Wilner Hotline – Pac-12 MBB Coaches on the Hotseat

Four Pac-12 football programs changed head coaches last season, although only one move — USC — was directly tied to poor performance.

It’s not difficult to make a performance-based case that a handful of men’s basketball programs should seriously consider changes at the top. But at this point, the likelihood of multiple terminations seems low — disappointingly low for some fans, it seems.

Welcome to the first edition of the Hotline’s Hot Seat assessment for the 2021-22 basketball season.

The schools are listed below from most likely to least likely to experience a vacancy (and alphabetically in the case of ties).

We’ll update the assessments prior to the Pac-12 tournament. In several cases, the stretch run could create a tipping point.

Arizona State
Coach: Bobby Hurley (seventh season)
Current record: 8-15/4-9
Chance of vacancy: 35%
Hotline assessment: We wrote a few weeks ago that Hurley deserved another year unless the Sun Devils cratered down the stretch, and that hasn’t happened: They beat UCLA and just won at Washington State. There are no outward signs that Hurley has lost the team — the players are offering maximum effort — and he hasn’t lost his cool in a few weeks. Also, the administration has other matters to occupy its time and energy.

Coach: Jerod Haase (sixth season)
Current record: 10-15/8-7
Chance of vacancy: 30%
Hotline assessment: Barring a Pac-12 tournament title, Haase will have little to show for his tenure. How many coaches miss the NCAA Tournament for six consecutive years and receive a seventh chance? But Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir hired Haase and would have to admit his move didn’t work. That seems unlikely, particularly given the readily available excuse that the transfer portal has placed Stanford at a competitive disadvantage. Also unlikely: Pressure from central campus to make a change.

Coach: Andy Enfield (ninth season)
Current record: 21-4/10-4
Chance of vacancy: 25%
Hotline assessment: This call might come as a surprise, but understand the context: Enfield is secure at USC with multiple 20-win seasons. However, we can’t discount the potential for him to develop a wandering eye — after all, he’s an East Coast guy who could be attracted to a Power Five job where he’s not No. 2 on his own campus (to USC football) and in his own town (to UCLA basketball). And if the Trojans reach the second weekend of the NCAAs, again, there will assuredly be interest in his services from afar.

Coach: Mark Fox (third season)
Current record: 11-15/4-11
Chance of vacancy: 15%
Hotline assessment: The Bears aren’t poorly coached, but they lack the personnel necessary to compete for a middle-of-the-Pac finish. Will athletic director Jim Knowlton move on from Fox? We’re skeptical, and here’s why: 1) He hired Fox and undoubtedly feels a sense of loyalty. 2) It’s a very difficult job — the Bears don’t even have a dedicated practice court. 3) Fox’s tenure has overlapped with the pandemic. 4) Money.

Coach: Mike Hopkins (fifth season)
Current record: 13-10/8-5
Chance of vacancy: 5%
Hotline assessment: Hopkins entered the season on the Hot Seat, but the threshold for securing a sixth season wasn’t high. As long as the Huskies made progress and avoided controversy, Hopkins was likely to return. (It wasn’t an NCAA Tournament-or-else situation.) To date, they have done both, and it’s hard to image a collapse substantial enough — given the limited time remaining in the regular season — to necessitate a change.

Washington State
Coach: Kyle Smith (second season)
Current record: 14-10/7-6
Chance of vacancy: 1%
Hotline assessment: A coaching hire that made sense at the time (spring of 2020) and looks even better now. Smith has hauled the Cougars to relevance faster than we expected. If WSU manages to sneak into the NCAAs and win a game or two — this year’s version of Oregon State — Smith could receive interest from programs looking to steal him away. We consider that scenario extremely unlikely but not unthinkable.

Coach: Dana Altman (12th season)
Current record: 17-8/10-4
Chance of vacancy: 0.1%
Hotline assessment: Altman is in zero danger of losing his job — he became the winningest coach in school history several years ago. But he’ll turn 64 before next season, so we have accounted for the speck of a fleck of a prayer of a chance that he retires.

Coach: Tommy Lloyd (first season)
Current record: 22-2/12-1
Chance of vacancy: 0.00001%
Hotline assessment: What if Mark Few retires?

Coach: Tad Boyle (12th season)
Current record: 15-9/7-7
Chance of vacancy: 0%
Hotline assessment: The Buffaloes are bouncing along this season, but consider the bigger picture: They probably would have made the NCAAs in 2020 if not for COVID; they reached the second round of the tournament last spring; Boyle received a pay hike last summer from the CU Regents; and he’s working with the best freshman class in school history. In other words, he’s as entrenched as Ralphie herself.

Oregon State
Coach: Wayne Tinkle (eighth season)
Current record: 3-19/1-11
Chance of vacancy: 0%
Hotline assessment: The Beavers are careening toward one of the worst years in conference history but won’t make a coaching change because of the Elite Eight run and the massive contract extension Tinkle received as a result of that Elite Eight run. (He’s signed through the 2026-27 season.) However, if the situation doesn’t improve by March ’23, OSU will have to consider eating the buyout and moving on.

Coach: Craig Smith (first season)
Current record: 9-16/2-13
Chance of vacancy: 0%
Hotline assessment: As a first-year basketball coach at a football school with a roster in need of upgrades, Smith is completely secure. We won’t offer an opinion on his tenure until the close of Year Three, and unless no progress has been made to that point, he should have at least four seasons to get the program into the top half of the conference.

Coach: Mick Cronin (third season)
Current record: 17-5/9-4
Chance of vacancy: negative 50%
Hotline assessment: We plunged into the world of non-existent numbers to underscore Cronin’s situation: He’s not getting fired, he’s not retiring, he’s not leaving for another gig. He’s not going anywhere … unless the Lakers call.


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