Head coach LaVall Jordan stands on the sideline during a game last season. Jordan is entering his third season as Butler’s head coach. Collegian file photo.
DREW SANDIFER | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
As the month of October draws to an end, it can only mean one thing: college basketball season is right around the corner. Players are getting into regular season shape, coaches are preparing for their non-conference schedule and fans are slowly turning their attention away from the gridiron and onto the court.
For many teams across the country, it’s a new opportunity to continue their successes or change their losing ways. The coaches’ hot seat will only get warmer as the season progresses.
It is customary for college programs to give their head coaches three years to prove that they can succeed at the school for the long haul. In this time, the coaches are able to recruit players for the system they want to run and build a legacy that is unique from that of their predecessors.
How exactly do you turn a program around in three years with the staples of Coach K, Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, Coach Cal and Bill Self hogging the limelight of blue-chip programs? Schools of Power 6 programs — ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, SEC, and Pac-12 — are looking to create program tradition themselves.
With that pursuit in mind, The Collegian set out to find a metric that could measure which coaches are on a path to being a top-tier coach in the country. With the third year of a coach’s stay at a specific school being so critical to success, we chose these coaches because they are all entering their third season at their Power 6 school. Coaches high on this list are likely well on their way to stay in the coaching scene for a long time.
Among that group of third-year coaches is Butler head coach LaVall Jordan. After missing the NCAA Tournament last season, his third year is just as important as any other.
First and foremost, the goal of every Division I coach in America is to find their way to the NCAA Tournament come March. Seasons are validated on that achievement alone. Coaches that received a bid to the Big Dance received five points in our metric, and every win in March Madness is 10 points.
Secondly, a coach needs to show dominance in regular season and in their conference. Coaches that won the regular season or conference tournament crown received 10 points.
Also, great coaches find ways to win against elite opposition, especially when they don’t have their home faithful behind them for support. Coaches that won a home game against a top-25 opponent received two points, while winning a game against a ranked opponent in a road or neutral environment received four points.
Lastly, but certainly not least, a good coach needs to be able to recruit. At the end of the day, a coach can only do so much; only the players can put the ball in the basket. A Division I coach’s ability to convince high-level talent to join their program is a major contributing factor to the team’s long-term success. Coaches that got a commitment from a top 25 nationally-ranked recruit according to ESPN received eight points. A recruit ranked 26-50 will receive six points, 51-75 nets a coach four points, and 76-100 gets him two points.
With all of these parameters in place, it’s time to see how Butler’s Jordan stacks up against the rest of the country’s head men.
- Will Wade, Louisiana State University – 91 points
- Chris Holtmann, Ohio State University – 76 points
- Mike Hopkins, University of Washington – 53 points
- Cuonzo Martin, University of Missouri – 41 points
- Archie Miller, Indiana University – 32 points
- Kevin Keatts, NC State University – 29 points
- Mike Boynton Jr., Oklahoma State University – 22 points
- LaVall Jordan, Butler University – 19 points
- Brad Underwood, University of Illinois – 18 points
- Patrick Ewing, Georgetown University – 10 points
Graphic created using Data Gif Maker by Google News Lab.
Immediately evident is the fact that the coaches at the top were put in a better situation to succeed than the teams at the bottom. Wade had two very successful years at VCU before taking the reins for LSU. Holtmann had built a strong recruiting reputation at Butler before taking all those connections to Ohio State.
Big programs with seemingly endless budgets can also pick off the most successful coaches from a tier below, and those coaches bring their recruiting connections with them. Meanwhile, Butler picks up Jordan, who had coached one year at UW-Milwaukee. Naturally, it’s going to take more time to build those connections with high school hoopers.
Another thing that proved evident was how much recruiting played a role in these rankings, and how that can affect team success. Wade had the likes of Tremont Waters and Naz Reid, and he turned them from SEC mediocrity to the regular season champion.
Butler is an exception to this rule because they are historically known to take players that fit with their program’s character and play that underdog role. Certain programs like Butler, Wichita State or VCU are known to excel with players that big-time programs overlooked. And that can be more of an indicator of good coaching than anything else.
Make no mistake, Jordan has not seen the immediate success Holtmann has had at Ohio State, but that should not be a reason to dismiss him. Remember, Butler went 4-14 in Big East play the year after Brad Stevens left to join the coaching ranks in the NBA.
It will take some time for Jordan to mold this program into what he wants it to be. Don’t look now, but that time is sooner than you think.
Despite having no top 100 recruits in the 2020 recruiting class, Jordan currently holds the tenth-ranked recruiting class in the country, according to 247Sports. While he may not be reflected well in this metric now, he may very well be on his way to the top.