What do you want to see in Cal's next men's basketball coach?
What coaching traits do (or do not) matter to you?
Photo credit: Bobbys.Cinema (Rob Hwang)
Since Cal announced the dismissal of Mark Fox, we’ve talked about the mistakes that Cal made when they went through the hiring process 4 years ago, and put out our (non-comprehensive) list of potential candidates that Cal might consider.
Over the next few weeks, we’re going to do our best to write more in-depth profiles of certain candidates, particularly anybody rumored to be under consideration by Cal.
When we put together our list, the focus was on identifying likely candidates, as well as other candidates that we wouldn’t necessarily expect to get consideration but who intrigued us for one reason or another. But as the hiring process starts out, I thought it would be clarifying to set out criteria for what would be a successful hire.
To be clear, the traits below are tailored to the specific environment at Cal. A program in healthier shape might expect power conference experience, tournament success, or high level recruiting wins. Unless donors are willing to splash cash at a level we haven’t seen before, Cal isn’t healthy enough to demand such heights.
With that in mind, here are the traits I do (and do not) want to see in Cal’s next head coach, specifically because I believe Cal can hire somebody with some or all of these traits.
Traits I want to see in Cal’s next men’s basketball coach
Experience with difficult turnaround projects
I suppose it’s rather obvious why this would be a necessary skill set. I don’t want to run the numbers but I would wager that Cal probably has the single worst record of any power conference team in the nation over the last five years.
Potential candidates who have demonstrated this trait: Amir Abdur-Rahim (at Kennesaw St.), Ryan Odom (at UMBC), Niko Medved (at Furman), Grant McCasland (at North Texas)
Success at a program with limited resources . . .
Maybe Cal gets its act together and builds a practice facility. Maybe Cal finds the NIL funding to compete with other power conference peers. But at least to start, Cal’s next coach will start off with fewer resources and more disadvantages, without any kind of recent history to recruit off of. Cal could really use somebody who understands how to get creative and do more with less.
Potential candidates who have demonstrated this trait: Everybody listed above, because it takes a low-resource program to fall into a major rebuild. Our UC candidates (Pasternack at UCSB, Turner at UCI).
. . . but also some power conference level recruiting experience
A coach who can exercise roster creativity and develop overlooked players is a big plus, but it’s also true that you’re going to need to win some recruiting battles at some point to eventually get Cal back into the NCAA tournament. Ideally, this would be somebody who has some familiarity with Bay Area/California recruiting specifically, but experience competing for 4/5 star recruits for a major conference team is a big resume plus.
Potential candidates who have demonstrated this trait: Joe Pasternack (AC at Cal/Arizona), Ryan Odom (AC at Virigina Tech), Amir Abdur-Rahim (AC at Texas A&M and Georgia), Chris Mack (HC at Xavier and Louisville), Travis DeCuire (AC at Cal), Dusty May (AC at Florida), Grant McCasland (AC at Baylor), Pat Kelsey (AC at Wake Forest and Xavier), all of the assistant coaches listed in our debut candidates post.
An indication that the coach can scheme an offense that creates easy shots, and/or scheme a defense that can prevent easy shots.
It is impossible to boil down a coach into one statistic. College basketball is too complicated, and too stratified. So many stats are subject to year-to-year fluctuation and randomness that a coach can only control so much. But if a coach consistently produces teams that either makes 2 pointers at a high rate or prevents teams from making 2 pointers at a high rate, that is a strong indication to me that the coach in question knows how to coach wins at the point of attack and/or wins at the basket, whether through scheme, recruiting, skill development, or a combination of all three.
Note that none of our primary candidates have controlled 2 point shooting on both sides of the ball. The kind of coaches who can do both tend to be elite. Like, say, Randy Bennett.
Potential candidates who have demonstrated this trait: Joe Pasternack (offense), Bob Richey (offense), Russell Turner (defense), Chris Mack (offense), Mark Pope (offense), Niko Medved (offense), Dusty May (defense), Mike Rhoades (defense)
Traits I don’t want to see
Somebody who has already failed at a power conference job. Is it possible that Tim Miles learned from his inability to get over the hump at Nebraska? Absolutely! But as of right now, I think the Cal job is harder than the major jobs that all of the bounce back candidates failed at the first time, which is the defining thread running through the list of ‘stay away’ candidates from the WFC original Big Board.
Traits I don’t care about
Tempo: Don’t get me wrong - if you’ve watched Cal over the last four years and you’re desperate for a coach who lets his team run a little, I don’t blame you. But I think the real problem was that Cal ended all of those possessions with bad shots. Randy Bennett has St. Mary’s playing the 5th slowest in the country, and if he were willing to consider coming to Cal I’d say yes in a heartbeat. Slow? Fast? I don’t care as long as it’s efficient.
Minor NCAA violations: I just don’t care any more. NCAA rules are pointless and have been largely overturned, and the few still left on the books will probably be struck down in one court or another over the next few years. I’d honestly prefer we bring in somebody who recognizes the reality of NIL rather than a dinosaur fighting back against the inevitable asteroid.
Age: You often hear people pine for a younger candidate, which I assume is based off of a presumption that a younger coach can recruit better, and that a younger coach might turn into a long term solution. But if that younger candidate is actually a better recruiter, then show me the recruiting stats, not their age. I wouldn’t recommend hiring somebody two years from retirement, if the best candidates happens to be 62 years old, so be it.
OK, you’ve got MY preferences: what are YOU hoping to see in Cal’s next MBB coach?