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Coaching Carousel - Hokies Hire Mike Young, SEC Upgrades Massively And UCLA Still Doesn’t Get It

What are the Bruins thinking?

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Purdue v Tennessee
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - MARCH 28: Head coach Rick Barnes of the Tennessee Volunteers reacts against the Purdue Boilermakers during the second half of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament South Regional at the KFC YUM! Center on March 28, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

If you missed it Sunday, Virginia Tech hired Wofford’s Mike Young. He did a terrific job at Wofford, culminating with giving Kentucky a very tough game in this year’s NCAA tournament before bowing out.

He’s a native of the area, hailing from Radford, and he played at Emory and Henry. It’s hardly a hotbed of basketball but obviously he learned a lot there.

Aside from the fact that he’s a proven coach, albeit at a lower level, it’s a canny hire in another way: at 55, he has probably 10-15 years left in his career and unlike Buzz Williams is unlikely to leave for another post.

Working at smaller schools forces you to be resourceful so it’ll be interesting to see how he applies what he’s learned there at Virginia Tech. We expect he’ll prove a solid hire and in fact may have been an ideal guy for Wake Forest had they opted to fire Danny Manning.

There were some other significant moves around the country. Obviously Williams to Texas A&M is a big deal but shortly after he moved to the SEC Arkansas made a splashy hire of its own, going after and getting Nevada’s Eric Musselman.

Those are two really solid hires. Vandy opted for former UNC star Jerry Stackhouse, who has experience in the G-League but no college experience so we’ll see how that works out.

Even so, the SEC now boasts, among others, John Calipari, Bruce Pearl, Williams, Stackhouse, Musselman, Nate Oats, Ben Howland, Kermit Davis, Mike White, Cuonzo Martin and, at least for now, Rick Barnes.

That’s a very impressive roster and the SEC is about to get much more competitive. Among the fascinating things to watch is how much the upgrades affect Kentucky and Calipari. UK has always had a relatively easy path in the SEC but that won’t be the case much longer.

Also worth noting: the LSU job may open soon too as Will Wade is still suspended and in deep trouble due to the Adidas scandal.

Back to Rick Barnes: for some reason, he thinks that, having revived his career at Tennessee it would be a good idea to pursue the UCLA job.

And for some reason, UCLA thinks he’d be a good fit.

The Bruins continue to make the same mistake, looking for the best established coach they can find and assuming he can transfer the magic (back) to Westwood.

Well maybe if they hired a Calipari or even Rick Pitino. Those guys could do it.

Rick Barnes is a particularly poor fit.

His Tennessee team this year was wonderful but over the course of his career, Barnes has had a dull, plodding style and has not had huge tournament success. His NCAA record is under .500 (22-23) and he’s made one Final Four and one Elite Eight since taking the Texas job in 1998-99.

He’ll do okay there in terms of wins and losses, but he won’t excite the crowds and there’s no indication that, at this stage in his career, he’s going to suddenly become a great tournament coach.

UCLA would have done better to find a younger, more dynamic coach - for instance Nate Oats - who could check all the boxes: fill the seats? Check. Advance respectably in March? Check. Recruit well? Probably a check, although that’s a big move to new territory.

Remember this is the school that fired Steve Alford after three Sweet Sixteen appearances and fired Ben Howland after three Final Four trips at least partly because his style was too deliberate.

What’s the difference, stylistically, between Howland and Barnes?

He’ll stabilize the program if hired but it’s hard to imagine him making UCLA, well, UCLA again.

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