I wanted to talk a little bit about the coaches with the most pressure this season. When you read below you might question me so I’d like to preface the article by saying that this is not a “Hot Seat” article. Some of these coaches will not be fired this season based on how the team performs so please don’t come for my neck. This piece talks about the coaches with the most pressure and what that pressure is.
Ok, I had to start with my school because in the words of Tom Crean “This is Indiana”. Everyone can see the 5 banners hanging in Assembly Hall. But the pressure is on Tom Crean because of all the off the court issues. After the two great seasons from 2012-2014 the program struggled to replace early draft entries and many highly touted recruits did not perform in their place. That is a tough break and I cannot completely blame Crean. Last year Indiana recovered and played very well at times and exceeded expectations. There cannot be many complaints about last season from Crean’s perspective, but Tom Crean is under a huge amount of pressure this year because of the off the court issues. There have been too many arrests, citations, and “dismissed from the team” to not put blame on Crean.
He will have a lot of pressure because fans and supporters of the program do not want their team’s name to be in national news for a backup power forward caught drinking in the parking lot of a convenient mart or for any off the court issue. This season looks to be a good one for the Hoosiers who have a lot of talent coming back and add some quality pieces but none of that will matter if the boys cannot stay out of trouble. The pressure will be on Crean to keep his players in line for the next ∞ days until they graduate.
Ok John Calipari is the reason I put the preface up there. John Calipari will not be fired. The reason that Calipari has a lot of pressure this season is because of last season. Last season they did not live up to expectations by loosing in the Final Four. You cannot be much better than a 38-1 season but there will be pressure on Calipari to do better.
There is also pressure on Calipari because of the number of guards he has. Tyler Ulis will be returning and most likely the starting point guard. Calipari and company also add Isiah Briscoe, Jamal Murray, and Mychal Mulder. All three of those guys are top recruits with Briscoe and Murray both 5 star players. It will be tough for Cal to fit all 4 of the guards into the lineup while pleasing them all. There is only one person who can touch the ball at a time so Calipari will have to work his magic to spread the ball handling duties around. If he cannot squeeze all of the players into the game so they are happy Cal will struggle again with recruiting top players who will want a big chunk of playing time.
John Groce has a lot of pressure on him this season for the Illini. After leading the Illini to the NCAA tournament in 2013, Groce has struggled to maintain stability in Champaign and the team has missed two NCAA tournaments in row. Groce looked to finish the “rebuilding” process this summer and have a great season this year but now that is in doubt. When the team was in Europe playing their international trip, Darius Paul was arrested and dismissed from the program. Paul was tabbed to be a big part of the Illini this year. He was named the MAC Freshman of the Year in 2013 before running into trouble with the law. Paul was injured in Europe so he was not even playing anyways.
This is big loss for the Illini and will put even more pressure on Groce this season. Groce must rely on transfer Mike Thorne down low to keep up with the other bigs in the Big 10. Thorne transferred from Charlotte to Illinois and must adjust to the rigors of the Big 10 before it is too late for Groce and the Illini.
There is a rich basketball tradition in Champaign with students and supporters expecting a Big 10 contending team every year. Groce must move on from the Darius Paul incident and hope Mike Thorne can adjust so the Illini can compete in the extremely competitive Big 10 this season.
Johnny Jones finds himself in rare company this season at LSU. Very few coaches in college basketball are able to successfully recruit and coach the number one prospect in the nation. Johnny Jones was able to reel in number one rated PF Ben Simmons. Simmons comes to Baton Rouge with lots of hype surrounding him. Simmons will also be joined by highly recruited shooting guard Antonio Blakeney. There are marketing campaigns for Simmons and Blakeney generating more interest in LSU basketball then every before.
There will be pressure on Johnny Jones to have success with the two freshman this season. If he has success this season it will have a lasting effect on recruiting for Jones and his staff which will help them build LSU to a football AND basketball school. If this season does not go well for Jones then he will have a hard time recruiting top players in the future putting LSU back into the limelight.
We are getting closer to the end of Jim Boeheim’s legendary career. He has created a legendary program at Syracuse by always have a contending team in the Big East or ACC. Last season was an outlier in Boeheim’s tenure in Syracuse. The team struggled to contend and win games in the ACC and even the non conference schedule.
This season Boeheim has a completely different roster with four 4-star recruits joining the team. While Boeheim usually did not rely on freshman during his tenure, he will need to develop while playing the youngsters. The reason why I said Boeheim has a lot of pressure this season is because he knows his time at Syracuse is coming to an end. Boeheim wants to have success during these last couple of seasons to go out on a positive note. With all of the NCAA violations and other sexual abuse accusations it would be for the best if the team was successful this year. Syracuse fans were completely deflated with everything last season so some success this season would go a long way. Having a successful season would help the fans, help rebuild the program for the post-Boeheim years, and most importantly be key to sending Boeheim off on the right note.
Cuonzo Martin is in a very similar situation as Johnny Jones. He has a huge recruiting class coming in, including the number two rated player Jaylen Brown. The Golden Bears also add top ten player Ivan Rabb to their roster full of returning players. This is a big year for Martin to establish a program and use his momentum in recruiting to last. Brown and Rabb will most likely go to the NBA after one year which gives Martin one year to get results for the Cal Golden Bears.
The difference between Johnny Jones and Cuonzo Martin is that Martin has a great senior point guard in Tyrone Wallace. Wallace is garner first round looks by NBA scouts and will be a key part in getting Brown and Rabb the ball in spots where they can be successful. Also, the PAC-12 is wide open with Arizona needing to replace many of their key players which gives Cal an opportunity. They are already ranked in the top 15 in many preseason polls which says something for a team that didn’t make the NCAA tournament or NIT last season. If Martin isn’t successful this season he will loose his senior point guard and his top 2 players with no recruiting momentum to replace them sending Cal back to the cellar of the PAC 12.
All of these coaches have lots of pressure on them going into the season but all for varying reasons. As a general college basketball fan, I hope that all these coaches work well under their current pressure and are successful this season. Having all of these coaches and programs generate success does nothing but help college basketball.