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August 30, 2012
Relative Calm
Tracking the Coaching Carousel

by Corey Schmidt


The coaching carousel spun this offseason the same as it ever does, but the level of turnover in 2012 was the lowest we've seen in three years. Changes at major conference schools were also lower than usual this year, as the eight total changes is just the second instance of single-digit turnover in the last six seasons.

A likely reason for fewer changes this year is the fact that about a third of all high-major head coaching positions were turned over in the 2010 and 2011 offseasons. There are a lot of guys just getting started at this juncture, particularly in the ACC and SEC, which will have respective median coaching tenures of 3 and 2.5 years in 2012-13.

Nevertheless, for those eight individuals taking over at a new program this summer, it's meant a lot of work in a little bit of time to get things rolling. ESPN recently published a piece on new Nebraska coach Tim Miles that chronicles just how hectic life can be during a high major coach's first offseason with a new school. The article touches on how Miles' family had stayed behind in his old homebase of Fort Collins, Colorado, while trying to sell a house and get ready for the move to Lincoln. It's a reality that's faced by tons of head coaches and assistants each offseason in this ever-volatile profession. .

Fortunately for those coaches trading places this season, they aren't going as far for a new gig as they did last season. On average, coaches taking over top posts at major-conference schools last summer traveled nearly 1,000 miles from old spot to new spot. This season, that figure is down to just 480 miles.

By the Numbers (major conferences)

Average Distance: 480 miles
Shortest Distance: James Johnson, Virginia Tech (0 miles - promoted)
Next Shortest Distance: John Groce, Illinois (372 miles)
Longest Distance: Frank Martin, South Carolina (1,115 miles)

The trend toward decreased travel between positions has also been observed at the mid-major level this offseason. Whereas last year the average distance traveled was 630 miles, this season it's down to 454 miles. When excluding coaches who were promoted from assistant to head coach, the trend holds true to form: 751 miles in 2011 to 611 miles in 2012.

By the Numbers (mid-majors)

Average Distance: 454 miles
Average Distance Excluding Promotions: 611 miles
Shortest Distance: Nine promotions (0 miles)
Next Shortest Distance: Jamion Christian, Mount St. Mary's (171 miles)
Longest Distance: Nick Robinson, Southern Utah (1,641 miles)
Average Distance First-Time Head Coaches: 363 miles
Average Distance Experienced Head Coaches: 590 miles

Another interesting fact revealed through these numbers is that coaches with past head coaching experience tended to move farther on average than first-time hires. Mid-majors tend to pull first-time hires from the staffs of larger nearby universities. For example, Mount St. Mary's stuck to the region when it nabbed Jamion Christian from VCU. Tulsa likewise did not have to go far to find Danny Manning, who was an assistant at Kansas.

On the other end of the spectrum are the retreads and ladder-climbers of the bunch, who traveled longer distances by comparison. Jim Christian (TCU to Ohio) and Doug Wojcik (Tulsa to Charleston) covered considerable ground to find new positions, and even the recently successful Larry Eustachy took a large leap in going from Southern Mississippi to Colorado State. Name recognition and a history of head coaching are likely the major components behind these guys traveling further for a new job than does the typical up-and-coming assistant on a mid-major bench.

Mid-major programs were more likely to promote an assistant from their own benches than to hire a high-major assistant this year. Nine programs hired from within, and three more hired guys who were assistants at mid-majors. By comparison, seven programs hired an assistant from a major-conference bench. There was just one first-time head coach who was hired after not being in basketball last season (Pat Kelsey to Winthrop).

As of this writing, all positions that were opened have been filled, which means the coaching carousel should be done spinning. Though as Rob Murphy almost proved a few weeks back, movement can come at unexpected times. In the meantime, the coaching profession should celebrate this relatively stable offseason that saw fewer changes and less distance traveled between jobs. If the last few years have shown us anything, it's that this type of calm offseason is not the norm.

Follow Corey Schmidt on Twitter: @cjschmidt1. This free article is an example of the content available to Basketball Prospectus Premium subscribers. See our Premium page for more details and to subscribe.

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