Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Coaching Hot Seats

Our final preseason article of 2016 finishes out the circle we started with our Coaching Grades last fall and hinted at in our Bold Predictions. We close out the preseason by looking at a group of coaches whose seats are getting substantially warmer and could or should be red-hot and ready to burst without success this season.

Click here to get the 411 on our heat-level rating scale.

Michelle Gardner, Indiana [Category: Carolina Reaper]
--> No Power Five seat is hotter than Gardner's. In seven seasons at the helm of the Hoosiers, she has only posted two winning seasons and a single postseason appearance that saw them go 0-2 for an early elimination. In a Big Ten that has shown a lot more parity in recent years beneath the Wolverines and Gophers, the Hoosiers never enter the conversation.

Natalie Poole, Memphis [Category: Carolina Reaper]
--> Poole leads the 'Group of Five' in seat-hotness. That's probably not an actual term, but we'll go with it. In four years in the Bluff City, Poole's team has never won more than twenty-four games in a single season and has four one-and-done appearances in the conference tournament. The NCAA tournament doesn't even seem to be in the realm of possibility at this point. 

Jay Nelson, Rutgers [Category: Carolina Reaper]
--> Having led his squad through two conference changes in three years, Nelson has posted winning records but little more. Quick trips to the conference tournament and no NCAA postseason appearances have not helped matters. With another mediocre finish in the midst of Big Ten foes, Nelson may find himself on the way out the door for some new blood at the helm of the Scarlet Knights.

Blake Miller, Virginia [Category: Naga Viper]
--> After coming to Charlottesville after serving as Mike White's top assistant at Oregon, Miller hasn't lifted the Cavaliers to the heights some thought he might. This will be his third year at the helm of the program and is likely his make-or-break season. With a 24-83 in two years coming into 2016, even a finish at .500 may not be good enough to earn him a fourth season.

Holly Van Vlymen, Western Illinois [Category: Naga Viper]
--> After finishing as the numero uno squad in their conference in three of Van Vlymen's first five seasons, the Leathernecks have finished no higher than fourth in the past five years and have not posted a winning record overall since 2010. And four of the years in that time span including Sammy Marshall in the batting order. Another mediocre season could find the three-time Summit League Coach of the Year on her way out the door.

Amanda Lehotak, Penn State [Category: Habanero]
--> The Nittany Lions improved to earn a record just over .500 a season ago after a dismal performance in Lehotak's inaugural campaign in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions remain firmly in the middle of the conference fray, failing to break out to the true ranks of a contender. That could mean Lehotak's seat is in danger if her team fails to break out this season.

Pat Conlan, Georgetown [Category: Habanero]
--> For the only coach Georgetown softball has ever known, the time to succeed has to be immediate or the Hoyas may be looking for their second softball coach ever. The program has recorded a winning record only once this century, in 2014, and has posted twenty or more wins just one other time since 2010. In a Big East that is theoretically more competitive than has been the case at times, the Hoyas have to win tough ball games lest Conlan be shown the door.

Shana Easley, Northern Colorado [Category: Habanero]
--> As she heads into her fourth season at UNC, Easley has yet to post more than twenty wins in a season, and she only reached that mark once. With just fifty-three wins to her credit in those same three years, her squad will need to make some noise this season if she wants to earn a fifth year. A near-.500 record in conference play may be the only thing that earns her one more season.

Matt Meuchel, Nevada [Category: Habanero]
--> Meuchel has some winning seasons under his belt, but has proven underwhelming in more recent history. The Wolfpack did not emerge victorious from a single season series a year ago, and only emerged from their own hosted tournament with a winning record among the season-beginning multi-team exhibitions. He needs more than a winning record; he needs to show that his squad can be players in conference.

Jeff Breeden, Middle Tennessee [Category: Cayenne]
--> Breeden was a successful head coach at the high school ranks before jumping directly to MTSU. His squad more than doubled his career win total in 2015 but still finished several games shy of .500. With just thirty-nine victories to his credit in three seasons, he needs to finish with a winning record to cool his seat off a bit and lead his team into 2017.

Lisa Dodd, UNLV [Category: Cayenne]
--> When Dodd was hired to coach the Rebels, she came to Las Vegas as one of the top head coaching 'prospects' in the country after some time spent as an assistant at Oregon and at the professional level, but she has failed to capitalize on that hype now entering her fourth season at the controls. Though her team has finished in the upper-mid level of the conference standings, she has to yet to reach the NCAA postseason and regressed in 2015, finishing below .500 in conference play. She should get one more year to prove her viability, but without a solid performance in conference, she may rise on this list heading into next season.

Rachel Hanson, Stanford [Category: Cayenne]
--> Though Hanson has just a single season with the Cardinal under her belt, holdovers from the previous coaching administration led to issues last season and contributed greatly to the young coach losing some control over her locker room. If she can right the ship, she should be fine. If not, however, she may find herself looking for a new job sooner rather than later, used as a stepping-stone for the program that remains in tatters.

Annie Smith, Georgia Southern [Category: Serrano]
--> After some fairly even-keeled seasons during her first few years at GSU, Smith had a disastrous inaugural campaign as a member of the Sun Belt. It was bad enough that her seat is heating up even after just one season. She needs to right the ship or risk moving much higher on this list before next year.

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