ACC Basketball: Which coach’s seat is the hottest?

acc basketballYou know what you’re getting with Danny Manning at this stage if you’re Wake Forest. And if you’re Georgia Tech or Boston College, Josh Pastner and Jim Christian aren’t mysteries anymore.

Their seats are hot.

Are there others on hot seats among their ACC brethren?

Starting with: Danny Manning

Manning is in his sixth season at Wake Forest. Three of his teams have finished 11-20, one went 13-19, and one, his third, in 2016-2017, went 19-14 and made the NCAA Tournament.

It was after that season that Wake extended Manning through 2025, and though details of the contract aren’t public, it’s widely assumed that the school would owe him the full amount of the deal, in the range of $15 million, as a buyout if he were to be let go after the season.

Which could be a challenge at Wake, the smallest school in the ACC, and the smallest athletics budget ($70.9 million in 2017-2018) in the conference.

On the flip side, basketball is a business, and business isn’t good. Average attendance at Lawrence Joel was at a high of 14,665 per game back in 2005-2006, a year after Chris Paul and Skip Prosser had led the Demon Deacons to a 27-6 record, back when Wake Basketball was very much still relevant.

Last season, attendance was down to 7,626 per game, a 30-year low, and it’s down sharply even from that this season, to 6,231 per game.

At some point, the money owed to Manning and the money lost due to flagging attendance will even out.

That might not be this spring, but when you look at the current roster, at the incoming recruiting class, at what’s in the pipeline for the next couple of years, it’s not going to get better.

Next up: Josh Pastner

Pastner is in Year 4 at Georgia Tech. Just one postseason appearance to this point, at the end of Year 1, which ended in an NIT final loss to TCU, capping a 21-16 season for the Yellow Jackets in 2016-2017.

Since, his teams have gone 13-19 and 14-18, and this year’s group is 12-13, and, oh, you might have read that Georgia Tech isn’t doing anything postseason-wise in March, due to an NCAA ban that has the Jackets even missing out on a trip to Greensboro for the ACC Tournament.

That penalty, for recruiting violations committed by a former Pastner assistant, also includes four years of probation, scholarship reductions and limits on recruiting, which, yeah, yikes.

That’s a lot for a program to have to endure, particularly for a coach who doesn’t win.

Of course, Georgia Tech extended Pastner after his one good season, so the school is committed to him now through 2023.

He’d be owed somewhere in the area of $6 million in buyout money if he were to be let go after this season, from my back-of-the-envelope math.

Georgia Tech plays with a Wake Forest-like athletics budget ($75.1 million in 2017-2018, next-to-last in the ACC), so, money is probably an issue.

Most likely to be let go this year: Jim Christian

This one is all about contract status. Christian’s contract is up in 2022, so, only two years of a buyout, if there was interest in cutting bait and moving on.

Christian has had one winning season at BC to date, the 19-16 finish in 2017-2018 that ended with a first-round NIT loss.

This year’s team is 13-13 and is at this writing 7-8 in the ACC, which, that’s improvement, but three of his rotation guys – leading scorer Derryck Thornton, Nik Popovic and Jared Hamilton – are seniors, and Christian’s 2020 recruiting class ranked 14th in the ACC in the 247Sports.com rendering.

It would seem an opportune time to push the reset button, to give a new coach a clean slate, and at the same time, if you don’t push that reset button, you can just about guarantee that next year is going to be a rebuild anyway, with Christian then entering 2021-2022 as a lame duck, which isn’t going to make recruiting any easier.

Getting warmer? Brad Brownell

Stop me if you’ve heard this one already: Clemson gave Brad Brownell a long extension after a big season, and is now on the hook for him through 2024.

The lesson to be learned: stop extending guys after one outlier season.

Ahem.

Brownell had made one NCAA Tournament, in his first season, in 2010-2011, after Oliver Purnell had inexplicably left Clemson for DePaul, and left Brownell a loaded team.

After going a meh 102-91 overall and 47-59 in ACC play over the next six seasons, Brownell was on the hot seat heading into 2017-2018.

And then that team went 25-10 and got to the Sweet Sixteen.

Last year’s team probably deserved an NCAA bid, but didn’t get one, and ended up getting bounced in the second round of the NIT.

This season, Clemson is sitting at 13-13, 7-8 in the ACC, with two wins over Top 5 teams (Duke, Louisville), really no bad losses, but with an NET of 80 and a KenPom at 82, it’s ACC Tournament trophy-or-bust at this stage.

The buyout would come in around $10 million if a decision were to be made this spring, and Clemson has the money ($110.2 million athletics budget in 2017-2018), third-highest in the ACC).

The thing that has me thinking he has more insulation is that Clemson is a football school, and, this just in, the football there is pretty good, and when the football is as good as it is there in Death Valley, basketball is just what you do between the national-championship game and the start of spring practice.

Which is to say, you want to do well, but …

Quick hits

  • Miami’s Jim Larranaga is 70, and two years removed from his last NCAA Tournament (2017-2018, 22-10 finish, Round 1 loss). Larranaga is under contract through 2024.
  • Notre Dame coach Mike Brey is three years removed from his last NCAA Tournament (2016-2017, 26-10, Round 2 loss). The Irish are a bubble team right now at 16-10, 7-8 in the ACC. OK, there’s work to do to see the bubble, but they’re in the area code. (The time zone.) Anyway. Brey is under contract through 2025.
  • Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, 75, is reportedly under contract through 2023. You can assume that he’ll hang on until 2022, with his son, Buddy, a sophomore, due to finish out his eligibility that spring.

Story by Chris Graham


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