Who did the least with the most? Whose team never lived up to its potential? There are three clear front-runners for the inaugural worst coach award. Sure, it would be easy for me to lay this award on the team that is lowest in the standings (Rice), but Rice doesn't have Elijah Millsap, Elliot Williams or Jerome Jordan. The coaches, this season, that are up for this award all had the talent to make the NCAA Tournament but allowed their squads to lose games they shouldn't have and tripped up along the way. Let's get to it.
The Candidates (In no particular order)
1. Doug Wojcik (Tulsa)
- Tulsa was the preseason favorite to win the league. Yet, the Golden Hurricane finished in 5th place. Against the other league favorites (UTEP, Memphis, and UAB), Wojcik's squad was an awful 0-5 including three losses to league champion UTEP. Tulsa had home-crowd advantage in the C-USA Tournament but they were not competitive in their loss to UTEP in the C-USA Semi-Finals.
- Talent: Wojcik's squad was anchored by two senior stars: Jerome Jordan and Ben Uzoh. Jordan is a possible first round NBA draft pick and Uzoh, an accomplished scorer, should get paid to play ball somewhere. Despite having good, veteran leaders, Tulsa's squad didn't have the depth to compete with the conferences other elite teams.
- Wojcik's squad did beat Big 12 Teams Colorado and Oklahoma State. They also beat Ohio, the one-time Cinderella squad. The Hurricane also made the the NIT tournament (but they lost to Kent State in the opening round. Let's face it, this team was expected to, and had the talent, make the NCAA Tournament.
2. Josh Pastner (Memphis)
- Pastner was handed the keys to a loaded Memphis squad after John Calipari left to Kentucky. Despite the high level of talent in Memphis, Pastner's squad just couldn't win games when the chips were down. Twice down the stretch, Memphis lost games to Houston. Memphis was all but assured of an at-large birth if they would have qualified for the C-USA Title Game. They lost in the semi's to Houston.
- In that loss, star Elliot Williams was seemingly stunned at the fact that he wasn't in the game during the final crucial seconds. The Duke transfer was Memphis' best player this season, but in crunch time, Pastner sat him.
- They lost to SMU by 10.
- Credit Memphis for scheduling some tough non-conference opponents. The Tigers played Syracuse, Kansas, Gonzaga, and Tennessee. But, they lost all four of those games. Pastner's squad did qualify for the NIT and won a first round game against St. Johns. They fell in their next game to Ole Miss.
- Also, don't discount the Tigers dominance over Mike Davis and UAB. The Tigers may have lost to SMU, and were undoubtedly down from past seasons of dominance, but they still beat UAB. Twice.
3. Mike Davis (UAB)
- Davis just couldn't beat UTEP or Memphis this season (0-4). The Blazers had enough talent to win the league and at the very least the team should have snapped their 9 game losing streak to the Tigers. Davis just couldn't get it done.
- Four seasons in, the Blazers have not made the NCAA Tournament once under Mike Davis. Keep in mind that in the three seasons preceding Davis' arrival, the Blazers made the NCAA Tournament each time.
- Let's not forget his "whining" after UTEP beat UAB in El Paso in the season finale.
- UAB is still playing. The Blazers have won two games in the NIT (against Coastal Carolina and the ACC's N.C. State). The Blazers have the North Carolina Tarheels coming to Birmingham tonight. Beating N.C. State and UNC might give Davis a reprieve in a year when he was supposed to make the NCAA tournament.