Several coaches around the country will be feeling the pressure to win immediately after poor 2018-19 seasons. Many of those must take their respective teams to the NCAA Tournament this year in order to save their jobs. Here are five coaches whose seats are scorching going into the new college basketball season:
Brad Underwood – Illinois
After taking Stephen F. Austin to the NCAA Tournament three years in a row, Brad Underwood has struggled to win games at Illinois. In two seasons in Champagne, Underwood has gone 26-39 and finished well below .500 in conference play. Another 14-19 season for the Fighting Illini in 2019 would almost certainly see Underwood looking for another job. Although, Illinois should be more experienced and more competitive as they return their top four scorers from a season ago.
Shaka Smart – Texas
They say everything is bigger in Texas. Well, so are the expectations. Smart has posted an underwhelming 71-66 record in four seasons in Austin. Year five for Smart in Austin will be critical, as another NIT appearance will have fans and boosters demanding a coaching change right away. Shaka Smart is in some ways in the same situation Minnesota coach Richard Pitino was a year ago. Pitino was in a make-or-break year and not only took his team dancing, but knocked off the Louisville Cardinals in the First Round to secure a three-year extension after many wanted him gone.
Danny Manning – Wake Forest
Last year, after finishing 11-20 for the third time in the last four years, it was almost a guarantee Danny Manning would be on his way out the door in Winston Salem. To the surprise of many, Manning will be returning for his sixth season, where it looks to be his last barring something miraculous happening.
Manning’s large buyout in his new contract, which was given after a mere First Four appearance in 2014, is about the only reason he hasn’t been fired yet. The Deacons will struggle again this year, as Jaylen Hoard entered June’s draft, but they do return last year’s leading scorer Brandon Childress.
Dave Leitao – DePaul
Leitao’s second stint in Chicago hasn’t nearly gone as smoothly as his first. From 2002-2005, he went 58-34, including two NIT appearances and one NCAA Tournament appearance for DePaul. Since he returned back in 2015, the Blue Demons have gone 48-82.
Expectations at DePaul are low and they certainly lack the resources that many other big time programs possess; however, the Blue Demons need to find the right coach who can recruit high caliber players to their program. Dave Leitao’s time is running out.
Jim Christian – Boston College
In five seasons at BC, Jim Christian has gone 62-100 and reached the NCAA Tournament zero times. It looks as if Christian and the Eagles need to make a run at an NCAA Tournament bid this season in order to feel safe about keeping his job. That will be difficult without leading scorer Ky Bowman keeping his name in the NBA Draft this past June.
With such a competitive league and, like DePaul, lacking in recruiting and facilities/resources, it makes it tough to compete with the big boys like Duke, North Carolina and Louisville. Unless a stunning turnaround takes place in Chestnut Hill, Boston College will finish in the basement of the ACC yet again and will have no choice but to let go of Christian.
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