Ollie Replaces Calhoun at UConn: How 10 Other Famous Coaches' Successors Fared
The University of Connecticut announced its first new head men's basketball coach in 26 years on Thursday. Former UConn guard Kevin Ollie (left) took over from his mentor Jim Calhoun (right), the man who took UConn from basketball irrelevance to three national championships.
Calhoun leaves the Huskies with 625 career victories, the aforementioned three NCAA titles and an additional Final Four appearance in 2009. Recurring health issues and NCAA scrutiny have dogged Calhoun over the past several years, and the UConn program appears to be on the ropes as he walks away.
Ollie isn't the first head coach to try to succeed a legend, and he certainly will not be the last. Some have performed admirably, and some have skulked out of their dream job with tails between legs. Some have inherited dream scenarios, and some, like Ollie, walked into programs with problems.
Here are some of the more notable replacements for championship coaches throughout college basketball's history.
Dick Harp, Kansas (1957-64)
Dick Harp played for and served as an assistant under the legendary Forrest "Phog" Allen at Kansas, and made a natural choice to succeed Allen when he retired in 1956.
Harp's first two teams went a combined 42-8, with the 1957 squad falling in the NCAA championship game. Of course, those teams were also led by a very tall fellow named Wilt Chamberlain.
Harp's record without a seven-foot Goliath on his team was a pedestrian 79-74. Three of his six post-Chamberlain seasons were losing ones. After losing 43 games from 1961 to 1964, Harp tendered his resignation.
As a comparison, Phog Allen lost 41 games in his final six seasons.
Former KU player Dean Smith called Harp "one of the most brilliant basketball minds I have ever known." In that case, perhaps it was Lawrence's out-of-the-way location that made it so difficult to secure talent in the early '60s.
Lou Watson, Indiana (1965-69, 1970-71)
Lou Watson served as a bridge between two sensational eras of Indiana basketball.
His IU playing career ended with him atop the school's career scoring chart, and he was a third-round pick of the NBA's Chicago Stags. He chose to ignore the pros and stay at Indiana as an assistant to his legendary coach Branch McCracken.
McCracken retired in 1965 after winning two NCAA championships, and he tabbed Watson as his successor. Unfortunately, the Hoosiers' top seven players, including the Van Arsdale twins, had all graduated, leaving Watson to have to refill the cupboard.
It only took one year, though, for Watson to build a team qualified to win the Big Ten championship and reach the NCAA tournament. The two seasons after that, though, were losing ones. To add injury to insult, Watson missed the entire 1969-70 season with a bad back that required the removal of two discs.
He was allowed to return for the 1970-71 season to see what he could accomplish with star-caliber players George McGinnis and Steve Downing, and the team mustered a 17-7 record under Watson's tutelage. Unfortunately for him, the players weren't keen on that tutelage, and took a revolt all the way to IU president John Ryan.
Watson, who had already tendered his resignation effective at season's end, moved that timetable up and left his position with one game left. The victim of a revolt that was taken over his head, but never to him directly, Watson finished with a 62-60 career record.
His replacement would go on to success that would dwarf even McCracken's, but would leave under even more controversial circumstances than Watson.
That replacement's name? Robert Montgomery Knight.
Tay Baker, Cincinnati (1965-72)
Tay Baker was an assistant to Ed Jucker on Cincinnati's back-to-back NCAA championship teams of 1961 and 1962. He's pictured here in the suit on the far left.
When Jucker left in 1965, Baker took over without missing a beat. Baker's first Bearcat squad went 21-7, won the Missouri Valley Conference and reached the NCAA tournament. The Bearcats got a bye to the second round, but dropped that game to eventual champion Texas Western (now known as Texas-El Paso).
Baker never made the NCAA field again, although his 1969-70 team recorded a 21-6 record and made the NIT. Again, UC lost its opening game of the tournament, this time to a Bob Knight-coached Army team.
In his seven years at Cincinnati, Baker's record stood at 125-60, an impressive .676 winning percentage. Still, he was 0-2 in postseason games, a far cry from his mentor's three consecutive national final appearances.
