College Basketball Hot Seat: High-Major Coaches on the Hot Seat

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Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann directs the team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Penn State in Columbus, Ohio, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. Penn State won 75-71. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
(AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
Andrew Doughty @DoughtyBetMGM Mar 09, 2023, 7:49 PM

The college basketball coaching carousel spun slowly in 2020 as schools grappled with escalating financial concerns in the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only one high-major program and 28 total programs entered the 2020-21 season with first-year head coaches.

One year later, the carousel returned to its traditionally unforgiving and ferocious pace; 56 teams had a first-year coach in 2021-22, including 11 high-majors.

It didn’t slow down in 2022 – 58 total coaching changes, including 14 at high-majors – and there are no indications it will again in 2023.

Here’s the updated college basketball hot seat for high-major programs this season:

Greg Gard – Wisconsin

If Paul Chryst wasn’t fired in the middle of the football season and replaced with one of the most sought-after head-coaching candidates of the last decade, I don’t believe Greg Gard’s job would be in jeopardy.

Unfortunately for Gard – but fortunately for Wisconsin fans – that did happen. And it appeared to signaled a new era of expectations and aggressiveness under second-year athletics director Chris McIntosh.

Gard is only one year removed from a 25-win season and has been with the program since 2001. But the Badgers have only two NCAA Tournament wins since that buzzer-beating loss to Florida six years ago. And they could miss the tourney for just the second time in 25 years.

Replacement: Darian DeVries, Drake head coach.

Jerod Haase – Stanford

When Jerod Haase parlayed success at UAB into the Stanford job, I wondered if the former Kansas guard could be a future candidate at his alma mater if Bill Self ever bolted for the NBA or retired at a young age.

Not anymore.

Haase has zero tourney appearances in seven seasons – including this year because Stanford won’t hear its name called on Selection Sunday – and has won 20 games only once.

Replacement: Mark Madsen, Utah Valley head coach.

Fred Hoiberg – Nebraska

Fred Hoiberg didn’t inherit a mess when he arrived in Lincoln with much fanfare in 2019. But the former Iowa State head coach has created a mess in just four years.

Nebraska can’t win, isn’t developing highly-rated recruits, and isn’t hitting on transfers. And with an amended contract that reduced his salary and buyout, Hoiberg might be gone soon.

The Huskers lost three games by at least 12 points apiece in the season’s first three weeks, including a 20-point embarrassment at Saint John’s. An early-December win over Creighton and overtime loss to Purdue one week later were positive signs but they still finished under .500 in conference play.

Hoiberg’s eight-figure buyout might be the only reason he returns to Lincoln in 2023-24.

Replacement: Darian DeVries, Drake head coach

Chris Holtmann – Ohio State

Since going 15-3 in conference play in his first season (2017-18), Chris Holtmann is under .500 against Big Ten teams in his last five years. And when Ohio State’s 2022-23 season ends, Holtmann will have three total tournament wins in six years.

Recent recruiting success – strong 2022 class after two poor classes in 2020 and 2021 – might be enough to give him one more season if the administration believe the Buckeyes’ conference tourney success is a sign of good times ahead.

Replacement: Steve Pikiell, Rutgers head coach

Mike Hopkins – Washington

Mike Hopkins miraculously survived a five-win 2020-21 season – likely thanks to a fully guaranteed contract through 2024-25 that would’ve included an eight-figure buyout at the time – and rebounded with 11 conference wins last year, the programs’ second-most conference wins in the last decade.

But then Washington lost to Cal Baptist and Oregon State this season … and needed second-half comebacks to beat Utah Tech and North Florida.

The Huskies were once again terrible, finishing 16-16 with only eight conference wins.

Replacement: Mark Pope, BYU head coach

Bobby Hurley – Arizona State

Bobby Hurley was geographically incompatible with Arizona State from day one. Who knew he’d be competitively incompatible, too.

Through four seasons, Hurley’s (slow) rebuild appeared destined for annual Pac-12 title contention and NCAA Tournament berths. But since 23 wins (12-6 in the Pac-12) and a second consecutive tourney berth in 2019, the Sun Devils have gone nowhere.

They atoned for an early loss to Texas Southern by beating Michigan and Creighton but that shouldn’t be enough to bolster Hurley’s job security.

Replacement: Niko Medved, Colorado State head coach.

Josh Pastner – Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech followed a miracle run to the 2021 NCAA Tournament with a dud in 2021-22, a 12-win season that included just five ACC wins, the program’s fewest in seven years.

Except for a top-30 class in 2021 (247Sports), Josh Pastner is recruiting at a shockingly bad level – three of his last four classes were ranked outside the top 100 nationally – and has no periods of sustained success since arriving in 2016.

The Yellow Jackets played three high-major teams in November. They lost all three by a combined 44 points, including a 24-point loss to Marquette.

With only 11 wins in 28 games, they’re guaranteed to win fewer than 20 games for the sixth straight season.

Replacement: Ron Hunter, Tulane head coach

Kenny Payne – Louisville

College football and NFL coaches are occasionally fired after one miserable season. College basketball coaches are almost never fired for one miserable season.

Kenny Payne won a national championship at Louisville, spent a decade on John Calipari’s Kentucky staff, and was widely considered one of the best recruiters in college basketball.

But he’s been a gigantic flop in his first head-coaching job at any level. When things are this bad on the court – and not much better off the court as the Cardinals struggle to find recruiting traction – all job-security bets are off.

Replacement: Kevin Willard, Maryland head coach

Fired Coaches

Mark Fox – Cal

After an optimism-generating 7-11 conference record in his first season (2019-20), Mark Fox and the Golden Bears flopped with eight total Pac-12 wins the last two seasons. And this year’s ugly start – 12 straight losses, including one to a bottom-half Big West team, UC San Diego – proved to be an indication Fox’s fourth season was somehow worse than the previous two.

Replacement: Travis DeCuire, Montana head coach

Patrick Ewing – Georgetown

It took no time for Patrick Ewing to prove last year’s five-win dud was an aberration by knocking off MEAC power Coppin State in overtime in the 2022-23 season opener. Then the Hoyas got blasted by Loyola Marymount and lost to American in a span of six days. 

There’s no coherent explanation for Ewing’s continued employment as Georgetown heads toward a fourth straight sub-.500 season. And barring a stunning late-season run, Georgetown will finish with fewer than 10 wins for a second straight season, something they haven’t done since the 1930s.

Replacement: Mike Brey, former Notre Dame head coach

Kermit Davis – Ole Miss

A Mississippi native with high-major assistant experience, strong recruiting ties across the region, and six seasons with 179 wins as a mid-major head coach in the last six seasons.

Kermit Davis looked like a home-run hire for a middling program with two NCAA Tournament appearances in the 16 years before his arrival from Middle Tennessee in 2018.

Immediate optimism – 20 wins in his first season and the program’s highest tourney seed in 17 years – was followed by mediocrity and futility. And with the Rebels headed toward a historically terrible SEC record, Davis was fired on Feb. 24 with only one week remaining in the regular season.

Replacement: Chris Beard, former Texas head coach

RELATED: 2023 College Football Hot Seat

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About the Author

Andrew Doughty

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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM with a focus on college football, NFL, college basketball, and NASCAR. A graduate of the University of Kansas, he previously wrote for Sports Illustrated and HERO Sports.

Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM with a focus on college football, NFL, college basketball, and NASCAR. A graduate of the University of Kansas, he previously wrote for Sports Illustrated and HERO Sports.