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College Basketball: 10 Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2020-21

Patrick Ewing's three-year tenure at Georgetown has not produced much success

As a whole, there was less turnover than normal in the past year of college basketball in large part because of how the season ended. With no NCAA Tournament and conference tournaments cut short, coaches had plenty of reason to argue that they could've ended the season strong if only they had a chance. Adding in budget shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and few schools could afford to buy anyone out.

 

But with the season set to start on Nov. 25, it's time to look at which coaches have the most pressure to turn their seasons around. In particular, these 10 coaches could be staring at their last chance to keep their respective jobs.

 

Brad Brownell, Clemson

Clemson continued its trend of being pretty good — but not quite good enough — under Brownell in 2019-20. The Tigers went a respectable 9–11 in the ACC but would have missed the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in his 10 seasons. Clemson is 85–93 in league games under Brownell's watch — solid for a non-blueblood program in the ACC — but how much longer can you keep a coach who has constantly fallen short of the ultimate goal, an invite to the NCAA Tournament?

 

Jim Christian, Boston College

Not many coaches with a league record of 25–85 would be welcomed back for a seventh season. But Christian somehow was not dismissed after Boston College won only 13 games in 2019-20. This is undoubtedly a tough job — probably the toughest in the ACC — but at some point the school needs to give someone else a chance to run the program. In league games during his career, Christian is 101–37 in eight seasons in the MAC (six at Kent State, two at Ohio) and 43–129 elsewhere (four seasons at TCU, six at Boston College).

 

Chris Collins, Northwestern

Could the coach who led Northwestern to its first (and only) NCAA Tournament appearance actually be on the hot seat? Things are trending in the wrong direction, that's for sure. Since that breakthrough season of 2016-17 (which was only a 10–8 mark in the Big Ten and a No. 8 seed in the NCAAs), the Wildcats are 13–45 in the Big Ten with finishes of 10th, 14th, and 13th. Collins has built up a lot of equity among Northwestern fans, but expectations have changed in Evanston — especially since the school poured $110 million into renovating Welsh-Ryan Fieldhouse.

 

Patrick Ewing, Georgetown

Ewing is a beloved alum and seems to be respected by his peers in the coaching fraternity, but the Hoyas have been a non-factor in the Big East in his three seasons since taking over for John Thompson III. Georgetown is 49–46 overall and 19–35 in the Big East (5–13 twice and 9–9 once) and has not finished a season ranked higher than 67th in KenPom. Player retention has been a significant issue of late; five players who began the 2019-20 season on the roster have left the program, including three who transferred to other high-major programs.

 

Dave Leitao, DePaul

DePaul emerged as one of the surprise teams in college basketball early last season, notching road wins over Iowa, Boston College, and Minnesota en route to a 12–1 start. The good times did not last long; the Blue Demons lost their first four Big East games and stumbled to a 3–15 record in the league. Surely, that would be the end of Leitao's second stint at DePaul? Surely, the school would move in a different direction after Leitao won a total of 19 conference games in five seasons? Nope. In early April, Leitao and the school agreed on an extension that will keep the coach under contract through the 2023-24 season. We will keep him on the hot seat — despite that surprising new deal.

 

Matt McCall, UMass

McCall continues to recruit well at UMass — his three full classes have been ranked third (2020), first (2019), and fourth (2018), respectively, in the A-10 — but he has not won enough games to keep the locals happy. The Minutemen are only 38–58 overall and 17–37 in his three seasons, although they did show signs of progress in 2019-20 by winning eight league games — the most at the school since 2015.

 

Jeff Neubauer, Fordham

Neubauer parlayed three consecutive 20-win seasons at Eastern Kentucky into the top job at Fordham — though you can make an argument that the most difficult job in the A-10 isn't much of a step up from the OVC. It's been a struggle, to say the least. After enjoying moderate success in his first two seasons (8–10 and 7–9 in league play), Neubauer has won a combined nine A-10 games over the past three seasons, with KenPom finishes of 292, 260, and 245.

 

Cuonzo Martin, Missouri

Martin has dealt with some difficult injuries — most notably to Michael and Jontay Porter, both five-star recruits — but Missouri hasn't been much of a factor in the SEC in recent years. The Tigers went 10–8 in the league and reached the NCAA Tournament in 2017-18 but are a combined 12–24 in the SEC since. And Martin doesn't exactly play the most exciting brand of basketball; Missouri's adjusted tempo, according to KenPom, in his three seasons: 296th, 318th, and 267th.

 

Terry Porter, Portland

Porter is one of several coaches who likely retained his job due to the COVID-19 pandemic. How else do you explain Portland's decision to retain a coach who is 37–92 overall and 7–61 in league games in four seasons (and 1–31 in the last two)? This is a tough place to win — the Pilots have had a winning record in the WCC/WCAC only three times since 1982-83 — but there is no indication that things are headed in a positive direction.

 

Jean Prioleau, San Jose State

San Jose State is arguably the toughest job in the nation — the school has had one winning season since 1993-94 — but the numbers are not kind to Prioleau: The Spartans are 15–77 overall and 5–49 in the Mountain West and have not been ranked higher than 290 in KenPom in any of his three seasons. Prioleau, a former Tad Boyle assistant at Colorado, has done a decent job recruiting (two of his three classes have ranked in the top seven in the MW), but the program has had a tough time retaining its talent in recent years.

 

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