July 5, 2010

Huguenin: Ten coaches on the hot seat

Take all your leftover fireworks, put them in a long, flat box, then place them under a dining-room chair. Light one of the fuses, and wait to see what happens.

In a way, the 10 coaches we're going to be talking about are sitting on that dining-room chair. Maybe the fireworks are a dud and a coach can remain in his seat. Then again, maybe the lighted fuse causes all the fireworks to go off, and in that case, the coach obviously isn't in a good position.

Here's a look at the 10 coaches on the hottest seats entering the 2010-11 season.

1. Sidney Lowe, N.C. State
: N.C. State made five consecutive NCAA appearances under Herb Sendek from 2002-06, but forced him out anyway. Lowe's tenure has proved that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Lowe's N.C. State teams haven't made one NCAA appearance in the ensuing four seasons. That is expected to change this season. The Wolfpack have a touted recruiting class set to join an OK group of returnees. That puts a lot of pressure on Lowe, who was a starting guard on the Wolfpack's national championship game in 1983. It seems safe to say that if NCSU's NCAA-less streak reaches five, Lowe will be forced out, too.

2. Chris Lowery, Southern Illinois
: Lowery, a former SIU guard, is entering his seventh season as coach. He guided the Salukis to the NCAAs in each of his first three seasons, including a Sweet 16 run in 2006-07, which was his third year. But SIU hasn't returned to the NCAAs since, and after a string of six consecutive 20-win seasons, SIU hasn't won more than 18 in any of the three ensuing seasons; SIU is a combined two games under .500 in those three seasons. The Salukis have finished under .500 in the Missouri Valley -- a league they used to own -- in each of the past two seasons.

3. Pat Kennedy, Towson
: Kennedy is entering his seventh season as Tigers coach, and Towson hasn't had a winning record in his tenure; indeed, they are a combined 51 games under .500 under Kennedy. It's not all Kennedy's fault. Towson hasn't had a winning record since 1995-96 and, frankly, the school is out of its element in the CAA. Still, a seventh consecutive losing season beckons.

4. John Pelphrey, Arkansas
: Pelphrey is entering his fourth season with the Hogs, and the first -- in 2007-08 -- was his best. Arkansas advanced to the NCAA tourney that season, but has had losing records in each of the past two seasons. His players also have run into some off-court troubles. Arkansas has fallen a long way from the heady days of the early 1990s, but this is a school that takes its basketball seriously, and a third consecutive losing season wouldn't bode well for Pelphrey's future.

5. Monte Ross, Delaware
: Ross is entering his fifth season, and the Blue Hens are a combined 47 games under .500 in his tenure. Granted, he did not take over a power program in the Colonial, but Delaware had posted winning records in six of the previous nine seasons before Ross' arrival. Delaware also is a combined 30 games under .500 in league play in Ross' four seasons. Last season was the worst of his tenure, as the Blue Hens went 5-26 overall and 3-15 in CAA play.

6. Paul Hewitt, Georgia Tech
: It might seem strange to have a coach who is coming off a second-round appearance in the NCAA tourney on this list, but so be it. Hewitt is entering his 11th season with the Yellow Jackets, and his detractors would say he still is living off Tech's 2004 national title game appearance. In the six seasons since, Tech has made three NCAA appearances and hasn't had a winning ACC record in that span (the Jackets are a combined 24 games under .500 in league play in those six seasons). Last season's frontcourt-heavy team made it to the second round of the NCAA tourney, but its two best players -- big men Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors -- turned pro. Hewitt reportedly had a chance to take the St. John's job in April but turned it down.

7. Charles Ramsey, Eastern Michigan
: Ramsey, an EMU alum, is heading into his sixth season with the Eagles, and they have yet to have a winning record in his tenure. EMU had some success in the mid- to late-1990s, but this past season was the 12th in a row without a winning record. EMU's recent struggles have come with the MAC during a down period, too.

8. Ed DeChellis, Penn State
: Penn State's basketball history is an embarrassing one. The Nittany Lions have made nine NCAA appearances but just three since 1965. DeChellis, a Penn State alum, is heading into his eighth season as coach and has had just two winning records (one of those was 15-14) and one postseason appearance (NIT title in 2008-09). Penn State is a difficult basketball job, no doubt. Still, another losing record may mean new blood is needed.

9. Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
: Cronin is a Cincinnati guy with long ties to the program, but even the most ardent Bearcats fans has to be a little disappointed with how things have gone recently. Cincinnati football has become a dominant program in the Big East since the Bearcats joined the league in time for the 2005-06 academic year. But not so for Bearcats basketball. Cronin is entering his fifth season and hasn't taken the Bearcats to the NCAA tourney. Cincy had a losing record in each of his first two seasons and is a combined 36-29 over the past two seasons, and 2010-11 looks as if it will be another .500-type season.

10. Bruce Weber, Illinois
: A lot is expected of Illinois in 2010-11, and that could be a double-edged sword for Weber. The Illini made the 2009 NCAA tournament and were expected to return in 2010; instead, they went to the NIT. Weber is entering his eighth season with the Illini and has been to five NCAA tourneys. But the two "misses" have come in the past three seasons, and if the Illini don't make the field of 68 next season, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him replaced. The flipside: It would be a big surprise if the Illini don't make the field.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be heard on Rivals Radio every Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. ET and can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.


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