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Offseason Stats: A Look At Every Big Ten Coaching Hire Since 1995

Forty-four hires: some good, some bad

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the first of what I hope will be a several-posts-long offseason series, where I use math to analyze the hiring decisions that schools make. But before we can do any fancy regressions, we have to have an underlying data set. This post summarizes the data that I’ll be using.

Since 1995, there have been forty-four head coaches hired in the Big Ten. (I’m including hires made by Nebraska, Maryland, and Rutgers even though they weren’t officially conference members yet during some of those years.) I picked 1995 because that’s the year that Michigan State hired Tom Izzo, and I wanted every school to have at least one data point.

I’m tracking the following information for each hire:

  • Coach hired
  • School hiring him
  • Year hired
  • Previous school (or NBA team)
  • Type of hire (There are six categories here. From most to least common they are: non-power conference head coach, power conference head coach, promotion from assistant coach at current school, assistant at power conference school, NBA assistant, NBA head coach)
  • Conference winning % at previous school. (This is the first number shown after the coach’s name)
  • Conference winning % at Big Ten school. (This is the second number shown after the coach’s name)
  • Years at Big Ten school
  • Whether the hire can be called successful or not. (In my data set, this is either a 0 or a 1, but some hires got a 0.5 because we either don’t have enough data yet or because their success at a school is still a matter of contention to this day.)

This will be a long post, so let’s get to it.


Michigan State, Tom Izzo (N/A; .696)

Internal promotion from assistant coach. Just completed his 24th season at Michigan State. Phenomenally successful hire.

Penn State, Jerry Dunn (N/A; .341)

Internal promotion from assistant coach. Lasted eight seasons at Penn State. Unsuccessful hire.

Wisconsin, Dick Bennett (.660; .463)

Non-power conference hire—Green Bay. Lasted 6 seasons (and three games) at Wisconsin. Don’t let that sub-.500 record fool you; this was a monstrously successful hire given where Wisconsin was when he started.


Michigan, Brian Ellerbe (.548; .208)

Non-power conference hire—Loyola. Lasted four seasons at Michigan. Unsuccessful hire.

Northwestern, Kevin O’Neil (.368; .188)

Power conference hire—Tennessee. Lasted three seasons at Northwestern. Unsuccessful hire. Lowest conference winning percentage of any (non-Rutgers) coach on this list.

Ohio State, Jim O’Brien (.363; .545)

Power conference hire—Boston College. Lasted seven seasons at Ohio State. Unsuccessful hire. Took the Buckeyes to the Final Four, but had recruiting violations and that appearance was vacated.

Rutgers, Kevin Bannon (???; .353)

Non-power conference hire—Rider. Lasted four seasons at Rutgers. Unsuccessful hire. Note: this was the only name on the list I didn’t recognize, and the only one whose Wikipedia page doesn’t contain a season-by-season summary of his coaching tenure, so I couldn’t include his winning percentage at Rider.


Iowa, Steve Alford (.625; .477)

Non-power conference hire—SW Missouri State (now just Missouri State). Lasted eight seasons at Iowa. Whether or not he should be regarded as a successful hire is a matter of some controversy.

Minnesota, Dan Monson (.786; .393)

Non-power conference hire—Gonzaga. Lasted eight seasons at Minnesota. Unsuccessful hire.


Illinois, Bill Self (.714; .729)

Non-power conference hire—Tulsa. Coached three seasons at Illinois before being hired away by another power conference school. (The only coach in the data who willingly departed the Big Ten for a better job.) Phenomenally successful hire.

Indiana, Mike Davis (N/A; .573)

Internal promotion from assistant coach. Lasted six seasons at Indiana. This is another instance where whether he was a success or not is not cut-and-dried. I lean toward no, but even though he was no Bob Knight, his overall tenure was certainly better than all other post-Knight Hoosier coaches.

Northwestern, Bill Carmody (.893; .318)

Non-power conference hire—Princeton. Lasted thirteen seasons at Northwestern. I’m calling him a success, given what he had to work with. Carmody is a Big Ten legend for those of us of a certain age who grew up watching his teams back-cut you to death.

