TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The spring weather is warming up the University of Alabama but the heat on campus is still not as hot as the topic of who will be the head men’s basketball coach.
Alabama athletics released a statement on Sunday morning announcing it had decided to “mutually part ways” with Avery Johnson. Johnson held a record of 75-62 during his four years as head coach. He only reached the NCAA tournament once in 2018 and that was with the help of Collin Sexton.
Alabama Athletic Director Greg Byrne now turns his attention to replacing Johnson and aims to find a long-term coach for the Crimson Tide.
Many candidates names have been thrown out in the mix. The following coaches are who we believe best fit Byrne’s mold to lead the Alabama men’s basketball team.
The 51-year old Butler graduate most recently coached at Ohio State. In 17 years, he is 439-154 as a head coach. Matta has experience leading his alma mater (1 year, 24-8), Xavier (3 years, 78-23 record) and Ohio State (13 years, 337-123 record).
Coaching CarouselCoaching CarouselHe also has 13 NCAA tournament appearances, two Final Four appearances (both with Ohio State) and the one NIT championship (Ohio State). What is the most striking about Matta is not just all the tournament appearances and winning record but the fashion and frequency of the wins.
Matta reached the NCAA tournament in his lone season leading Butler. He also reached the big dance in his first year with Xavier. At Ohio State, it took only two years to reach the tournament and three years for his Buckeyes to reach the Final Four.
In his first season at Ohio State he went 20-12. Why is this significant? Because Avery Johnson didn’t eclipse the 20 win mark until his third year at Alabama. Before that season, Alabama hadn’t had 20+ wins since the 2012-13 season.
It is well known that Matta had to leave Ohio State due to back issues and having multiple back surgeries before the age of 50. Since Ohio State, he has had some time off and he may be healthy enough to come back to the game.
Last year’s Big-12 “Co-Coach of the Year” is currently in his third season at Texas Tech. He has led the Red Raiders to a 28-6 record so far and is currently in the Sweet 16. His team finished the regular season ranked No. 9 in the AP Poll.
Landing Beard would obviously be huge for Alabama as he has led one of the top programs in the country this year. He also reached the big dance with the Red Raiders last season (2017-18) and finished the year with a record of 27-10. Texas Tech finished ranked No. 14 in the AP poll.
In his single season as head coach at Little Rock (2015-16), his Trojans finished 30-5, won the Sun Belt conference tournament as well as the regular season title. He currently has a record of 6-2 overall in the NCAA tournament.
Since 1999, Beard has held seven head coaching positions. From community college to the ABA to the Division 1 level, he has accumulated a total record of 244-80 to date.
Pitino is a name that has been thrown around both by Alabama fans and the media over the past week. His name has the most speculation by far and it’s undecided whether Byrne would hire him or not.
How you want to interpret this next sentence is up to you. Rick Pitino has a track record. The 32-year college basketball coaching veteran owns a record of 770-271 with 21 NCAA tournament appearances, seven Final Fours and two national championships.
After being fired from Louisville in October 2017 amidst a slew of scandals, many wondered if he would ever coach again. Panathinaikos, a Euro-league basketball team based out of Athens, Greece, offered him a head coaching job on Christmas Eve of 2018 according to The Ringer.
His Panathinaikos team features Thanasis Antetokounmpo, brother of Giannis. Since Pitino’s arrival in Greece, his team is 9-5. If Byrne can justify hiring Pitino because of the winning culture he has created despite the scandals of his past, Pitino could bring a winning mentality to reshape Alabama’s program.
This is a name that has flown under the radar but Eric Musselman is coming off a 29-5 season with the No. 20 ranked Nevada Wolf Pack. His team has won three consecutive regular season titles in the Mountain West and appeared in each of the last three NCAA tournaments including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2017-18.
The Wolf Pack won the Mountain West tournament championship in his second year in 2016-17. In four completed seasons, he has a record of 110-34.
Musselman has been all over the globe coaching in China, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and also has NBA experience. That can be alarming for many Alabama fans as Avery Johnson had NBA experience. However, his recent success at Nevada should leave no questions about what he has been able to accomplish at the college level. Musselman’s father and grandfather coached basketball as well.
This is a name on the list simply because we don’t want to overlook John Pelphrey. Currently serving as the interim head coach, Pelphrey does have head coaching experience. He joined Avery Johnson’s staff in April of 2016 as associate head coach. He was the main offensive coach for the Tide during his time under Johnson.
He is well respected by the players, he knows the system, has a daughter on the women’s basketball team at Alabama and a son as a manager on the men’s team. Will family help keep him at Alabama? No. Not at all. But he has more than family to his name.
In 9 years as a head coach (5 years with South Alabama 2002-07 and 4 years with Arkansas 2007-11), Pelphrey has a record of 149-126. That includes two NCAA tournament appearances (one with each school).
Do we think Byrne will name him the next head coach? Probably not. But don’t be surprised if he is kept on staff by whoever is named the head coach.
All of these coaches listed have one thing in common. They are winners. They win early and they win often. At the end of the day, Alabama just needs a winning coach.
(Photo Courtesy of RollTide.com)