Jon Beilein shocked the Big Ten basketball community today when it was announced that he is leaving to become the new head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Personally I admired him as a coach as much as anyone at this level. The way he had a system that he recruited to, perfectly taught and was able to have his teams execute. That’s what it is all about and it is much harder to than it seems. But Beilein excelled at Michigan, particularly in March. I’ll miss watching his teams play, but I will not miss having to face him a couple times a year.
As one of the conference’s best coaches leaves, time to take a look at the other 13 remaining Big Ten basketball coaches. This is not exactly a ranking but a broad comparison of their careers, their styles of play and relative job stability.
The Hall of Famers
Tom Izzo - Michigan State (24 seasons)
Replacing a legend like Judd Heathcoat is one thing, but carving out your own legacy is another. I have always firmly believed that Izzo might be the college coach who would most likely succeed at the NBA level. His style of play, particularly on offense, is already similar to the NBA and he is very good at teaching it. 1 NCAA Title, 9 Final Fours and 8 Big Ten titles says enough.
Matt Painter - Purdue (14 seasons)
No Final Four appearances and only one Elite Eight is a little surprising for all of the success Painter has had at Purdue. Again, following up one legendary coach and carving out a niche of his own. Painter’s teams are all very tough and play great defense, that is what he teaches and his teams are quite good on that end of the floor. Three Big Ten championships and 1 B1G Tourney title.
Neither of these guys are on any sort of hot seat and they are the coaching class of the conference. Considering they are both coaching in the state they grew up and are at institutions where they spent considerable time before they were the head coach, it would take a shocking turn of events for these two to not retire from their respective schools. The lack of any hot seat ends with these two names.
The 5-10 Year Tenures
This group is really quite interesting and there may be some changes to who is coaching these programs a year from now. Most of the names in the group are straddling the line of job security and not doing quite enough, which will make for some interesting decisions to be made.
Fran McCaffery - Iowa (9 seasons)
Well things are interesting in Iowa City. McCaffery is more successful than the previous 2 staffs but is the Hawkeye faithful getting restless and wanting more? We at Minnesota are very familiar with this line of thinking. To add another wrinkle to things, McCaffery is losing a couple key returners and next year might not be a great year for his program. This hot-headed coach is certainly on the hot seat. A good year will buy him more time, a bad year will likely see a change and the middle ground makes for fantastic debate. 9 years, 4 NCAA Tournaments isn’t bad...it isn’t going to get Kirk Ferentz type contract extension either.
Pat Chambers - Penn State (8 seasons)
Probably the hottest seat in the conference, but Chambers also gets to run a basketball program at a football school. Penn State basketball has never had much success, certainly not since joining the Big Ten. 1 conference title in the program’s history and that came in the Atlantic 10. Just 2 NCAA Tournament appearances in the last 20 years. Chambers appeared to be in his last season before the Nittany Lions had a great final couple months of the season finishing 7-3 in their last 10 regular season games and actually coming close to making the NCAA Tournament after a starting 0-10 in the conference. It will take an unexpected strong season I think for Chambers.
Richard Pitino - Minnesota (6 seasons)
A paper extension after making the NCAA Tournament and beating Louisville as the lower seed. Pitino has had a couple very good seasons and a couple truly awful ones which makes his tenure controversial. If Amir Coffey returns, there will be high expectations for the 2019 Gophers. If not, they will likely remain around the NCAA Tournament bubble...which may not be good enough for the Gophers. This will be a very interesting year for Pitino and the Gopher program.
Chris Collins - Northwestern (6 seasons)
I find it hard to believe that Collins has been at Northwestern for 6 seasons. He took the Wildcats to their first EVER NCAA Tournament in 2017 and things were looking very bright for this program. That season has been followed up with back to back losing seasons finishing 10th and 14th in the Big Ten. Is that one NCAA Tournament appearance enough to give him more time to build a program? Might be really tough as they lose their top 3 scorers.
Mark Turgeon - Maryland (5 seasons)
Here is the one name in this group that seems to be poised to have a breakthrough season. The Terps, under Turgeon, have finished in the top 3 in the Big Ten three times and finished 5th this last year with a very young team. This team will be one of the favorites heading into next year. Turgeon is not on the hot seat and could establish himself with a Big Ten title this coming season.
Less than 5 Years on the Job
Greg Gard - Wisconsin (4 seasons)
Dick Bennett and Bo Ryan combined to guide the Badgers to unprecedented success. Seventeen straight seasons making the NCAA Tournament with 3 Final Fours and a national runner-up. Under Ryan, the Badgers never finished lower than 4th in the Big Ten. Gard took over for Ryan in the middle of the 2015-16 season and while they’ve made the Tournament 3 out of 4 years and gone to the Sweet 16 twice (something I covet), things are looking less rosey for the future. Ethan Happ has graduated and the incoming recruiting class for the Badgers is just one commitment. Recruiting is waning, and perhaps Wisconsin has a rough year ahead of them.
Steve Pikiell - Rutgers (3 seasons)
I don’t envy the situation Pikiell is in but he did manage to get Rutgers to be a scary road game this year. His first two seasons at Rutgers saw 3 Big Ten wins in each before the Scarlet Knights exploded for 7 this year. A record of 7-13 is not impressive until you apply the Rutgers context where they haven’t had a .500 conference record since 2001-02. So a 7-13 record is a really strong showing in season three by Pikiell. I think he has the program trending positively, at least in East Rutherford. Rutgers returns most of their contributing production and should be primed for a decent season.
Brad Underwood - Illinois (2 seasons)
Season two started off kind of ugly but things began to turn around for Underwood and the Illini. To be honest, Underwood scares me a bit. I admired him at Stephen F Austin and his style of play was starting to be grasped and executed in the latter part of this past season. Once he gets guys into his program who understand what is required and execute it, this program will be dangerous. They were quite young last year and will likely make a big jump from their 7-13 record last year.
Archie Miller - Indiana (2 seasons)
Not even sure what to think of Miller at Indiana in his first two years. Having lost 12 of 13 games in the middle of the season, it seemed like things were going very poorly. Then they won 4 in a row including wins over Wisconsin and Michigan State (who they beat twice). So who knows what direction they are truly headed. Year three will be interesting and assuming Miller avoids a disaster season, he’ll be around for a couple more seasons.
Chris Holtmann - Ohio State (2 seasons)
Season one for Holtmann was a good one after leaving Butler for the Buckeyes. Season two started strong and his team was ranked rather high in December, but the Big Ten season was not kind to Holtmann and his Buckeyes. They managed a 1-6 record in January and a 1-4 record in March before finally making the NCAA Tournament and winning a game. Year three will be an interesting one as he brings in the top recruiting class in the Big Ten and should have a team talented enough to finish in the top third of the conference.
Fred Hoiberg - Nebraska
The Midwest sees Transfer U moving southwest. Hoiberg returns to college coaching and will try to take the Huskers back to the NCAA Tournament and win a game or two.
?? - Michigan
Juwan Howard possibly? Who knows, this hire will be an interesting one.