Wisconsin, Brad Soderberg (N/A; .563)

Internal promotion from assistant coach. (Took over when Dick Bennett quit three games into the season.) Lasted only the one year. Unsuccessful hire, though it’s not like the Badgers had any other options at the time.


Michigan, Tommy Amaker (.471; .448)

Power-conference hire—Seton Hall. Lasted six seasons at Michigan. Unsuccessful hire. This is actually one of the most head-scratching hires on the list. The guy had one halfway decent season at Seton Hall where he tied for fourth in the Big East, and you hire him to coach at Michigan??

Rutgers, Gary Waters (.611; .350)

Non-power conference hire—Kent State. Lasted five seasons at Rutgers. Unsuccessful hire, though Rutgers hasn’t had a winning season since he left.

Wisconsin, Bo Ryan (.464; .717)

Non-power conference hire—UW-Milwaukee. Lasted fourteen (and a half) seasons at Wisconsin. Arguably the greatest hire in Big Ten history, given that he had a losing conference record at Milwaukee and never once finished lower than fourth in the Big Ten.


Illinois, Bruce Weber (.689; .578)

Non-power conference hire—Southern Illinois. Lasted nine seasons at Illinois. Ongoing debate about whether he was successful or not.

Penn State, Ed Dechellis (.550; .301)

Non-power conference hire—East Tennessee State. Lasted eight seasons at Penn State. Unsuccessful hire.


Ohio State, Thad Matta (.813; .658)

Non-power conference hire—Xavier. Lasted thirteen seasons at Ohio State and would probably have won multiple national championships if he didn’t have a bad back and a drop foot. Phenomenally successful hire, even if his tenure did end with his firing.


Purdue, Matt Painter (.944; .632)

Internal promotion from assistant coach, though not really, since Painter was hired as an assistant with the intention of taking over from Gene Keady after one season. That gaudy prior-school winning percentage is from his one season 17-1 at Southern Illinois. Just completed his fourteenth season at Purdue. Successful hire.


Indiana, Kelvin Sampson (.681; .724)

Power conference hire—Oklahoma. Lasted a season and a half at Indiana before being fired for recruiting violations. Program ended up getting nuked, not from the recruiting violations alone but also from the poor culture and the number of “bad kids” who had to be kicked off the roster after his departure. A good hire at the time, but in hindsight the worst hire on this list.

Nebraska, Doc Sadler (.781; .347)

Non-power conference hire—UTEP. Lasted six seasons at Nebraska. Unsuccessful hire. Curiously, has now returned to Nebraska as a Fred Hoiberg assistant.

Rutgers, Fred Hill (N/A; .186)

Internal promotion from assistant coach. Lasted four years at Rutgers. Unsuccessful hire.


Iowa, Todd Lickliter (.677; .278)

Non-power conference hire—Butler. Lasted three seasons at Iowa. Unsuccessful hire, though at the time it didn’t seem so bad; Lickliter had a NCOY award on his shelf.

Michigan, John Beilein (.500; .578)

Power conference hire—West Virginia. Michigan’s last hire was a guy who was under .500 in the Big East. They replaced him with... a guy who was exactly .500 in the Big East. But it worked out. Beilein just finished his 12th season at Michigan and has been a very successful hire.

Minnesota, Tubby Smith (.750; .426)

Power-conference hire—Kentucky. Yep, Kentucky. Minnesota hired a coach away from Kentucky, a coach who had won a national championship. On paper, this was the biggest home run hire since Thad Matta, and Minnesota didn’t have football money like Ohio State did. But Tubby never had a single season where he finished above .500 in the Big Ten. In retrospect, an unsuccessful hire.


Indiana, Dan Dakich (.500; .600)

Internal promotion from assistant coach after Kelvin Sampson was fired. (The prior-school record above is from his time at Bowling Green.) Was not retained as Indiana’s coach following the conclusion of the 2008 season. Went on to become the best color guy on TV not named Bill Raftery. Unsuccessful hire as a basketball coach, though.

Indiana, Tom Crean (.616; .438)

Power-conference hire—Marquette. Lasted nine seasons at Indiana. Launcher of a thousand memes. In the same category as Alford, Weber, and Davis... fans loved him, then hated him, then realized the next guy didn’t do any better.


