This week the Boston Celtics announced Brad Stevens as their new head coach. It was a move that made a lot of sense for Stevens. The former Butler coach loves the X’s and O’s of the game, but doesn’t have nearly the same love for recruiting battles. In the NBA, for better or worse, he will have to deal with the talent he has on hand. His job will be to maximize that talent, not to attract it to town.
But this does make the situation at Butler more bleak, at least in the short run. With Andrew Smith and Rotnei Clarke graduating, Butler was going to depend more than ever on Stevens’ basketball knowledge next season. The team probably has the seventh to ninth most athletic roster in the Big East next season. And whoever takes over at Butler may not have Stevens’ magic touch with three star recruits.
Speaking of recruiting, that was a topic I wanted to talk about today, at least tangentially. Today I am updating a table I first presented 18 months ago. The table shows D1 coaches in major conferences and how willing they are to give minutes to freshmen. To no one’s surprise, John Calipari and Rick Barnes show up at the top of this list. Both coaches have been willing to give major minutes to first-year players. On the flip side coaches like Bruce Weber, Bo Ryan, Mike Brey, and Buzz Williams have been unwilling to use freshmen in their rotation. When I ran this table 18 months ago, I called it the “anti-recruiting tool” because for these coaches the lack of commitment to fist year-players could be a detriment on the recruiting trail.
Elite recruits want to showcase their game for NBA scouts, and a large part of recruiting is promising elite players the chance to play right away. When a coach like Bo Ryan has been known to red-shirt McDonald’s All-Americans, that likely prevents Wisconsin from competing for some of the top high school athletes.
The following table shows major conference coaches with at least 5 years of D1 coaching experience and the average number of minutes they have given to freshmen during the last 11 seasons. I include all schools where the coach was employed as a head coach. I.e. this table includes John Calipari’s time at Memphis as well as his time at Kentucky.
PctMinFr - Coach - Team
37% - John Calipari - Kentucky
31% - Rick Barnes - Texas
27% - Jeff Bzdelik - Wake Forest
27% - Matt Painter - Purdue
27% - Kerry Keating - Santa Clara
27% - Jim Ferry - Duquesne
26% - John Beilein - Michigan
26% - Billy Donovan - Florida
26% - Andy Kennedy - Mississippi
25% - Frank Martin - South Carolina
25% - Tom Crean - Indiana
25% - Ed Cooley - Providence
25% - Paul Hewitt - George Mason
25% - Max Good - Loyola Marymount
24% - Steve Donahue - Boston College
24% - Kevin Willard - Seton Hall
24% - Fran McCaffery - Iowa
24% - Marty Simmons - Evansville
24% - Tom Pecora - Fordham
24% - Rex Walters - San Francisco
23% - Travis Ford - Oklahoma St.
23% - Bill Self - Kansas
23% - Eric Reveno - Portland
23% - Jay Wright - Villanova
23% - Lorenzo Romar - Washington
23% - Anthony Grant - Alabama
23% - Tad Boyle - Colorado
22% - Stan Heath - South Florida
22% - Ray Giacoletti - Drake
22% - Mike Krzyzewski - Duke
22% - Bill Grier - San Diego
22% - Roy Williams - North Carolina
22% - John Giannini - La Salle
22% - Mike Lonergan - George Washington
22% - Sean Miller - Arizona
22% - Thad Matta - Ohio St.
21% - Herb Sendek - Arizona St.
21% - John Thompson III - Georgetown
21% - Scott Drew - Baylor
21% - Kevin Stallings - Vanderbilt
21% - Chris Mooney - Richmond
21% - Oliver Purnell - DePaul
21% - Tim Miles - Nebraska
20% - Brian Gregory - Georgia Tech
20% - Tony Bennett - Virginia
20% - Mark Gottfried - North Carolina St.
20% - Jim Crews - St. Louis
20% - Greg McDermott - Creighton
19% - Tubby Smith - Texas Tech
19% - Jim Boeheim - Syracuse
19% - John Groce - Illinois
19% - Phil Martelli - Saint Joseph's
19% - Tom Izzo - Michigan St.
18% - Rick Pitino - Louisville
18% - Mark Fox - Georgia
18% - Trent Johnson - Texas Christian
18% - Donnie Jones - Central Florida
18% - Leonard Hamilton - Florida St.
18% - Craig Robinson - Oregon St.
18% - Barry Hinson - Southern Illinois
18% - Larry Eustachy - Colorado St.
17% - Steve Fisher - San Diego St.
17% - Johnny Dawkins - Stanford
17% - Cuonzo Martin - Tennessee
17% - Porter Moser - Loyola Chicago
17% - Mick Cronin - Cincinnati
17% - Jamie Dixon - Pittsburgh
17% - Mark Few - Gonzaga
17% - Tony Barbee - Auburn
17% - Bob Huggins - West Virginia
17% - Ben Jacobson - Northern Iowa
17% - Steve Alford - UCLA
16% - Dave Rose - Brigham Young
16% - Mark Turgeon - Maryland
16% - Mike Anderson - Arkansas
15% - Jim Larranaga - Miami FL
15% - Frank Haith - Missouri
14% - Derek Kellogg - Massachusetts
14% - Gregg Marshall - Wichita St.
14% - Dana Altman - Oregon
14% - Billy Kennedy - Texas A&M
14% - Brad Brownell - Clemson
14% - Randy Bennett - St. Mary's
14% - Mike Montgomery - California
14% - Mark Schmidt - St. Bonaventure
13% - Bruce Weber - Kansas St.
13% - Johnny Jones - Louisiana St.
13% - Bo Ryan - Wisconsin
13% - Lon Kruger - Oklahoma
12% - Ken Bone - Washington St.
11% - Mike Brey - Notre Dame
10% - Geno Ford - Bradley
10% - Stew Morrill - Utah St.
9% - Fran Dunphy - Temple
8% - Buzz Williams - Marquette
There are a lot of things one can learn from this table. For example, this is one of the reasons Bo Ryan, Mike Brey, Stew Morrill, and Buzz Williams are able to churn out elite offenses year-after-year without superior athletes. Their teams simply avoid freshmen mistakes.
The reason I am looking at these numbers again is to see whether I should add these type of coaching roster choices into my predictions model. Clearly, some knowledge of a coaches’ lineup preferences should matter for next season's prediction. For example, Temple loses a devastating amount of production this off-season. But these numbers make it seem unlikely that Fran Dunphy will go young and accept a rebuilding year. Instead, Dunphy will likely look to expand the playing time of last year’s bench players.
But most importantly, I want to use these numbers to understand whether prized freshmen recruits are likely to play a lot of minutes. Looking at this table, I think we can be confident that Florida’s prized freshman PG Kasey Hill is going to start right away and play major minutes. But what about Top 100 PG recruit Duane Wilson who is headed to Marquette? Given incumbent PG Derrick Wilson’s shooting troubles last year, Duane Wilson seems like the type of freshman who should play a big role next year. But that would go strongly against Buzz Williams track record. (Of course, Buzz Williams has never had a freshmen recruiting class as good as this one. Wilson, JaJuan Johnson, and Deonte Burton are all Top 100 players.)
But while this table is a nice first look at the question of whether coaches are willing to play freshmen, it can be a bit misleading. Sure, John Calipari has given a lot of minutes to freshmen. But he also hasn’t had much choice. With rosters full of elite first-year players and very few returning upperclassmen (at least at Kentucky), Calipari has almost had to play freshmen by default. Next week I will try to take a deeper look at this question and see how much of the commitment to freshmen is based on circumstance and how much is based on the coach truly favoring or disfavoring freshmen.