There ended up being just one coaching change in college basketball's top seven conferences in the 2020 cycle with Steve Forbes taking over for Danny Manning at Wake Forest. With universities bracing for the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis, many that may have made changes under normal circumstances opted to let their coaches continue for another season rather than pay a buyout and pony up cash for a new coach.
Now the bill may be coming due for some of those coaches that got a free pass after last season. College football's active coaching carousel removed the stigma from executing a coaching change during the pandemic, and there has already been more movement on the basketball side this season than last. Penn State and Wichita State have been operating under interim coaches this season after parting with their former head coaches just before the season following internal investigations, while Boston College fired Jim Christian on Feb. 15.
In total, there are already 11 Division I openings, and that total figures to grow significantly in the next few weeks as team's end their seasons and athletic directors evaluate their programs. So for this week's edition of the Dribble Handoff, our writers are naming the coaches whose seats are the hottest.
Dave Leitao, DePaul
DePaul finished alone in last in the Big East standings in 2017, tied for last in 2018, tied for last in 2019 and alone in last in 2020. Consequently, Dave Leitao was on everybody's hot seat lists entering this season. Now that his Blue Demons are once again alone in last in the Big East standings, just 2-10 in a league where everybody else has at least six conference victories, there's just no reason to expect him to still be in charge next season -- especially not with first-year athletic director Dwayne Peevy anxious to make what will be the first headline-grabbing hire of his career.
Peevy spent 12 years at Kentucky before he accepted the job at DePaul, so he knows what a quality basketball program looks like. And this isn't it. So the surest bet connected to the coaching carousel, at this moment, has Leitao being removed next month and replaced by someone who will be asked to return DePaul to a respectable place in the sport. -- Gary Parrish
Richard Pitino, Minnesota
The Golden Gophers have had their table turned over in the past six weeks. This is a team that was 10-2 four days into the new year, looking well-established and well on its way to the NCAA Tournament. Minnesota's gone 3-8 since, putting its Big Dance outlook in jeopardy and, in the process, bringing Pitino's job security into question. I agree with Parrish's pick of Leitao; a change there is a matter of time. But beyond him, Pitino's situation could be as hot as anyone else in a major conference given how Minnesota is losing (and losing by large margins) lately.
This is Pitino's eighth season with the program. He's made two NCAA Tournaments and had a sub-.500 team last season. Overall record: 140-118. For me, it comes down to this: If Minnesota makes the NCAAs, Pitino stays. If it doesn't, he doesn't. -- Matt Norlander