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Rating Coaches

Fox Sports columnist Jeff Goodman recently posted his list of top college basketball assistants, polling head coaches, assistants, and those close to assistants. His names are broken into BCS conferences and mid-major conferences (would Xavier and Gonzaga have landed in the mid-major area? We don't know, none of their assistant coaches were on the list). There are a few former head coaches (Larry Shyatt (Florida), Joe Dooley (Kansas), Donnie Daniels (UCLA)), some up and comers, some people with pedigree/ former player resumes (but no major ex-pros), and some guys who started out on the high school level.

This list, however, focuses on recruiting achievements. For an assistant coach, that is a somewhat quantifiable metric - how well a coach can lock down a recruit who is interested in their school. That focus, of course, doesn't necessarily tell us how that coach is on a comparative level - in a good situation with a good product (some combination of a competitive team, tv exposure, playing time, an attractive campus, big booty hoes, a well-regarded head coach), many people can recruit the names we come to know in college ball. When he was hired, St. John's coach Norm Roberts was advertised as the man who brought Russell Robinson to Kansas and got a verbal from Charlie Villanueva.*

Being associated with great college basketball names will get an assistant coach a job. But should it? Those recruiting achievements are not the coach's alone; they belong to the head coach, to the quality and style of play, and perhaps to the institution. Believing that these recruiting wins are the coach's alone is questionable; and the game isn't won on the number of 4 and 5 star Rivals or recruits a coach gets. It certainly helps, but that's not the end-all.

Answering some of this is Yet Another Basketball Blog's Coach Ratings by Dan Hanner. Admittedly, I don't know all of ratings' methodology. For example, the recruiting ratings might be from the aforementioned basketball player rating sites or some other source. And does this model account for players who have transferred (probably not, since he does not penalize for players going pro early)? How does one measure expected wins? What if talent is overrated? Otherwise, this is a sharp look at what ingredients constitute what we think of as a good coach. The ratings for recruiting and coaching come from regression analysis of the impact on talent on wins. The main point is that the numbers give a comparative look at a coach's recruiting and regular season performance at each school.

Some light numbers, and of course chatter about St. John's, after the jump.

The cool/ interesting thing? St. John's coach ends up near the bottom of the ratings, along with Auburn's Jeff Lebo. From Part 1 of the rankings:

Here are the worst recruiters at a BCS school for at least 4 years (i.e. minimum 3 recruiting classes.)

RECR Coach - School
0.00 Bill Carmody - Northwestern
0.04 Ed DeChellis - Penn State
0.14 Al Skinner - Boston College
0.20 Oliver Purnell - Clemson
0.23 Norm Roberts - St. John's
0.31 Jeff Lebo - Auburn
0.32 Seth Greenberg - Virginia Tech
0.33 Frank Haith - Miami
0.34 Dennis Felton - Georgia
0.42 Bruce Webber - Illinois

The worst of the worst recruiters tend to lose their jobs at about the 3 year mark, so I should add that Greenberg, Haith, Felton, and Webber are hardly horrible. In fact, the only way you keep your job if you can't recruit at the elite level is by knowing how to coach.

To win more games than expected, a coach has to be able to coach, not just recruit. The REG(ular season) Coach rating is a proxy for measuing a coach's ability to teach and implement their system, manage players, and make winning changes in games. For coaches winning fewer games than expected, Coach Norm Roberts is on that list also.

REG Coach - School
-0.69 Leonard Hamilton - Florida State
-0.38 Jeff Lebo - Auburn
-0.23 Norm Roberts - St. John's
-0.21 Andy Kennedy - Mississippi
-0.18 Travis Ford - Oklahoma State
-0.09 Jerry Wainwright - DePaul
-0.02 Bill Carmody - Northwestern
0.03 Scott Drew - Baylor
0.03 Ed DeChellis - Penn State
0.06 Bobby Gonzalez - Seton Hall

In part 2 of the analysis, Hanner even mentions how Coach Roberts dodged the hot seat. Hey, it was incredible to everyone around the team, too. And that Bill Self is recruiting incredibly without his former right hand man. Also of interest is how well Paul Hewitt's recruiting number is, and how his regular season coaching number is not, and conversely, how Al Skinner has hardly recruited anyone you have heard of but he still flat out wins games. At the bottom of the page are notable mid-major coaches, including my favorite, Chris Lowery.

I bring these looks at coaches up to make a point - schools are always looking to improve their recruiting, because it's those best players who make it deep into the tournament, raining notoriety and money on the school. And that is why Rutgers' Fred Hill was hired, why St. John's Norm Roberts was hired (along with his "hard-working" reputation). But the hole that St. John's was in was too much to overcome with just recruiting acumen. And with coaching that does not elevate the talent to better results than they should achieve, the win/loss situation and the recruiting situation just gets worse.

Norm Roberts is just one man, one data point. But hiring a man who did not have a stellar coaching record when he was a head coach (24-84 at Division II Queens College) seems to be a recipe for disaster, even if he is the best recruiter. On the other hand, the best schools get the best recruits, and players want to play with a winner.

Not accounting for their area or any cultural issues (an extreme aversion to scandal or a need to placate fans with an area coach, for example), a coach coming to a major conference such as the coach-heavy Big East has to be able to recruit and also develop talent. The other Big East coaches might spout off about how Norm Roberts is doing it the right way, about how he's going to get it done, but unless his sophomores make some serious waves, his lack of coaching acumen is going to doom his career at St. John's.

* Note the names listed in this article: Matt Doherty, Jim Baron, Bobby Gonzalez, Bob McKillop, Paul Hewitt, PJ Carlesimo, Bobby Cremins, Tim Welsh, Mark Jackson. Except for Gonzalez, expect to hear them all from those who want a coaching change. I would want to add Brad Brownell, Chris Lowery, Fran McCaffrey, Will Brown, Tim Welsh, and Bruce Weber, myself. Those guys, with a NY-experienced recruiter... they might make some noise.