because he is a tremendous basketball coach. While he may be lower next year, there will always be the chance that he climbs to the the top of the list.
Sendek is this high because he was able to turn around a terrible ASU team and make them into a championship contender in less than three seasons. Sendek also has a history of success in the ACC as the head coach of N.C. State, a job that Sidney Lowe is proving is a difficult one being in the ACC.
ASU’s remarkable turnaround recieved far less national attention than it deserved, the only problem for Sendek are that the pieces that he used to turn around the program are gone. But Sendek will be able to find more “four year players” to ensure long term success for the program quickly. Tempe is just too attractive of a place for Sendek not to find the players he is looking for, and judging his history as coach, he will do great things with the players he recruits.
As long as Sendek is there, ASU will always be in the hunt and I believe will be a consistent tournament team come March. There may be a hiccup next year because of the loss of Harden and Jeff Pendegraph, but otherwise the Sun Devils are in a great position.
3. Lorenzo Romar, Washington, 8th Year
I can’t believe he is in his eight season.
Let me make it clear, these next three are the true coaching giants of the Pac-10. Let me make it even more clear that I regard Lorenzo Romar as Jason Bourne mixed with Superman, Michael Jordan, and Barack Obama. This guy is just tremendous. But in order to maintain the true un-biased opinion that I am using for this list, I’ve got to stick with my ranking criteria.
Romar is not #1 on my list because he has yet to have the tournament success compared to the other two (yet), the consecutive conference success (yet), or the incredible coaching history compared to the other two (yet). But if the last sentence did not prove it enough, I believe he will and has the strong potential to match the other two and perhaps one day surpass them.
Romar is the best recruiter in the conference, and he is able to maintain a relationship with his players unlike any coach I have ever seen before. This immediately made the Washington program attractive despite the frustrating history it had experienced B.R. (Before Romar, I’m hoping it catches on with official historical timelines.)
But last season Romar also demonstrated his great coaching talent when he was able to answer questionable calls about his long term prospects with the program after two disappointing seasons by making the Huskies a force in all facets of the game (even free-throw shooting showed a drastic improvement!). This tremendous season by Romar led the Huskies to a conference championship and he was correctly honored as the top coach of the program at the end of the year.
Romar will continue to build, and as I have said during the two seasons that some fans wee questioning him, one day the Huskies will be playing on “Lorenzo Romar Court at Hec Edmundson Pavillion.”
2. Ben Howland, UCLA,
Howland is #2 on the list because of his absolutely incredible history as a head coach. The only reason why he is not #1 is because of his relationship with players has been said to be the reason why UCLA has yet to make it over the hump in the tournament (having a hump being three consecutive Final Four appearances is quite the privilege by the way).
Howland is perhaps the best X’s and O’s coach in the conference, and the way he is able to teach defense is absolutely astonishing how his Bruin teams are able to convert it into the success they have had.
Howland has also proven to be a great recruiter, but it may be the program and the school’s history more than anything as opposed to his personality (That is a compliment. Just shows how his great talent as a coach to have such a successful program to bring in the recruits he has to offset his only flaw).
There is not much to say about Howland despite the fact that he is tremendous. He’s a simple guy who can be defined in a simple way. Ben Howland is a great basketball coach.
#1. Mike Montgomery, California, 2nd Year
To anyone who does not follow Pac-10 hoops, it may be strange seeing that a guy in his second season is #1 on the list. But Montgomery is a story of his own compared to the other sophomore coaches in the Pac-10.
Montgomery was able to establish himself as one of the top coaches in the country while at Stanford, one of the most difficult places to build any type of athletic success. In his seventeen years at Stanford he only led the program to a post-season tournament fifteen times (only three of which were NIT appearances, including a stretch of ten straight appearances which ended at the conclusion of his stay at Stanford).
For some reason he became disillusioned and left the Stanford program he was able to build into such a great power for the ego filled, money priority #1, “let’s not try till the 4th quarter” atmosphere of the NBA. Montgomery is not a professional coach, he is a college coach to the definition.
He proved this in taking over the Cal program and immediately turning them into a legitimate winner, despite the fact that this school he was coaching basketball at was CALIFORNIA. Somehow this team was able to contend for the title when they were nowhere close the season before, and now have the talent to win the conference and go deep into the NCAA Tournament next season. In just his second year Montgomery could lead the CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS to a conference championship. A ridiculous propisition before his arrival on the Cal campus.
With a strong recruiting class he is already beginning to build for 2010, it appears the Montgomery train of success has no chances of slowing down anytime soon.