Todd Lickliter got a new job this week.
The former Butler and Iowa head coach, who was fired by the Hawkeyes in the spring of 2010, didn't get a job as a head coach. He didn't get a job as an associate head coach, either. Hell, he didn't even land with a high-major program. Charlie Coles, the longtime head coach of Miami-Ohio, has hired Lickliter as an assistant coach.
This is significant. This moves matters.
But before I get into that, the background: Perhaps the most interesting piece of information that I came across while researching the 2011 Coaching Carousel was just how many coaches opted to stay at their current school, leveraging a raise through their perceived interest in changing jobs.
Some of these contract extensions weren't necessarily a huge surprise. Marquette was able to lock Buzz Williams into a seven year extension -- with a very high buyout -- when Oklahoma and Texas Tech came calling. Matt Painter used Missouri's vacancy as a way to get a longer, and more lucrative, contract out of typically-stingy Purdue. Sean Miller got an extra two years and $100,000 from Arizona thanks to Maryland's inquiries.
None of those extensions are particularly surprising, however. From a purely basketball perspective, Marquette, Purdue, and Arizona are all very good jobs to have that offer high salaries and a comfortable place to raise a family.
There were some surprises, however.
Take, for example, Shaka Smart. VCU's hotshot young head coach, who was fresh off of a Final Four run with a Ram program known for churning out successful high-major head coaches, turned down all suitors -- trust me, there were many and would have been many more -- by signing an eight-year extension worth $1.2 million a year. While that salary is a significant raise for Smart, its likely much lower than what he could have commanded as a "free agent", if you will.
The same can be said for the head coach of Smart's crosstown rival, Richmond. Chris Mooney led the Spiders to the Sweet 16 in 2011, which impressed the higher-ups at Richmond to extend his contract through 2021. The move came as a preemptive strike -- Mooney was involved with the Boston College coaching search back in 2010, but got his extension before anyone showed major interest this year.
Wichita State's Gregg Marshall -- who extended his contract through 2018 -- and Harvard's Tommy Amaker -- who leveraged more resources for his program -- also parlayed their success into a better situation at their current school. And who can forget about Brad Stevens' and the 12 year contract he signed with the Bulldogs after their first title-game run?
There are a multitude of reasons why these mid-major coaches opted against the high-major gigs that would have been available to them. All five (Smart, Mooney, Marshall, Amaker, Stevens) are making a substantial living, even in basketball terms. All five enjoy their current job. All five are settled where they live, their family is settled where they live, and they enjoy their workplace environment; having a boss that you get along with should not be overrated.
But there is no question that, in the back of their minds, there is something warning them about becoming the next Todd Lickliter.
You see, at one point Lickliter was the hotshot mid-major head coach. He took over for Thad Matta at Butler in 2001 and carried on the Bulldog tradition. When the head coaching position at Iowa opened up, Lickliter jumped at the opportunity. The problem? Iowa may have been a raise, but it was -- and still is -- a very difficult place to win games as a collegiate coach. Lickliter found that out the hard way, and after three years at Iowa and one year on his couch, Lickliter is back as a mid-major assistant, the same role he was in before getting replacing Matta a decade ago.
Quality mid-major coaches are learning. They are in the position of power. They are the hot commodities. They are the ones that can afford to hold out for a great job, not just a job in a higher-profile conference.
It appears as if the best young coaches are paying heed to the mistakes of their predecessors.
Now if we can only get the best young players to do the same.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Todd Lickliter got a new job this week.