College Basketball Coaching Changes
March is obviously all about the tournament when it comes to college basketball. Smart bettors know, though, that March is also when the coaching carousel starts to spin at full force. In most cases it's hard to get too excited about coaching changes when they happen – the team needed to make a change, and we won't see the new coach a game for many months. Smart bettors know, though, that right when a coaching change is made is a very important time to think about what impact it could have and how people will react. Most casual bettors won't consider the impact of changes until after the season starts next year. By thinking about it now you can get a head start and have an edge when the season starts. Here are seven questions to ask to help you consider the impact of coaching changes in college basketball in March and April:
Does the reputation of the departing coach match the performance? – If the departing coach was fired or forced into departing then chances are that people are going to have strong feelings about him and the job he has does. Chances are also good that those feelings will be a long way from positive. If the public thinks that a departing coach did a bad job then they are likely to assume that the team will improve just because he has departed. Before he has been gone for long, then, you need to evaluate his actual impact to see if he really did to a bad job, or if circumstances beyond his control aided his struggles. Any disparity you can find between perceived performance and reality will lead to great opportunities.
Why did the coach leave? – Once the next season starts the public will, in most cases, just note that the old coach is gone and a new one has taken his place. They won't often look deeper than that. While things are still fresh, then, you can give yourself an edge by understanding why he left. Was it by his own choice or was he fired or forced out? Was it a performance issue, a personality problem, or a new opportunity?
Does the new coach have an established track record, or is he newly hot? – Every year there are a couple of coaches who make a big impact at the tournament with a mid-major and vault into the public consciousness. If the coach is ambitious and not settled into his job for the long term then he likely won't be able to resist the temptation to jump to a better job when the opportunity exists. The coach will be popular and will get attention in his new job. It's important to evaluate whether the coach has done enough over the longer term to justify the hype. A guy can put together a good run if everything falls together perfectly – good players, an experienced team, a good draw in the tournament and so on. That's far less impressive than if a coach has been able to consistently perform at an impressive level – even if that performance has been largely under the radar until recently.
How soon has he gotten out of the gate in past jobs? – Unless it is the first time a guy has been a head coach you have the advantage of looking back at how he performed last time he took over a team. Did the team quickly exceed the previous season's performance, or did they sputter until they got comfortable? Did the coach tweak what the team had already been doing, or did he dramatically overhaul how the teams did things?
How bare are the cupboards for the new coach? – If a coach has been fired because of sustained bad performance then it's quite possible that the new coach won't have a lot to work with. The existing players might not be particularly talented, and recruiting momentum could be running slow if the team has struggled. No matter how good a coach is he's not going to be able to be at his best if he doesn't have players to work with. A great coach can make good players really good, but he can't make bad players great, or even very good. If the new coach is a public figure who is popular then expectations will be high for his new job regardless of his roster, so if you can spot a serious talent shortcoming then you can have an opportunity on your hands.
How well will he be accepted at the new school? – At some schools a coach will struggle to be accepted and make changes no matter how good he is if he is seen as an outsider. One of the more striking recent examples of this comes in college football – Rich Rodriguez had had a lot of success at West Virginia, but he was never accepted by those who matter at Michigan, and he achieved little as a result. If the new hire seems controversial and not well thought out – like if the coach plays a radically different style that isn't likely to be embraced by the fan base and supporters – then there will be problems. Problems can be opportunities for astute bettors.
What will the public reaction likely be? – In a lot of cases the reaction the public is likely to have to a coaching change is predictable. If it is a coach coming off a high profile run then they will be excited – probably too excited. If it's a relatively unknown coach replacing a popular one then they may be more negative than they should be. If it's a low profile coach at a low profile program then they may not even notice that anything has happened. You need to get a sense of what the public reaction is going to be so you can spot situations where that reaction is likely to differ from what is actually likely to happen.
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