Grading every new men's basketball coaching hire in the SEC
There has been major activity in the coaching carousel this offseason in SEC men’s basketball. When the 2022-23 season tips off, 6 schools – Florida, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi State, Mizzou and South Carolina – will have new head coaches.
Some hiring decisions were more popular with fan bases than others. And, naturally, some coaches will be more successful in their new positions than others.
So, how should each of these 6 schools feel about their new coach? We handed out grades for each hire during this busy offseason of coaching carousel action in the SEC:
Florida: Todd Golden
I absolutely love this hire for the Gators. I’ve been banging the drum for Golden for months now, wanting him to be the new coach at Mizzou (my alma mater). Well, it seems Florida swooped in and stole him from the Tigers, and I can’t exactly blame him for choosing the Gators over Mizzou.
Golden is a sharp offensive mind, adept at today’s ever-changing college game. He has SEC experience, having worked under Bruce Pearl at Auburn. He’s young and energetic, and will hit the transfer portal hard.
His offense will look nothing like Mike White’s, and that’s a very good thing for the Gators. I absolutely believe Golden will be hanging a Final Four banner at the O’Connell Center within the next 4 years. He’s that good.
The Gators absolutely crushed this hire. Good times are on the horizon in Gainesville.
Georgia: Mike White
Will the Georgia program be better under Mike White than it was under Tom Crean? Absolutely. White is a solid coach who will dig the Bulldogs out of their pit of despair.
The problem? There’s a ceiling with what White can do in the SEC. He showed it at Florida. He couldn’t get the Gators consistently past the first weekend in the NCAA Tournament, going to March Madness 4 times in 7 years (with the tournament canceled 1 of those years) but only advancing to the Sweet 16 once, when he made it to the Elite Eight in 2017.
So, while White might raise the floor of the Georgia program significantly, he’s not going to make the Bulldogs a perennial contender in the SEC. White didn’t win any SEC regular-season or tournament titles in 7 years at Florida. That’s unacceptable in a place like Gainesville.
He can potentially make the Bulldogs an NIT-caliber program that occasionally snags an NCAA Tournament spot, but this hiring felt uninspired from Georgia.
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LSU: Matt McMahon
McMahon inherits the toughest situation of any of the incoming SEC coaches. LSU still doesn’t know if it will be banned from the postseason or receive scholarship reductions from the NCAA in the wake of the Will Wade scandal.
So, interestingly, McMahon’s contract features a clause that tacks an extra year onto his 7-year deal if LSU is A) banned from the postseason for 2 or more years or B) faces 2 or more scholarship reductions per year for 3 or more years. That’s a good way to ensure he isn’t let go too early if the Tigers do face sanctions.
All in all, McMahon’s resume at Murray State speaks for itself – 154-67 overall record in 7 years, 3 NCAA Tournament appearances, 2 NCAA Tournament wins, 4 OVC regular-season titles and 3 OVC Tournament titles.
He was one of the better mid-major coaches on the market, and LSU fans should be glad they have him to guide them through these tumultuous times.
Mississippi State: Chris Jans
This seems like a really good fit for the Bulldogs. The work Jans did at New Mexico State, a school tucked away in Las Cruces, New Mexico, can’t be understated. He turned the Aggies into an annual contender for an NCAA Tournament spot.
Jans led the Aggies to 3 NCAA Tournament berths, winning a game this year. He won 4 WAC regular-season titles and 3 WAC Tournament titles.
How does that translate to Mississippi State? Well, if he can lure talented players to New Mexico State, he should have no problem at all getting guys to come to Starkville. Ben Howland only made March Madness once in 7 years with the Bulldogs (with the tournament canceled in 2020 when the Bulldogs had a good chance of making the field). Getting the program consistently into the field of 68 will be how we measure whether Jans is successful at Mississippi State or not.
For now, though, this looks like a good fit for a solid coach.
Mizzou: Dennis Gates
I’ll be honest. Gates wasn’t my first choice for the Tigers. As mentioned earlier, that would have been Todd Golden. But, the more I learn about Gates, the more I think he could end up being a solid hire at Mizzou.
He has plenty of experience recruiting in the southeast, as he was a member of Leonard Hamilton’s Florida State staff during its most successful run in recent memory. That might not be “SEC” recruiting, but it’s the same area. And, with his ties to the Midwest, I’m hopeful he can recruit well at Mizzou.
His first step? Get a point guard and some 3-point shooters out of the transfer portal. Mizzou had neither last year and it cost Cuonzo Martin his job.
Gates seems eager to hit the ground running in CoMo, though, so I’m excited to see what he can do. The Tigers expect to be making the NCAA Tournament and winning at least 1 game most years. That’s the baseline for success in Columbia. We’ll see if Gates can get the program back to where it was under Mike Anderson.
South Carolina: Lamont Paris
I wasn’t a huge fan of this hire at first. It seemed like South Carolina had mismanaged its search for Frank Martin’s replacement in a big way. This thread from Matt Norlander paints a bleak picture of how things went down:
Sources have said that Chattanooga's Lamont Paris and Wake Forest assistant BJ McKie are the two primary targets. We'll see if it winds up being either, or if a surprise name emerges late in the process. (I was also told Matt McMahon passed days ago on South Carolina.)
— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) March 21, 2022
That’s not a great look for the program, and Paris’s head coaching record leaves a lot to be desired. In 5 years at Chattanooga, he’s only made the NCAA Tournament once and has only won a single Southern Conference regular-season title and 1 SoCo tourney title.
But, then, this tweet from SEC Network broadcaster Tom Hart softened my stance on Paris a bit:
Great hire for Carolina. Recruited Wisconsin's Final Four teams, and used the transfer portal to get Mocs to NCAA Tournament. https://t.co/6uOb5tTwyd
— Tom Hart (@tom_hart) March 22, 2022
Paris was indeed instrumental on the recruiting trails for those elite Badger teams. Can he make a similar impact in the SEC? We’ll find out over the next couple of years.