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2021 Big East Coach Stability Rankings

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Two new faces entered the mix this offseason.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-North Texas at Villanova Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since 2019, the Big East saw some movement on the coaching carousel. Marquette’s Steve Wojciechowski, who had been with the program since 2014, was replaced by former Texas coach Shaka Smart, while DePaul ended Dave Leitao’s second stint and brought in Oregon assistant Tony Stubblefield. Interestingly, it has now been three seasons since any coach left a Big East school for another program.

Without further ado, here’s a look at the 11 coaches heading into the 2021-22 season.

Rock solid

Jay Wright, Villanova

Another season, another Big East title, another Sweet 16, and another NCAA title caliber roster returning. No program is running as smoothly as Villanova right now, and Wright is a few retirements away from being the face of college basketball. Add in that Doc Rivers is fully entrenched as the Sixers coach, and it’s pretty clear that Wright isn’t going anywhere.

Most likely scenario to leave: Wright coaches until he’s 70 years old and then decides to spend more time at the beach.

Earliest possible departure: 2032

Shaka Smart, Marquette

The Golden Eagles and the Big East made quite a statement by luring away the head coach of Texas. While Smart is a big name, there are still some questions about how great of a coach he is after a shaky stint in Austin. However, the bar is so low at Marquette that any success will be accepted, at least initially. He figures to eventually make the Golden Eagles a perennial tournament team and challenger for the league title.

Most likely scenario to leave: Having already been at a big school, it seems unlikely Smart would do that again. So it would appear the only way he leaves is if he’s eventually fired. The leash will certainly be long so expect to see Smart in the Big East for quite some time.

Earliest possible departure: 2025

Dan Hurley, UConn

In his first year in the Big East, Hurley made some noise and got into the NCAA tournament. A healthy James Bouknight may have allowed the Huskies to challenge for the league title. Overall, the season has to be considered a success, and there’s no inkling that either Hurley or UConn is looking for this marriage to end anytime soon.

Most likely scenario to leave: UConn is one of the top jobs out there, so it’s hard to see him bolting anywhere. He’d likely get a call for Syracuse and has a loose Duke connection, but either scenario seems unlikely. As some one who has climbed the ladder from every level, the NBA may be appealing at some point.

Earliest possible departure: 2024

Kevin Willard, Seton Hall

Last season was a tough one for the Pirates, but after what would have been six-straight NCAA tournament appearances, Willard is allowed an off year. From a university perspective, there seems to be no reason to get rid of Williard. From a Willard perspective, probably not but maybe. Seton Hall is a tough place to coach and recruit, and as a still young coach, maybe at some point he looks for a better spot.

Most likely scenario to leave: Willard gets tired of roster rebuilding nearly every season and looks for a place that’s easier to recruit. A job like Pittsburgh (where he played), Louisville (where he was an assistant) or Syracuse opens up, and he views it as an upgrade.

Earliest possible departure: 2023

Ed Cooley, Providence

It was a tough year for Cooley and Providence, who never were able to hit their stride. The result is now three-straight seasons without a postseason appearance, although the Friars may have made the NCAA tournament in 2020. How ever you want to slice it, that’s a streak you want to stop. Cooley is a local and there is no indication that the seat is anywhere close to hot, but he by no means has a lifetime contract, and he’ll need to get back to the dance soon.

Most likely scenario to leave: After flirting with some big name programs recently, the lack of results the last three years will probably put an end to that for a bit. If he does leave, which is a huge if, it would likely be because Providence failed to make the NCAA tournament in at least the next two seasons.

Earliest possible departure: 2023

Patrick Ewing, Georgetown

In a March miracle, Ewing led the Hoyas to a Big East title, securing an NCAA tourney bid in the process. For job security, that run is massive, as otherwise, the 2021-22 season may have been Ewing’s last chance to show he has what it takes to turn Georgetown around. However, player retention continues to be a major issue, as Qudus Wahab left the program following the season. With him, the Hoyas would have been a surefire NCAA tournament squad.

Most likely scenario to leave: Ewing isn’t going anywhere, pro or college, so like others on this list, the only way out is with a pink slip. The Big East title should buy him another two years. During that time, he’ll need to prove 2021 was no fluke and that he can keep his top players around.

Earliest possible departure: 2023

Mike Anderson, St. John’s

Anderson has done a terrific job in two years at St. John’s and has given the program an identity again. The Red Storm will be in the NCAA tournament conversation next season and only appear to be heading up. That being said, Anderson is 0-for-2 on making the Big Dance, and not making it next season would feel like a bit of a letdown. Eventually he will need to make the field if he wants a sense of job security.

Most likely scenario to leave: Like Smart, a big-time job is already on Anderson’s resume so it pretty much seems like this is the end of the line for him. So as alluded to earlier, the most likely way out is if Anderson fails to make the next two NCAA tournaments.

Earliest possible departure: 2023

Tony Stubblefield, DePaul

The Dave Leitao successor was a very out-of-the-box hire. However, it probably says a lot about Stubblefield that Oregon fans were very upset when he left. He’s known as a good recruiter but has only interim coaching experience to this point. He’ll need the players to make this work, as DePaul has become one of the toughest jobs in the country despite the location and arena.

Most likely scenario to leave: Two real scenarios here. First, he can’t recruit there, DePaul gets worse and he’s out in two years. Second, he’s very successful and becomes a hot name. If the latter occurs, he could eventually be a successor for Dana Altman at Oregon.

Earliest possible departure: 2023

Some cause for concern

Travis Steele, Xavier

Steele looks the part and recruits well. His team also was likely poised for a tournament bid this season and maybe last season before the effects of the pandemic kicked in. But the fact remains that in three years at Xavier, Steele has yet to make the NCAA tournament and has never done better than 9-9 in conference. For a program that isn’t far removed from a No. 1 overall seed, that isn’t going to cut it. The pressure will ramp up if he can’t make the field in 2022.

Most likely scenario to leave: Once a hot name, Steele is now more likely to exit from lack of performance. It’s a make or break year in 2021-22, and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that a very poor season could be his last. The best guess though is that he’s given a two-year window to get the program back on track.

Earliest possible departure: 2023

LaVall Jordan, Butler

It wasn’t a great season for Butler, but that wasn’t a huge surprise given the roster. Jordan had the Bulldogs playing hard, and they grabbed a win over Villanova late in the season. The lack of consistency is the biggest issue for Jordan. In five seasons as a head coach, he’s only had a winning record twice. With that in consideration, it would seem like Jordan has one of the warmer seats in the conference.

Most likely scenario to leave: Jordan gets two more seasons and fails to earn a winning record in either of them. It’s possible, but not likely, that with a truly awful 2021-22 that Butler could look in another direction.

Earliest possible departure: 2022

Not a lock to be here in 2022-23

Greg McDermott, Creighton

Obviously this has has nothing to do with performance and everything to do with his comments from last season. Creighton stood by him and allowed him to finish the season after a brief suspension. However, the program already lost a key recruit in the aftermath of McDermott’s comments, and that will get the attention of many. McDermott is clearly on thin ice, and anything from another controversial comment to a bad season could be enough to pull the plug.

Most likely scenario to leave: Creighton has a disappointing 2021-22 season and misses the NCAA tournament. If he’s not winning games, administration sees no reason to keep him around.

Earliest possible departure: 2022