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Coaching Carousel: Pitino & Cooley Move On And Mike Brey May Have A New Job Too

The coaching carousel might make us all dizzy this spring

Iona v Connecticut
ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 17: Head coach Rick Pitino of the Iona Gaels reacts in the second half against the Connecticut Huskies during the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 17, 2023 in Albany, New York.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

It’s tournament time of course, but off-court news took charge on Monday as Georgetown hired Ed Cooley away from Providence and at St. John’s, former Duke assistant AD Mike Cragg hired Iona’s Rick Pitino.

Both are pretty huge developments.

Thoug he’s now 70, Rick Pitino is still a great coach. Let him swim in the portal waters a bit and he’ll reel in some major prospects. Most schools would like to have a coach of his caliber.

Our question about Pitino has always been simple: clearly he’s a basketball genius but he’s had many personal failings. We thought, naively perhaps, that Catholic schools would think twice before hiring Pitino, but two in a row have done it, so apparently not. We hope he doesn't leave St. John’s with issues.

Speaking of St. John’s issues, former coach Mike Anderson is going to sue after being dismissed for cause.

Cooley to Georgetown is an interesting move. Cooley is a native of Providence, but he may have taken the Friars as far as they can go.

No one is going to be John Thompson - Big John is not walking through that door - but he will be a vast improvement over the disastrous Patrick Ewing. Georgetown will be stabilized, at a minimum, next season.

One name that has come up for the Providence job: former Duke star and current Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley. He’d be a great fit. PC needs a guy who can do more with less, and that’s kind of the Hurley credo, whether it’s Bobby, Danny, or father Bob.

The downside for the Hurleys would be the regular battles between Bobby and Danny. They’re both highly emotional, Danny perhaps more so, and it would no doubt drive Bob Sr. off the deep end.

That aside, he’s a perfect fit and would make more sense in Providence than he ever did in Tempe.

The other coaching move Tuesday was widely reported but apparently prematurely: the Tampa Bay Times says that while former Notre Dame coach Mike Brey has interviewed, nothing has been finalized.

There’s no word yet on the Notre Dame job but rumor has it Penn State’s Micah Shrewsbury is now a major target.

Consider this for a minute. Here’s the roster of Big East coaches:

  • Marquette - Shaka Smart
  • Xavier - Sean Miller
  • Creighton - Greg McDermott
  • UConn - Danny Hurley
  • Providence - open
  • Villanova - Kyle Neptune
  • Seton Hall - Shaheen Holloway
  • St. John’s - Rick Pitino
  • Butler - Thad Matta
  • DePaul - Tony Stubblefield
  • Georgetown - Ed Cooley

Now here’s the ACC:

  • Miami - Jim Larranaga
  • Virginia - Tony Bennett
  • Clemson - Brad Brownell
  • Duke - Jon Scheyer
  • Pitt - Jeff Capel
  • NC State - Kevin Keatts
  • UNC - Hubert Davis
  • Wake Forest - Steve Forbes
  • Syracuse - Adrian Autrey
  • Boston College - Earl Grant
  • Virginia Tech - Mike Young
  • Florida State - Leonard Hamilton
  • Georgia Tech - Damon Stoudamire
  • Notre Dame - open
  • Louisville - Kenny Payne

At this point you’d really have to give the coaching edge to the Big East. The ACC is good at the top, but Capel, Keatts and Davis have all struggled. Forbes, Grant and Young have all shown they can coach. Hamilton has had a tough couple of years but we wouldn't rule out him getting back on track. When he’s good, he’s good. Kenny Payne had a dreadful first year at Louisville but he’s getting good players quickly and Louisville will be back.

We’ll have to see about Stoudamire and Autrey. In general though, we’d give the Big East the nod for coaching.

This brings us to a sensitive point. We’ve advocated for UNC types to give Davis a chance. He’s overhauling the roster and the system at the same time, and this team is built for what Ol’ Roy Williams was doing, not Davis. And clearly, some of those players are boneheads.

It’s fun to see UNC struggle and all, but the ACC needs UNC to be good. So does Duke. They can be second or third best, and that’s fine, but not having that program in the tournament, and a regular threat to make at least the Sweet Sixteen, is big, not to mention profitable, for everyone.

The other thing that’s shaking out now is that some coaches are learning how to use the portal. We’ve already seen some say the are going to really de-emphasize recruiting in favor of the portal.

It will take a while for that to sort itself out, not to mention the NIL issues (by the way, apparently NIL was a major concern for Pitino at St. John’s), but before too long we’ll know who can navigate the new environment and who cannot. And then we are going to see major shuffles in the coaching ranks.