There were a couple of bizarre, unconventional hires in college basketball today – both signs of what teams will do when they are desperate. First, UTEP. After Tony Barbee left to coach Auburn after a very good season, the team had a chance to hire someone who could continue on the momentum they had build and help the team become a regular C-USA power before Memphis can fully re-establish themselves in that role. Instead, they hired Tim Floyd. Floyd was an assistant for a lot of years, so boosters are familiar with him and he is a popular choice among them. He’s a terrible choice, though. He underachieved with ridiculous talent at USC, then threatened the program for the long term with violations that he left behind when he left. Floyd is one of those guys who keep getting jobs for some reason, yet never has the results to back up that decision, or really to warrant getting another premier job. In the dictionary under overrated there is a picture of Floyd. On top of that, Floyd has little loyalty and is always looking for brighter lights, so if he doesn’t have some quick success he’ll just ride that to a bigger and better job. He’s just not what UTEP needs.
St. John’s faced a much harder job finding a coach, and they made an even more desperate choice. St. John’s is in the surprisingly underrepresented New York market, so they should be able to be a prime time program. They just aren’t, though, and they haven’t been for a long while. They needed to find someone to take the job in a hurry because they had been turned down too many times – including bold offers to Billy Donovan and Paul Hewitt. They turned to Steve Lavin because they knew that there was no way that the commentator and former UCLA coach would say no. I think that they’ll soon wish he had. Lavin has been with ESPN since getting the boot from UCLA in 2003. What people talk about is that he made the Sweet Sixteen six times at UCLA. While that’s undeniably true, what stands out when you look closer is that he took over a team just one year removed from a national championship, rode the legacy of that – both roster players ad recruiting – to his best season with the team, and progressively had worse and worse regular seasons after that. He was good at winning two tournament games, but only once won a third, and in the later years those teams weren’t coming into the tournament looking good, and sure weren’t winning pretty. He took a program with every benefit and slowly ran it into the ground. Now we are supposed to believe that, after not coaching for seven years, he is going to step into a program in need of a total overhaul and turn it around? I’m sure not buying that theory.