With the recent coaching shuffle that's taken place in college basketball — from Steve Alford (UNM to UCLA), to Andy Enfield (Florida Gulf Coast to USC), to Reggie Theus (NBA Developmental League coach who's expected to be hired at Cal State Northridge) — we're reminded that this is college basketball: Coaches move on, and all over, every offseason.
But it also makes us wonder, what's a good job and what's a good move? And what does it take to really get quality a look from another program?
In the case of Alford, superficially he made a good decision. He'll get more money (over $2 million annually at UCLA, on what is a seven-year contract). He'll now coach and recruit in Southern California, have the national spotlight and be on television regularly. Alford's proven to be a good coach — people point to his NCAA Tournament flops (an area he undoubtedly will need to get better in) but also should realize that such losses happen to many coaches every college basketball season. That, and he didn't win 29 games at UNM this past year for nothing. In all likelihood, his team overachieved to get a No. 3 NCAA Tournament seed to begin with.
All that still doesn't mean UCLA is actually a better job for him, however. New Mexico is a top mid-major program — good support, a good team returning and a good-paying position at that. If you win as Lobos coach, you're celebrity in Albuquerque, and Alford did have a good thing there. He wasn't UCLA's first choice after the school dismissed former coach Ben Howland — the Bruins couldn't reel in Brad Stevens or Shaka Smart — and some wonder if the program actually upgraded at the position. Again, this is college basketball: Check back in five years (if that) to see if such a move was a good or bad one for both parties.
In the case of Theus, he had things rolling at New Mexico State before leaving after two seasons to join the Sacramento Kings. Tough to turn down an NBA job (a place that was always near and dear to his heart) that pays $2 million annually, but if Theus had stayed at NMSU for another year or two, who knows where the Aggies could have gone? The upside is, they had a strong recruiting class come in the year he departed, and an NCAA Tournament run wasn't out of the question. Certainly, such success would have done wonders for his career, and the Aggie program. Now, he's starting over in the college game, at Northridge, which is also closer to his Southern California roots.
And lastly, Enfield. Here's a coach who was the face of Florida Gulf Coast's Cinderella run into the NCAA Tournament this year, and days later was swept up by USC. The Eagles were a well-coached and entertaining team that ran a fun offense. They also finished second in an Atlantic Sun Conference that featured the likes of Mercer (league winner), Stetson, USC Upstate, Jacksonville, Northern Kentucky, Northern Florida, East Tennessee State, Lipscomb and Kennesaw State. If such names don't sound familiar, have no fear. This is an unrecognizable league.
But it also brings us to what can trigger a coaching buzz: Enfield's newest job opportunity came off a quality NCAA Tournament run — to be exact, going from a relatively unknown team to winning two tourney games and advancing to the Sweet 16. Again, it can happen to any coach, any time, anywhere. And yes, it could in fact happen at New Mexico State.
Head coach Marvin Menzies has gotten his team to the NCAA Tournament three of the past four years, only to lose in Round 1. He's still received some interest — interviewing with Colorado State two years ago, and seemingly receiving an informal interview with Texas Tech last week (no, we don't buy that he consulted the Red Raiders on who they should hire next). The Aggies should be prime contenders to win the WAC next year (the league has taken a major hit from a competitive standpoint). If that happens, and the team can grab a win or two in the tournament? Menzies could write his ticket to a bigger program if he so chooses.
That's not saying he's unhappy at NMSU, because he seems to enjoy coaching at the program and the Las Cruces community as a whole. It's simply saying, if he ever had the inkling to try his hand at a larger program, that's how he'd get there. Get his team back to the postseason, win a game or two, and opportunities would follow.
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