The third in our blogger roundtable series deals with Coach of the Year candidates. There were lots of opinions, and many people felt strongly about their pick. There were a lot of surprises, a lot of coaches doing excellent jobs, and I think that 8-10 coaches could have a solid argument for why they were coach of the year.
Consider: Mick Cronin's team showed life; Mike Rice made a very bad and undermanned team a tough out; Kevin Willard taught the word "defense"; Bob Huggins made a limited roster a contender; Jamie Dixon excelled once again, but won't get the accolades because observers expect excellence; Jim Calhoun managed a one-man team filled with unheralded children; and so on.
The group's picks are below... after the jump.
Cincinnati - Scott, Bearcats Blog (@BearcatsBlog - twitter, Facebook page) | Cincinnati - Matt, Down the Drive (@DownTheDrive - twitter, Facebook page) | DePaul - John, Chicago College Basketball (@ChiColBball - twitter) | DePaul - Jon, Blue Demons Lair (@BlueDemonsLair - twitter, Facebook page) | Georgetown - Andrew, Casual Hoya (@Casual Hoya - twitter, Facebook page) | Marquette - Cracked Sidewalks (@CrackedSidewlks - twitter, Facebook page) | Marquette - Anonymous Eagle (@AnonymousEagle - twitter, Facebook page) | Pittsburgh - Chas, Pitt Blather (@ChasRich - twitter) | Pittsburgh - Anson, Cardiac Hill (@PittPantherBlog - twitter) | Providence - Kevin, Friar Basketball (@FriarBasketball - twitter, Facebook page) | Rutgers - Dave, On the Banks (@OnTheBanks - twitter, Facebook page) | Seton Hall - JP, South Orange Juice (@SOrangeJuice - twitter, Facebook page) | South Florida - Ken, Voodoo Five (@SBNVoodooFive - twitter, Facebook page) | St. John's - Dave, Johnny Jungle (@JohnnyJungleSTJ - twitter, Facebook page) | St. John's - Pico, Rumble in the Garden (@RumbleSBN, Facebook page) | Syracuse - Brian, Orange 44, (@BH_Orange - twitter) | Villanova - Brian, VU Hoops (@VUHoops - twitter, Facebook page) | Villanova - Chris, The Nova Blog (@SBNTheNovaBlog - twitter, Facebook page) | Villanova - Joe, Villanova By the Numbers | West Virginia - Wesley, The Smoking Musket (@CountryRoadsWV - twitter, Facebook page)
A tight race between Steve Lavin and Rick Pitino... foreshadowing, perhaps?
|Anonymous Eagle||Mike Brey|
|Bearcats Blog||Mike Brey|
|Blue Demons Lair||Steve Lavin|
|Cardiac Hill||Steve Lavin|
|Casual Hoya||Steve Lavin|
|Chicago College Basketball||Rick Pitino|
|Cracked Sidewalks||Rick Pitino|
|Down the Drive||Rick Pitino|
|Friar Basketball||Mike Brey|
|Johnny Jungle||Steve Lavin|
|On the Banks||Rick Pitino|
|Orange 44||Steve Lavin|
|Pitt Blather||Jamie Dixon|
|Rumble in the Garden||Steve Lavin|
|Smoking Musket||Steve Lavin|
|South Orange Juice||Rick Pitino|
|The Nova Blog||Mike Brey|
|Villanova by the Numbers||Rick Pitino|
|Voodoo Five||Steve Lavin|
|VU Hoops||Rick Pitino|
Orange 44: Steve Lavin, St. John’s (Any other choice should render their ballot void)
Villanova by the Numbers: Rick Pitino. The flavor of the month is Steve Lavin, and is "1b" to Pitino's "1a" on my list of conference coaching jobs this season. Pitino has taken a team that looked dead in the water back in December and made them contenders. Consider that Jared Swopshire never logged a minute, freshmen Justin Coleman and fifth year senior transfer Roburt Sallie never made it to campus, Gorgui Dieng was a very late (after an appeal of the original ruling was file) arrival, Preston Knowles, Chris Smith, Russ Smith and Kyle Kuric have missed games with nicks and dings -- Rakeem Buckles joined Swopshire on the sidelines, out for the last 3+ weeks of the season.
Even if those guys matriculated and remained healthy Louisville was pegged to finish in the middle of the conference. But despite the injuries and disruptions, the Cardinals have a 12-5 record (through 3/3) in conference play and are very much in the running for a bye seed. Either Pitino sold his soul to the devil, or he is one damn good coach. Peyton Siva has blossomed into an excellent floor general, Kyle Kuric has become deadly from the outside and Preston Knowles has grown into an outstanding wing.
Cardiac Hill: I'll take Steve Lavin. I expected St. John's to be decent this year, but didn't expect the way they've come on so strong in conference play. To beat Pitt, Georgetown, Notre Dame by 18, Duke by 15, and UConn by 17...all in one year? That's pretty incredible. Plus, I'm factoring in his recruiting for next year's class, which is equally as impressive.
The Smoking Musket: You can make an argument for Rick Pitino and Mike Brey, but Steve Lavin is my choice. Despite the loss to Seton Hall, St. Johns has been a pleasant surprise since the calendar turned to 2011. They were my pick for most disappointing team over the holiday season, and boy did they prove me wrong since then. It's almost like they were reading my analysis and decided to turn it around. Lavin has done a fantastic job of taking 9 seniors, who had been weaned on another coach's system and sold them on his way of playing basketball. Simply a great turnaround for the Red Storm, and one I hope continues for the sake of the conference.
Rumble in the Garden: Steve Lavin, St. John's. Did you see what this same group did under Norm Roberts? Or how much Dwight Hardy played, because he played ostensibly the same position as Paris Horne? Players' games improved, the team went from 13th to tied for 3rd in the league; that's not just "seniority" rearing its head.
Casual Hoya: Love what Steve Lavin has done at St. John’s, though it may be more of a reflection of how awful Norm Roberts was with that same core group of players.
South Orange Juice: Rick Pitino- Louisville. He took a roster that was short on bodies and talent and got them to a double-bye in the Big East Tournament when they were picked 8th. He didn't have the seniors that St. John's did, or the great all-around player that Notre Dame did, yet he finished 3rd in the toughest conference in college basketball. Winner.
Johnny Jungle: Coach of the year Steve Lavin (changed the culture)
Anonymous Eagle: It was tempting to go with Coach Lav, until we remembered that this is "Coach of the Year," not "Coach Who Inherited a Senior-Laden Team That Was Due To Breakout Anyway." So: Mike Brey.
The Nova Blog: Mike Brey...damn that hurts to say
Down the Drive: It's got to be Rick Pitino doesn't it?
VU Hoops: I picked Louisville as my most surprising team and I think I have to give Coach of the Year to Rick Pitino by default. Steve Lavin is my Second Team Coach of the Year though for making the right tweaks and pushing the right buttons to get the maximum performance out of his St. John's team.