While the national coaching carousel seemed to be in full swing after last season, the Missouri Valley once again was able to retain a strong majority of its coaches. In fact, just two schools in the league switched skippers. Missouri State and Bradley made coaching changes after last season, although for decidedly different reasons.
Cuonzo Martin left MSU on his own terms after compiling a 61-41 record in three seasons, including the Missouri Valley regular season title in 2010-11 and a CIT Championship the season before. The Bears won 50 games in the last two seasons, and Martin was responsible for the worst-to-first turnaround in just two years. Martin took the vacant Tennessee job in March, and the Bears hired Purdue assistant Paul Lusk to defend the conference crown.
Bradley finished the 2010-11 season with a 12-20 record, which wasn’t enough to save the job of longtime coach Jim Les. The former Braves star ended his career in Peoria with a record of 154-140, but posted a 74-88 mark in the Valley over his nine seasons. Les landed at UC-Davis two months later as the head coach, and the Braves hired former Kent State leader Geno Ford to turn the program around.
The other eight members of the Valley will fire up the coming campaign with the same sideline boss as a year ago, but how many of them are feeling the heat in their seat? The MVBE (Missouri Valley Basketball Examiner) Hot-Seat-O-Meter makes its debut this week, and will be updated every few weeks throughout the season. In honor of one of my most loyal readers, Darren from Maryland, this week’s HSOM will incorporate government-issued threat levels -
Quiet on the Homefront -
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State – After winning the NIT a year ago and compiling a record of 54-18 over the last two seasons, HCGM won’t be escorted out of Wichita anytime soon. True, he hasn’t taken his school dancing in any of his four years as general, but the arrow is pointing upward and he has the Shockers in position to make a run at the MVC regular season title. He has the most experienced backcourt in the league, and despite losing some senior leadership, the Shockers are the best bet to help the Valley return to a NCAA two-bid league. Marshall signed a contract extension in May that will pay him $900,000 per year through the 2018 season, but don’t be surprised if he jumps to greener (BCS) pastures before that.
Greg McDermott, Creighton – The Bluejays are the Valley’s preseason favorite to make noise in March, and McDermott should be able to expand on the success he built coming out of his first season in Omaha. Creighton finished 23-16 last year and advanced to the CBI finals before losing to the Oregon Ducks, coached by longtime Creighton head man Dana Altman. McDermott’s son, Doug, was an all-MVC performer in his freshman year, ensuring that dad will stick around at least through the 2013-14 season. McDermott’s deal was for 10 years, at a reported $9 million, but he is another coach whose name will pop up in conversations for BCS vacancies if he enjoys sustained success at Creighton.
Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa – When McDermott left Northern Iowa for Iowa State in 2006, Jacobson took over and has fueled the decade-long stay near the top of the Valley for the Panthers. Long the doormat of the league, Northern Iowa has become a perennial problem for Valley opponents and national powers alike, posting an overall record of 109-56 in Jacobson’s five years at the helm. After pulling off the greatest upset in the history of the NCAA Tournament with their win over #1 overall seed Kansas in 2010, the athletics department dug deep into their fundraising instruction manual and found enough cash to keep Jacobson in Cedar Falls. He signed a 10-year extension in 2010, starting his salary at $450,000 and giving him a raise of $25,000 every season he stays.
Greg Lansing, Indiana State – How’s this for an entrance – take a school coming off an injury-riddled 17-15 campaign and lose your starting backcourt, including one of the best players (Harry Marshall) in your school’s history. Then, finish the non-conference season 5-6, including a 30-point loss to Wyoming, who finished 10-21. Find many positives there? Greg Lansing did. He led the Sycamores to a 12-6 conference record (which, unbelievably, included a five-game losing skid) and plowed all the way through Arch Madness en route to a date with Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament. Even with a contract that paid him less than $200,000 last season, it sounds like Lansing will be around for awhile…