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The weird state of Big East coaching changes

We defend coaches like a top conference and hire them like total clowns.

I need to start a search firm.
I need to start a search firm.
Bob Donnan-US Presswire

You've probably heard by now that Texas has hired VCU's - well, not VCU's anymore - Shaka Smart to be their next head basketball coach. My first feeling when I watched the whole process play out was one of relief, much the same way I felt when Tennessee was flirting with Gregg Marshall and everybody and his mom was sniffing around Buffalo's Bobby Hurley.

That is the threat that constantly hangs over the fan base of a mid-major team. You want your team to win and your coach to perform well, but as soon as that happens some team with a boatload of money and an unsuccessful lead man is going to come knocking at your door, and then your AD has to decide if he can pony up the cash or if you're going to have to let Matta Miller your coach leave.

Meanwhile, Jay Wright had a couple of calls about leaving Villanova. He didn't entertain them.

On the other hand, the Big East had a couple of hires of its own to make, and neither of them really jumps off the page as a rollicking success. St. John's and Steve Lavin parted ways by mutual consent after Lavin's vaunted recruiting skills turned out to be unable to make up for his coaching deficiencies. As his replacement, St. John's splashed out in the neighborhood of $2 million per year (more than Lavin was making) for Chris Mullin.

The interesting thing about Chris Mullin is that right now he has coached fewer college games than Brad. In fact, he has never been on a basketball coaching staff of any sort at any level. This doesn't necessarily rule out that he will be a good coach - Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg has come from a similar place to do pretty well - but you would think that $2 million and a high-major program in NYC would get you more than a guy who was working on the Kia NBA Countdown.

DePaul also lost a coach when Oliver Purnell retired despite having just had his best season as the Blue Demons' head man. They hired Dave Leitao, who had formerly coached at Virginia and... DePaul. Nothing gets a fan base hyped like bringing in a former coach who took you to one NCAA tournament in three seasons and last coached anywhere in the NCAA in 2009.

On the one hand, nobody coming for Big East coaches is going to easily shake them from their schools - provided those schools want to keep them. On the other hand, two of the conference's programs in two of the biggest markets in the nation hired a former player with no coaching experience and a former coach who had most recently been an assistant in the AAC. Both of those are more A-10 style hires than Big East ones.

Ultimately time will tell if either of these decisions was better than prying away a Bobby Hurley or opening the piggy bank for a Shaka Smart. For today, I'm not thrilled with how these hires reflect on those programs or the Big East in general.