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May 11, 2007

Which hoops coaches survived the hot seat?

We have reason to be proud of many of our preseason picks.

There are a few we're not thrilled with, and a couple we missed badly.

Our list of the top 10 coaches on the hot seat heading into last season holds up well under further scrutiny.

Five of our selections were either fired or resigned under pressure. Four of those have landed head coaching jobs of lesser stature, and one remains unemployed.

That's not to say we didn't have some misses.

South Carolina's Dave Odom, who landed at No. 9 on our list, was rewarded with a two-year contract extension during the middle of a 14-16 season in 2006-07. Obviously, Odom's job security wasn't nearly as fragile as we thought.

Then there's Arkansas' Stan Heath, who was apparently under a lot more pressure than we believed. Heath, who was not on the list, was fired despite reaching a second consecutive NCAA Tournament.

Here's a look at how the 10 coaches on the list fared:

How Our 10 Coaches on the Hot Seat Fared
1. Ricardo Patton, Colorado
Unlike most of the names on this list, Patton never had to answer any questions about his job status. The Nashville native avoided all that by announcing in late October that he'd be stepping down at the end of the season. With a talent-depleted roster and a contract that ran only until the end of the 2006-07 season, Patton knew what was coming next. The Buffaloes went just 7-21, suffering 41-point and 38-point losses to New Mexico and Air Force. But that ugly run didn't prevent Patton from landing a head coaching job at Northern Illinois.
2. Ernie Kent, Oregon
Picked to finish fourth in the Pac-10, the Ducks wound up winning the league tournament. The Ducks won 29 games and were one victory short of a trip to the Final Four. Pat Kilkenny, Oregon's new athletic director, was clearly pleased with Kent's peformance. The Ducks would have had to pay a $2.4 million buyout to fire Kent, a likely outcome if the team had missed out on the NCAA Tournament for a fourth consecutive year. Instead, Kent has a new five-year extension and the program has much more stability.
3. Tubby Smith, Kentucky
Instead of sticking around the Bluegrass State for another pressure-packed year, Smith bolted for Minnesota. Reports later came out revealing that the move perhaps the most shocking of the 2006-07 season had been in the works for up to six weeks. He averaged 26 wins and won a national title during his 10-year tenure in Lexington, but a failure to get back to the Final Four after the 1998 championship season ultimately led to his departure. The former Georgia and Tulsa coach takes over a struggling Gophers program that has been to one NCAA Tournament in the past eight years.
4. Dan Monson, Minnesota
Smith's predecessor didn't even make it to December last season. Monson resigned on Nov. 30 after a 2-5 start that included losses at home to Marist and Montana. The former Gonzaga coach's exit had more to do with struggles in Big Ten play. During the Monson era, the Gophers were 44-68 against league opponents. He took the head coaching job at Long Beach State last month. The 49ers are coming off their first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 12 years.
5. Mike Brey, Notre Dame
Nobody exceeded expectations more on this list than Brey and the Irish, who were coming off three consecutive trips to the NIT. Picked to finish 12th in the Big East, they wound up fourth. The Irish won 24 games and easily reached the NCAA Tournament. Brey received a two-year extension and is now under contract until 2013. The emergence of guards Russell Carter and Tory Jackson propelled the Irish to a great season. Carter raised his scoring average from 11.5 ppg to 17.1 ppg. Jackson - a true freshman - had a near 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
6. Tommy Amaker, Michigan
The Wolverines finished a couple of wins shy of an NCAA Tournament bid for the second consecutive year, but this time it proved costly. Amaker was fired after a second-round loss to Florida State in the NIT and was replaced by former West Virginia coach John Beilein. Amaker never led the Wolverines to the NCAA Tournament in his six years in Ann Arbor. The former Duke assistant landed in the Ivy League. He took over a Harvard program that hasn't been to the big dance since 1946.
7. Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt
Vandy should probably feel fortunate it held on to Stallings this offseason. Its eighth-year coach was one of the top candidates for the jobs at Iowa and Michigan, and his name was linked to other openings. That was all the result of the Commodores' unexpected run to the Sweet 16. They won 22 games and pulled off a second consecutive sweep of SEC East rival Kentucky. Another season like that and Stallings won't be sticking around much longer.
8. Tim Welsh, Providence
The Friars showed significant improvement, pulling off their first winning season (18-13) in three years. That was apparently enough to keep Welsh in place, but not with a contract extension (his current deal runs through 2009). To earn that, he'll probably have to get back to the NCAA Tournament. That means finding a way to replace leading scorer Herbert Hill (18.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg). Fortunately for the Friars and their ninth-year coach, six of the top seven other scorers were freshmen or sophomores.
9. Dave Odom, South Carolina
The Gamecocks suffered the kind of season that normally costs a coach on the hot seat his job, going 4-12 in the SEC. But Odom's contract was extended up to 2010 in early January. The arrival of some high-profile transfers helped convince Athletic Director Eric Hyman that a turnaround is in the works. Guards Devan Downey (Cincinnati) and Zam Frederick (Georgia Tech) and forward Mike Jones (Syracuse) are each talented enough to make big contributions next season.
10. Robert McCullum, South Florida
The McCullum era lasted only four years in Tampa. He was fired after going 3-13 in the Big East. The previous season, its first in the Big East, USF won just one league game. The Bulls, who return leading scorer and rebounder Kentrell Granbsberry (15.6 ppg, 11.4 rpg), might have pulled off one of the best hires of the offseason by replacing McCullum with Stan Heath. The former Arkansas coach led the Hogs to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances and also proved to be a solid recruiter in the SEC.

Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.

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