March 22, 2011

Ask the experts: Impact of firings

MORE EXPERTS: Hokie snub | March impact | McD's talent basketball recruiting analysts Jerry Meyer and Eric Bossi weigh in on four current topics.

How big of a loss are Kevin Ware and Chris Jones for Tennessee?

Bossi: Clearly, the loss of two four-star prospects in Jones and Ware is a huge one for Tennessee because it leaves the Vols with no recruiting class if they are let out. Further, they have no coach in place to try and save the recruits, and current players who are looking to leave or explore their NBA draft options. Also, looking ahead to finding a coach, I think that they are going to have a difficult time finding somebody to take the job. However, if you put yourself in the shoes of one of the hot job candidates - say a Shaka Smart or a Chris Mooney - are you willing to take a gamble on Tennessee right now? NCAA sanctions are likely on the way, there's questions about the athletic director and the program is on the verge of turning into an utter mess. At the end of the day it is a good high-major job with facilities and money, but it is going to take somebody willing to make a pretty large leap of faith or unwilling to turn down a hefty pay raise.

Meyer: If you lose two four-star recruits, it's going to hurt. When it is your whole recruiting class, it hurts even more. And when you are expecting Jones potentially to take over the point guard position for graduating Melvin Goins, it makes it even worst. To compound the problem, Tobias Harris is even more eager to play in the NBA, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Scotty Hopson follow his lead of testing the waters.

What's the best coaching jobs - in terms of recruiting - among the schools that currently have vacancies?

Bossi: Good question because in Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Oklahoma, you have six pretty good, but maybe not great, high-major jobs that are all about equal. It's already been proven that any of those schools can lure top-level recruits. Sitting in the middle of Atlanta, Georgia Tech probably has the best natural recruiting base although North Carolina State is right there or not far behind. But, at N.C. State, you have to deal with Duke and North Carolina first for the top in-state players. At Arkansas, you are the only game in town for the top local prospects. At Oklahoma, you have the ability to dip down into Texas and the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas have produced plenty of talent in the past. Tennessee has facilities, money and a reasonably central location to lots of talent. At the end of the day, it will be the support of the school's administration and the selection of assistant coaches that determines which spot is best.

Meyer: I really like the potential of the Georgia Tech job. Atlanta is one of the top metro areas and Georgia is one of the top states for basketball talent. The school is in the middle of a vibrant city. The academics are top-notch. And Georgia Tech is not in the category of being "just a football school."

And what recently fired head coach is the best out-of-work recruiter?

Bossi: I think the answer here is former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl. Love him or hate him, he's a gigantic, perhaps larger than life, personality who loved his program and wore that on his sleeve everywhere he went.

Meyer: Former Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel certainly had a run of a couple years where he brought in a string of several McDonald's All Americans. When analyzing, however, the course of his whole stay at his school, Bruce Pearl is my pick. He virtually resurrected the Tennessee basketball program and made it relevant. Suddenly prospects from all over the country were considering Tennessee. As with all recruiting classes, there have been hits, misses, overachievers and underachievers, but the results on the court speak for themselves. That is until this year when the NCAA investigation and in-season suspension became too much for the program. Yes, you can argue that Pearl accomplished his recruiting success through cheating, but I would counter that his staff's infractions were right in line with what the majority of staffs across the country are doing. The problem for Pearl is that he lied about it to the NCAA when confronted and then didn't pull back the reigns enough afterward.

How much of a bump in recruiting can Butler expect after showing sustained success at a high level this year?

Bossi: I don't know that Butler will experience a bump in that it will start racking up top 50 players or anything like that. Those guys have been following a well-established and well-mapped plan for how to run that program. I don't see them deviating. However, it's only going to become increasingly easier for them to target high three-star and four-star talents who fit into the mold of what they've been doing.

Meyer: Butler's continued success helps ensure that the program will continue to recruit on that level of being an established power out of a mid-major conference. I don't know that another year going deep into the tournament gets them a recruit that they wouldn't have already landed. But it makes it easier for them to recruit, and holds their position as a unique national power.

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