Iowa, Fran McCaffery (.616; .438)

Non-power conference hire—Sienna. Just finished his ninth season at Iowa. I’m calling him a success. But for one freshman-heavy season, he’s elevated the Hawkeyes to a consistent top half of the league program.

Rutgers, Mike Rice (.852; .296)

Non-power conference hire—Robert Morris. Lasted three seasons at Rutgers. If the Sampson hire was the worst on the list, this one was a close second. It’s one thing to lose; it’s another to have your name become synonymous with player abuse.


Maryland, Mark Turgeon (.594; .569)

Power-conference hire—Texas A&M. Just finished his eighth season at Maryland. Even though he’s been there eight years, he gets an Incomplete. It’s still possible that he’s The Guy.

Penn State, Pat Chambers (.719; .308)

Non-power conference hire—Boston U. Just finished his eighth season at Penn State. Another guy who gets an Incomplete. Yeah, no NCAA Tournament so far, but he can recruit Philly and it’s pretty obvious that he’s the archetype that Penn State’s program needs if they’re ever going to be successful. If he gets fired after this season, I’ll definitely say he’s unsuccessful, but I have a hard time saying that definitively while he still has a job.


Illinois, John Groce (.531; .411)

Non-power conference hire—Ohio. Lasted five seasons at Illinois. Unsuccessful hire.

Nebraska, Tim Miles (.359; 406)

Non-power conference hire—Colorado State. Lasted seven seasons at Nebraska. Unsuccessful hire. Sometimes when you hire a guy that has a losing conference record, you get a Bo Ryan. Other times you get a Tommy Amaker. Miles was a Tommy Amaker.


Minnesota, Richard Pitino (.550; .364)

Non-power conference hire—FIU. Just finished his sixth season at Minnesota. He and Matt Painter are the only two coaches to be hired into a Big Ten job after just one season at a smaller school. Richard gets an incomplete. His overall results have been worse than Tubby, but he’s hit higher highs and has more upside.

Northwestern, Chris Collins (N/A; .364)

Power-conference assistant—Duke. Just finished his sixth season at Northwestern. Interestingly, has the exact same Big Ten record as Richard Pitino. I don’t think Collins’ future is as bright as Pitino’s but I’m calling this hire a success since he is the only man who has ever led Northwestern to an NCAA Tournament berth (and won a game).

Rutgers, Eddie Jordan (N/A; .148)

NBA assistant—Los Angeles Lakers. Lasted three seasons at Northwestern. Unsuccessful hire; in fact, the lowest conference winning percentage of all 44 hires.


Wisconsin, Greg Gard (N/A; .608)

Internal promotion from assistant coach. What is is with Wisconsin and good coaches resigning in the middle of the season? Bo Ryan pulled a Dick Bennett and left mid-year, leaving the top job to be filled by his top assistant. Unlike Brad Soderberg, though, Gard was retained in the job, and just finished his third full season as head man. He also gets an Incomplete.


Rutgers, Steve Pikiell (.606; .232)

Non-power conference hire—Stony Brook. Just finished his third season at Rutgers. Even though the overall record is poor, the momentum is on his side, and pretty much everyone expects Rutgers to continue improving. Given that Rutgers was the worst power conference program in America when Pikiell took over, that’s enough for me to already call him a success.


Illinois, Brad Underwood (.500; .289)

Power-conference hire—Oklahoma State. Just finished his second season at Illinois. Incomplete.

Indiana, Archie Miller (.667; .447)

Non-power conference hire—Dayton. Just finished his second season at Indiana. Incomplete.

Ohio State, Chris Holtmann (.630; .605)

Power-conference hire—Butler. Just finished his second season at Ohio State. Has done great things with lesser talent, and he has boffo talent coming in. Maybe it’s a little speculative, but I’d be shocked if this hire was anything but successful


Nebraska, Fred Hoiberg (.557; N/A)

NBA head coach—Chicago Bulls. The record above is from Hoiberg’s time at Iowa State. This is one of those hires that’s a home run on paper, but the Tubby-to-Minnesota example should give us pause. There’s no way we can give Fred anything but an Incomplete at this point.