Could this be Billy Taylor's final year in Ball State? - USA TODAY Sports
With the hoops season almost at a conclusion, some coaching decisions already seem inevitable.
Being fired is a sad moment. You never like to see anyone's job be terminated abruptly, but the coaching vocation is one designed in today's world as being similar to that of an army family; moving from school to school trying to chase down that dream of building a successful program.
Keith Dambrot, Akron
Jim Christian, Ohio
Tod Kowalczyk, Toledo
Steve Hawkins, Western Michigan
And these are also your four candidates for MAC Coach of the Year, provided you needed four. Hawkins' squad bounced back nicely in response to a down year. Kowalczyk's Rockets are shooting incredibly well and spoiling some records around the league in their postseason-less world. There may not be 100 percent satisfaction in Athens with Christian but you cant go wrong with an 11-1 conference record. Those are the three runners-up to Dambrot, whose Zips keep winning despite some shoddy performances lately.
FIRST YEAR GRACE
Keno Davis, Central Michigan
John Cooper, Miami
Davis's Chippewas is the polar opposite of many other MAC teams this season: they played above expectations in the nonconference then fell flat once they hit the conference schedule. It's basically a sign of the roster's youth and how he was relegated to slot players in positions and roles they weren't ready for. It's no fault of his. The same goes with Cooper and the resilient RedHawks in Oxford: decent start but they've been stumbling as of late. There's no reason to panic in either program.
Mark Montgomery, Northern Illinois — Two years in, Monty's team hasn't produced much on the court, and the 25-point game at Eastern Michigan gave the program an embarrassing watershed moment. But they rallied and beat Kent State the very next game. Montgomery essentially built Huskie basketball from scratch following the departure of Ricardo Patton in 2011. Several committed freshmen left the following year, and the development of Abdel Nader as a leader has been somewhat refreshing. Stay patient in DeKalb, since they are on the path to contend.
Rob Murphy, Eastern Michigan — This team would be nowhere without all those transfers, but the slow tempo and tough defense continues to keep them in games. And for the time being, that simple strategy can keep Murphy in Ypsilanti, unless of course he finds a job he likes better.
Rob Senderoff, Kent State — This season went south for them rather quickly. It was probably that loss at Northern Illinois which gave an abrupt pause to the condition of Kent State basketball. Even if the Flashes only won two or three more games, Sendy probably stays in Kent for now, but under a watchful eye next year as they look to be on pace for the fewest wins by a Flashes squad since 1997-98, and possibly the second time since then they don't notch 20 wins.
Reggie Witherspoon, Buffalo — It's hard to believe, but he's now in the 90th percentile of Division I coaches who have been at their school the longest. And throughout the highs and lows, Buffalo has just been there. They haven't been a punching bag for a while, but in 14 years they've accumulated four postseason tournaments and one MAC championship game. The short answer: Javon McCrea alone is validating his job right now. If expectations were ever higher in Buffalo, they'd find someone else. But I can't see Witherspoon be forced out, especially right now, when they're still playing well against most opponents.
Louis Orr, Bowling Green — The school has been patient with the former Seton Hall coach, but that regular season title in 2009 seems like a distant memory. Aside from the No. 1 seed in 2009, his teams have usually been near the bottom of the East division and there doesn't seem to be much hope on the horizon. The development of Chauncey Orr is a little tantalizing, and Richaun Holmes has come along nicely, but how they finish and respond in the final stretch may possibly save Orr's job.
Billy Taylor, Ball State — Like Orr, Ball State has stayed the course with their coach for six years, and in fairness in that time he did pull them from the dregs of last place. But they wholly underperformed last season when they should have been MAC West winners, and now they seem perpetually frozen at the bottom of the league. Watching Majok Majok put up wonderful numbers every night likely isn't enough of a consolation prize.