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CBB Coaching Changes, Part 2

NCAA Basketball Coaching Changes | Part 2

by Jonathan Burke (@Burkenstockss)

Welcome back to our series analyzing CBB coaching changes that took place this offseason. If you missed Part 1 last week, you can read it here. This week we look at four more programs that made a coaching adjustment this offseason, including Nebraska, Cincinnati, Arkansas, and UCLA. 

Nebraska

Out: Tim Miles

In: Fred Hoiberg

Following the season-ending loss to TCU in the NIT, Nebraska relieved Head Coach Tim Miles of his duties. Miles spent 7 seasons as head coach and finished with an overall record of 116-114 (.504). Over 7 years, Miles led Nebraska to only one NCAA Tournament appearance (2013-14), and 3 seasons above .500. One of the toughest obstacles for Nebraska over the last 7 years was conference play. The Huskers joined the Big Ten prior to the 2011-2012 season, the year before Miles replaced Doc Sadler. Under Miles, Nebraska went 52-76 (.406) in the Big Ten. Last year, Nebraska started the season 13-4 and achieved a top-25 ranking. However, a 6-14 finish, including a 7-game losing streak spelled doom for Miles, and AD Bill Moos decided that the school needed to move in a different direction at head coach. 

Shortly after releasing Miles, Nebraska landed their top target, Fred Hoiberg. Hoiberg was involved in rumors even before the Huskers finished the season, partly because of his ties to the school and the Big Ten. Hoiberg was born in Lincoln, and his grandfather was the NU head coach from 1954-1963. After a ten-year NBA career, Hoiberg coached at his alma mater Iowa State for 5 successful seasons. After four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, Hoiberg left the Cyclones to coach the Chicago Bulls, but the Bulls parted ways with him during their fourth season together. The hallmark of Hoiberg’s Iowa State teams was fast-paced, potent offense. The Cyclones were in the top 20 in Average Possession Length (APL) in all but one year under Hoiberg, averaging 15.68 seconds per possession. In comparison, Tim Miles’ teams averaged 18.1 seconds per possession. Hoiberg will need to improve the offense at Nebraska, after NU ranked 195th in the country in PPG and 255th in FG% last year. The Cornhuskers recently completed an unbeaten preseason trip to Italy, but a young, transfer-laden roster will likely make it tough for NU to be immediately competitive in the Big Ten. 

Cincinnati

Out: Mick Cronin

In: John Brannen

After 13 seasons at Cincinnati, Mick Cronin decided in April to test the waters of the Pac-12 as the new head coach of UCLA. Cronin ranks second to only Bob Huggins in total wins for UC, accumulating a 296-146 (.670) record with the Bearcats. Cincinnati prepared to extend the Cincy native and UC grad, but UCLA offered a six-year, $24-million deal. Cincinnati appeared in the NCAA Tournament in each of the last 9 seasons under Cronin, and suffocating team defense was the root of much of his success. In the last 7 years, the Bearcats were top-20 in the nation in Opponent 2p% and top 15 in Block %. Last year, Cincy held opponents to 62.7 ppg, ranking 14th in the nation. 

In order to replace Cronin, Cincinnati turned to John Brannen. Brannen spent the last four years as the head coach of Northern Kentucky, leading them to two NCAA Tournament appearances. Last year, Brannen’s squad won the Horizon League regular season and conference tournament titles before losing to national runner-up Texas Tech in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Although their level of competition is not equal to that of a Power-5 school, Northern Kentucky graded out well last year. Brannen’s team went 26-9 and placed in the top 50 in PPG, FG%, and 3-pointers made. One of the main gripes during Cronin’s tenure at Cincinnati is that their recent regular season success has not translated into a deep run in March. The Bearcats have not made it to the Tournament’s second weekend since 2012’s loss to Ohio State. A non-conference schedule that includes games against Ohio State and Tennessee will test Brannen’s group early this season and they will look to avoid an early March exit. 

Arkansas

Out: Mike Anderson

In: Eric Musselman

The Mike Anderson era at Arkansas ended this March after 8 years with the program. Anderson left Fayetteville with a 169-102 (.624) record, and never finished a season below .500. However, a disappointing 18-16 season that culminated in a 2nd round NIT loss was enough to send him packing. Anderson led the Razorbacks to 3 NCAA Tournament appearances, including 2 in the last 3 years. However, they were unable to advance past the second round. Last season, Arkansas was effective at drawing fouls, but could not convert successfully at the line. Anderson’s team ranked 43rd in the nation in Free throws per game, but only made 66.8% of their attempts in 2018-19. That conversion rate placed them 308th out of 353 D-1 teams. Per his buyout Arkansas will pay $1 million per year to Anderson for the next three years. This offseason, he signed on to replace Chris Mullin at St. Johns. 

Arkansas hired Eric Musselman this past April after spending his last four years coaching at Nevada. Musselman began coaching in 1989, and has coached in several developmental leagues, three NBA teams, and two international teams. He coached as an assistant with Arizona St. and LSU before taking his first NCAA head coaching gig at Nevada in 2015. The Wolfpack appeared in each of the last 3 NCAA Tournaments, making it to the Sweet 16 in 2017-18. That season, the Wolfpack had the lowest turnover rate of any school in the country and averaged 82.6 PPG. Last year, Nevada topped out at #5 in the nation before losing to Florida in the first round of the Tournament. Due to his experienced background, Musselman won’t be intimidated by the move to an SEC school, and will aim to return the Razorbacks to the big dance this coming spring. 

UCLA 

Out: Steve Alford 

In: Mick Cronin

After a 7-6 start last season, UCLA dismissed Steve Alford in December after the Bruins suffered a four-game losing streak capped off by a 15-point home loss to Liberty. Alford’s firing was the first time in program history that a coach was fired mid-season. Despite leading the team to a 124-63 (.663) overall record in 5+ years, UCLA turned to interim coach Murry Bartow to finish the season. A drawn-out and awkwardly public coaching search ended mercifully with the hiring of Mick Cronin in April. A historical blue-blood with 11 national titles, UCLA has not advanced past the Sweet 16 since 2008. Although Cronin was not AD Dan Guerrero’s first choice, he has the potential to claw UCLA back to the national power that it once was. In 2017-18, Alford’s last full season with the team, the Bruins forced turnovers at a brutally low rate. They ranked 343rd out of 353 teams with a 14.5% TO%. On a positive note, Cronin’s Cincinnati teams were perennially strong defensively. Cronin faces a daunting task of bringing excitement back to Pauley Pavilion, and December games against Notre Dame and UNC will be important to show how his new team is adjusting to his style.