Tay Baker was out of coaching for a year before moving to UC's crosstown rival Xavier. There, he met with considerably less success than at Cincinnati, winning only 70 games in six seasons for a .440 percentage.
Sam Aubrey, Oklahoma State (1970-73)
Sam Aubrey was a hero to Oklahoma State basketball fans.
Not so much because of his prowess as a basketball player, although he was a starter on OSU's (then known as Oklahoma A&M) 1946 NCAA championship team under Henry Iba. Certainly not for his coaching tenure, which lasted three years and produced a record of 18-60.
Aubrey was critically wounded in 1944 while serving in World War II, and was expected to be in a wheelchair by age 35. He fought that ominous prognosis all the way back to the basketball court, resuming his career as a player and assistant coach for Iba.
From being a roommate of A&M All-American Bob Kurland to his extensive time spent with Iba, one would expect that Aubrey might have had some greatness rub off on him. Unfortunately, he couldn't secure enough talented players in Stillwater, and finished his coaching tenure with the second-worst winning percentage (.231) of any coach in OSU/A&M history.
Joe B. Hall, Kentucky (1972-85)
Most of the coaches on this slideshow struggled with the burden of replacing a legend. It's fair to say that Joe B. Hall had a hard time from fans who simply said, "He ain't no Adolph Rupp," but Hall recorded some of the best results of any coach on this list.
For one thing, Hall is one of only two on this list who actually won a national championship. He remains the only man in history to win a championship as both a player and a coach for the same school.
Of Hall's 13 Kentucky teams, eight of them advanced to at least the Sweet 16. His 1974-75 team upset the undefeated Indiana Hoosiers in the Elite Eight.
Like Rupp, Hall never had a losing season on the Wildcats' sideline, with only his second team finishing at .500. For his efforts, Hall will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in November.
"I wasn't in awe of coach Rupp," Hall said. "I never attempted to reach his shadow in the program. I just felt very honored to have coached in that program and to follow coach Rupp."
Hall's 297 wins and .748 winning percentage pale next to Rupp's records, but nearly any other coach in college history would trade careers with Joe B. in a heartbeat.
Gene Bartow, UCLA (1975-77)
If there was ever a tough gig in college basketball, it would be following the unstoppable John Wooden at UCLA. Gene Bartow took that gig but vacated Westwood after only two seasons.
During those two seasons, Bartow did well by anyone's standards, except UCLA's. His first team went 28-4 and reached the Final Four. In Year 2, the Bruins were 24-5 and made the Sweet 16 behind national Player of the Year Marques Johnson.
Still, there were no more banners to hang, which immediately renders any UCLA coach a miserable failure in comparison to Wooden. Never mind that Bartow's .852 winning percentage is actually 44 points better than Wooden's and still stands second in Bruins history behind Bartow's own replacement, Gary Cunningham.
Bartow bailed after the 1977 season to start a new program at Alabama-Birmingham. There, Bartow would win 350 games and write the bulk of a resume that would send him to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
Eldon Miller, Ohio State (1977-86)
Many of the coaches on this slideshow were left programs at or near the top of college basketball when their legendary predecessors stepped down. Eldon Miller took over an Ohio State program in shambles when he arrived in 1976.
Fred Taylor had taken the Buckeyes to three straight national finals from 1960 to 1962, winning the 1960 championship. His teams also reached another Final Four in 1968 and an Elite Eight in 1971. After the infamous 1972 brawl with Minnesota, however, Taylor seemed to lose his appetite for coaching. His teams slumped to 43-59 over his last four seasons, more losses than Taylor had amassed from 1965 to '72.
Miller struggled in his first season, but by his fourth, the Buckeyes were a 21-win Sweet 16 team.
Over his 10 years in Columbus, Miller won 174 games and made four NCAA tournaments, advancing to the Sweet 16 twice. His final team won the 1986 NIT championship. Miller left for Northern Iowa, where he would be joined two years later by another famous replacement: fired OSU football coach Earle Bruce, who had taken over for Woody Hayes.
