Column: Through thick and thin

Purdue head coach Matt Painter argues a call during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, in Bloomington, Ind. Purdue won 74-67. (Darron Cummings/AP)

Back in 2013 Texas, another strong program accustomed to postseason success, missed the NCAA tournament. Head Coach Rick Barnes quickly brought them back but a couple years in mediocrity, finishing with an 11 seed and sub .500 conference record, caused Longhorn fans to force him out. He was scooped up by Tennessee two days later.

In 2013 Purdue, coming off an NCAA tournament appearance, struggled to a 16-18 record. A year later with a weak roster things got marginally worse. The team was 15-17 and 5-13 in Big Ten conference play while losing their final eight games. There were calls for head coach Matt Painter’s job and despite Purdue’s return to regular NCAA tournament seedings the criticisms of his ability never really left.

West Virginia, under the guidance of legendary head coach Bob Huggins, was worst of them all.  The same 2013 season the Moutaineers were 123rd in KenPom after a 13-19 season and 6-12 record in their Big 12 debut. Next year they crawled back to average, 17-16, 9-9 in conference, but again missed the NCAA tournament.

It is now 2018 and all three are leading programs Top 15 in KenPom.

Painter’s Boilermakers are third, with the nation’s third best offense and a diverse roster full of size, athleticism, shot making and experience. Barnes has brought a roster of unheralded recruits to tenth against the toughest strength of schedule in the country so far. Huggy-bear’s Press Virginia is going through a rough patch but was among the national top ten and top five for quite some time. KenPom still projects them second in the Big 12.

Heck, even National Championship frequenter Jay Wright and Villanova missed the NCAA tournament with a below .500 record in 2012. Outside of the blue bloods, any athletic director in the country would clamor for these guys to be running their program. What these athletic directors, forced in short sighted planning by hands-on donors and stakeholders, don’t realize is that perhaps these guys are already in the house.

At UConn Kevin Ollie’s seat appears to be very warm. Chris Mullin and St. John’s are failing mightily. Greg Gard and Wisconsin have fallen off a cliff. Yet going into this season Bruce Pearl of Auburn, and Brand Brownell of Clemson (who was almost fired at the conclusion of 2017), were on scalding hot seats for poor performance. Well, Auburn has been the class of the SEC, and prior to Donte Grantham’s season-ending ACL injury Clemson had been a bona-fide top twenty team.

Perhaps these guys can’t coach. There may be better alternatives available. Men’s basketball is a major revenue driver and therefore often a must-win sport. But the crazy culture of quick hires and fires, which extends to football, is foolish. These coaches got these jobs for a reason: they are skilled at what they do. A of couple seasons is rarely enough for a representative sample size. Culture building and a comprehensive roster relative to your strategy doesn’t occur overnight. Give things time. Rick Barnes was dumped, and the touted Shaka Smart could miss the 2018 NCAA tournament after a no-show in 2017 with a 4-14 conference record. Matt Painter was saved, and Purdue is going to run away with the Big Ten. Foolish.

Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at