Just this hour, the Boston Celtics introduced Brad Stevens as their new coach.
Wednesday's announcement the Butler coach was leaving for the NBA set off the latent moaning about how college coaches are abysmal failures at the professional level for myriad reasons.
Figuring out whether Stevens will be a bust in Boston is something for others to determine. Considering the massive rebuilding project he'll oversee, he could easily absorb more losses in his first NBA season than he did in six years at Butler (49).
But he does have one obvious thing in common with the last eight coaches to move from the college ranks to the NBA: He's taking over a team almost certainly ticketed for the lottery:
COLLEGE-TO-NBA COACHING JUMPS, 1990-PRESENT
|Paul Westhead, LMU
|Jerry Tarkanian, UNLV
|Butch Beard, Howard
|P.J. Carlesimo, Seton Hall
|John Calipari, Massachusetts
|Rick Pitino, Kentucky
|Tim Floyd, Iowa State
|Lon Kruger, Illinois
|Leonard Hamilton, Miami
|Mike Montgomery, Stanford
|Reggie Theus, New Mexico St.
|Mike Dunlap, St. John's
*-includes one partial season
Since P.J. Carlesimo took over a perennial playoff team in Portland and made three first-round exits in the mid-1990s, college coaches haven't jumped into ideal situations. There's the pick of the litter; then there's the pick of the garbage.
John Calipari went to New Jersey, where the Nets were a couple years removed from their last playoff appearance. Ditto for Rick Pitino in Boston. Atlanta was in rebuilding mode when Lon Kruger came to town.
Leonard Hamilton inherited a Washington franchise with one postseason trip in 12 years. Golden State was eligible for a 10-year gold watch of landing in the lottery by the time Mike Montgomery arrived. Sacramento had begun its steady descent from annual playoff team to basketball purgatory when Reggie Theus was hired.
As for Mike Dunlap ... well, what realistic chance did he have in Charlotte this year?
The only college guy who took over a winning team since Carlesimo was Tim Floyd, though that comes with a giant asterisk since Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman were all gone by the time Floyd coached his first game.
Take Floyd and the first-to-nearly-worst Bulls out of the equation, and the other seven college-to-pro coaches after Carlesimo took over teams coming off seasons in which they went 179-379 --- a .321 winning percentage. Their eventual combined record was 389-644, or .377 winning percentage. Not good, clearly, but not worse than the lousy situations they collectively entered.
So, yes, college guys have an ugly track record over the last two decades, but the easiest way for any coach at any level to fail is not have talent at his disposal. If Stevens does flop, it will have far more to do with the roster he's given rather than his collegiate background. It will be the simplest explanation, and probably the best one.
--- Patrick Stevens