Monday, October 25, 2010

Summit League Coaches Loyal Above All Others

As I was compiling some information for the Gameplan's Summit League previews, there was an interesting trend I discovered among head coaches in the conference. Though some are still relative newcomers, there is a distinct portion of coaches who have been with their programs for over ten years or more. Some you know of, such as Oakland's own Greg Kampe, but others may come as more of a surprise, such as Scott Nagy, who will enter his 16th season with South Dakota State this season. What makes these numbers more thrilling is the fact that a number of the coaches here have been with their respective programs through transitions from Division II to Division I. After reclassification, many of these men have found success despite the higher level of competition. Not only have their athletic directors honored such success, but they've also stayed true to their programs by sticking around for more.

The longevity of coaches in The Summit League gives the conference the unique distinction of having the highest collective average of tenure out of the 31 conferences in the nation which receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament (necessary to say since the Great West was not included). Together, the ten coaches in this league have been with their schools for an average of 9.4 years, which is good for .04 more than the next highest conference, the Atlantic Sun. Rounding to the nearest tenth, however, reveals that The Summit League ties with the A-Sun. Either way you look at it, it's still pretty darn impressive. While some conferences may have coaches with more overall head coaching experience, these numbers only take into account years from each coach's hire at their current school. With that said, it could be concluded that no other coaches collectively know the landscape of their school and conference better than those in The Summit League.

Currently, there are a number of coaches in the league who are in the middle of a rebuilding process. Western Illinois' Jim Molinari enters his third season with the Leathernecks, a program he clearly has on the rise. Considering the fact he has already been around the coaching circuit and he'll have his son there for the next four years, Molinari's job looks to be safe for the near future. NDSU's Saul Phillips is similarly safe, though his security is more predicated on the recent success his program saw with a previous coach's recruits. UMKC's Matt Brown and Southern Utah's Roger Reid enter their fourth seasons with their programs in 2010-11, both with sketchy track-records thus far. If their squads do not make some strides in the next year or two, we could see coaching changes at UMKC and Southern Utah in the near future.

Looking at the numbers more closely across the nation, we find that all the conferences together have had their coaches in place for an average of 6.1 years. Using this as a standard, I would argue that six seasons is the general timeframe many universities will use in determining the fate of coaches. In six seasons, a coach would have had ample opportunity to recruit players to fit his system, and if positive on-court results haven't followed, then the administration may decide to make a change. Using this framework, let's assume that UMKC and Southern Utah give their coaches at least two more seasons, at the minimum. If we consider safe the jobs of the more tenured coaches (and assuming a young commodity like IPFW's Dane Fife doesn't bolt for greener pastures), then the future of The Summit League's collective coaching experience looks bright.

In addition to the usual suspects returning, the replacement of Centenary with the University of South Dakota will alter these figures even more next season. Essentially, the conference will trade a first-year head coach at Centenary for a 24-year veteran in USD's Dave Boots. When this occurs, this far-stretching conference will boost its coaching tenure average to a whopping 12.6 years. Even if there is no turnover at other programs across the nation, The Summit League will still blow away all other leagues in this department. Such a change will also bring the conference median up to ten years, signifying that the tenure rate isn't just boosted by one or two coaches with decades of service (like in the Big East).

So what is this information good for, anyway? Well, potential recruits may be interested in it because it shows that they'll have the strongest chance of being coached by the same person for all four years of their careers in The Summit League. In other words, loyalty figures strongly at Summit League institutions; even with success, the coaches here are less likely to take a job elsewhere for a bigger paycheck. Moreover, players can take solace in knowing their coaches will be very familiar with conference opponents year-in and year-out. At this level, such knowledge is precious because the conference championship is a direct route to the NCAA Tournament. Otherwise, applications for this information may be limited, but it is fascinating nonetheless. After all, The Summit League may not be the most talked about conference in the nation, but it sure does have some of the wisest and most loyal coaches in all of college hoops.

1 comment:

  1. Too cool. Especially with CC out and SD in. That's going to make it even better (obviously). Great work.