The ever-changing coaching landscape of college basketball can be harsh and devastating to a program on the rise.
Just ask fans of the Kansas State Wildcats, and the Texas A&M Aggies. Wildcats coach Bob Huggins ditched Huggieville for his so-called dream job at West Virginia University, while Aggies coach Billy Gillispie bolted the Aggies for the greener pastures of the University of Kentucky.
After only one season with the Wildcats, Huggins felt it was time to move on. He felt Manhattan was too isolated to enable him to recruit blue-chip high school players. However, Huggins had the No.1 incoming recruiting class according to many experts. The class included rivals.com No.1 ranked player, forward Michael Beasley, the MVP of this year’s McDonalds’ All-American game, who was set to join rivals No.7 ranked player Bill Walker.
Tim Weiser, Wildcats athletic director, made what may prove to be a critical mistake in attempting to minimize the damage of the Huggins departure. Weiser was in full panic mode, feeling the prized recruits would go their separate ways with Huggins no longer in the fold. By promoting inexperienced assistant coach Frank Martin, Weiser gambled the program’s future in an attempt to retain Huggins’ recruits. Ironically, Beasley may play only one year for the Wildcats before declaring for the NBA draft.
Martin was a successful high school coach in Florida, but was fired when it was found that players had been illegally recruited to the school. Further illustrating his panic, Weiser promoted 27-year-old Dalonte Hill as associate head coach. Hill was part of the package that enticed Beasley to come to K-State.
Gillispie jilted Texas A&M after the school, worried that he would bolt for the vacant Arkansas post, rewarded him with a significant salary bump. Gillispie rejected Arkansas, but jumped at the chance to take over the tradition-rich Kentucky program. As for Arkansas, they offered their job to five high profile coaches, who all declined. The sixth in line, Creighton coach Dana Altman, accepted. After one day on the job, Altman changed his mind and resigned, scurrying back to the Omaha school.
Arkansas is once again in the market for a coach. The chances are good they will find one who will put aside loyalty to their school for a new challenge and a fatter paycheck.