OSU was rehabilitated as a program under Miller, with several of his recruits going on to be NBA first-round picks. Names like Herb Williams, Clark Kellogg, Tony Campbell and Dennis Hopson were recruited by Eldon Miller, paving the way for future Buckeye stars like Jim Jackson, Michael Redd and Jared Sullinger.
Rollie Massimino, UNLV (1992-94)
Rollie Massimino already had a legendary pedigree of his own when he took over for Jerry Tarkanian at UNLV. Rollie's Villanova team shocked the world by winning the 1985 national title over heavily favored Georgetown.
UNLV trumpeted Massimino as the man who would shepherd its basketball program to an era of legitimate dominance after years of ethically shaky wins under Tarkanian. Massimino's first Vegas team went 21-8, a decent record except at a place that had only seen eight losses in the past three years combined.
Rollie's next team went 18-13, the school's worst since 1972-73, the year before Tarkanian arrived.
Adding insult to injury, Rollie was forced out in the wake of a state ethics violation. The state of Nevada discovered that Massimino had cut a side deal with UNLV president Robert Maxson to sweeten the coach's salary beyond the figure reported to the state.
UNLV never really got back on the radar until Lon Kruger arrived in the mid-2000's, while Massimino continued to find headaches at Cleveland State. He currently coaches at Northwood, an NAIA school based in West Palm Beach.
Bill Guthridge, North Carolina (1997-2000)
Tapped to replace the retiring Dean Smith in 1997, longtime assistant Bill Guthridge was widely seen as a lame duck from the start, a placeholder to keep the seat warm while North Carolina continued to court alumnus Roy Williams. The lame duck certainly had an entertaining three-year tenure, and by very few means could it be called unsuccessful.
Guthridge inherited a team led by future NBA fixtures Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison, with future NCAA assist king Ed Cota running the point. That team ended up tying UNC's school record with 34 wins en route to a Final Four.
The following year was troublesome for UNC fans. A roster featuring an unremarkable ensemble cast, led by Ademola Okulaja and Brendan Haywood, was dropped in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Weber State's Harold "The Show" Arceneaux became a name spoken with disdain by Carolina fans the world over in leading the upset. The game remains UNC's only one-and-done tournament appearance since 1980.
Guthridge's third team finished fourth in the ACC, but got hot in March and reached another Final Four. Few coaches can say they reached two Final Fours overall, let alone in a three-year span.
Another UNC alum, Matt Doherty, replaced Guthridge when he retired in 2000. The depths the program experienced under Doherty made fourth in the ACC seem like shiny, happy memories.
Mike Davis, Indiana (2000-06)
In 2000, Mike Davis was the choice of Indiana's players to replace Bob Knight after the General's controversial firing. Those players rewarded the university for Davis's promotion by winning 67 games in his first three seasons as head coach.
Part of those first three seasons was a surprising run to the 2002 NCAA championship game. The Hoosiers sprung an upset on top-seeded Duke, a team whose five starters would all go on to NBA careers. IU then defeated a Cinderella Kent State team led by future San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates.
Pictured here is Mike Davis's most infamous moment, a meeting with Kentucky on December 21, 2002. It didn't involve a chair, but referee Bert Smith did tire of being berated by Davis and ejected him from a game that the Hoosiers only trailed by one point with 2.6 seconds left. Kentucky's Keith Bogans drained five free throws to give Kentucky a 70-64 win.
By Davis's fourth season, in which a coach usually has all of "his recruits" in place, the Hoosiers were struggling. IU suffered its first losing season in 34 years, then nudged back to one game above .500 and an NIT first-round loss the following year.
Hoosier athletic director Rick Greenspan sounded an ominous warning to Davis through a written press release in 2005, and a five-game February losing streak put the Hoosiers in jeopardy of missing the NCAA tournament for a third straight season. In the midst of that streak, Davis tendered his resignation effective at season's end.
The team rallied and reached the second round of the tournament, but Davis was still out as coach, victim of the outsized expectations left by following an icon like Knight. Of course, if IU fans had known what devastation the Kelvin Sampson era would bring, Mike Davis would have likely received several more chances.