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Friday, March 23, 2007

More on the Family Business

USA Today writes about family ties at Georgetown, both within the Thompson and Ewing families. Read the whole thing here.

Lots of consanguineity in college hoops and lots of adopted families too. There are 11 brother combinations coaching in college hoops today and 19 coaches whose fathers coached (or are still coaching) in DI. The article doesn't contain a list, but in recent years Sean Sutton has succeeded his father, Eddie, at Oklahoma State, while Keno Davis will succeed his father, Dr. Tom (a mentor to Gary Williams and Bruce Pearl, among others) starting now and Pat Knight will succeed dad Bob at Texas Tech whenever "The General" decides to put away his sweater collection in Lubbock. All must be interesting stories to say the least. College hoop coaches have to have authoritative personalities, and to succeed you have to run a tough meritocracy -- the best players play and the best assistants get the jobs. Translated, it can't be easy working for your father in these settings, because he'll be as tough and unforgiving with you as he has to be with everyone else.

The other issue, of course, is succession planning. No family has a divine right to positions at any company, meaning that I'll question whether it's totally fair for the younger Sutton, Davis and Knight to get the jobs virtually in advance of their father's retirements. Do they get the jobs purely on merit or partially/totally because if the dad's employers don't acquiesce, dad will bolt and leave the program worse off? The dad coaches might not like to hear this point raised, but it's not unfair to raise it. If the sons become Hall of Fame coaches, fine, but if they don't, then obviously the universities who anointed them without doing full searches will have failed their athletic programs. Forgive me for sounding harsh here, but I'm not sure I agree with anointing a son at a major program (or a minor one for that matter). Perhaps long-time son assistants should prove their mettle elsewhere before getting the nod to succeed dad, the way John Thompson III did at Princeton before moving to Georgetown. Sure, his family ties were a plus for the Hoyas, but JTIII proved himself on his own.

What's more likely -- that a program preordains a son or preordains that a top assistant will take over after a retirement? I can think of only one DI school who hired an assistant (unrelated to the head coach) who was designated as a successor to a legendary head coach. That was several years ago, when Purdue lured Matt Painter back to West Lafayette to spend a season at Gene Keady's side before taking over. Right now, that move looks to have been a wise one. In contrast, years ago Temple coach John Chaney tried to exact a promise from his school's administration to anoint one of his assistants (Dean Demopolous) to be his successor, only to find that the administration didn't agree. The assistant left the university shortly thereafter. To me, that type of succession planning is appropriate and is what helps distinguish outstanding institutions in our country, whether they're businesses, the military, universities, etc. It doesn't seem, though, that succession planning is prevalent among DI hoops because there's an abundance of outstanding talent that comes through the ranks every year. If you think about it, hiring from outside -- say a Bruce Pearl who excelled at Wisconsin-Milwaukee -- gives you a better chance to find an outstanding coach than anointing a relative.

I have nothing against sons or against the coaches whose sons have succeeded them, as all of those head coaches were/are outstanding. What's intriguing to me is the selection process, and it would be great if John Feinstein or Andy Katz could get a box seat to an AD at a big-time school and how he proceeds to build his applicant pool, those to whom he speaks, those he decides to interview and how he selects his coach.

Meanwhile, there is an interesting dynamic at Georgetown worth watching. Can a Thompson and Ewing help lead the Hoyas to another national title?


Blogger DAn57 said...

What about Tom Izzo succeeding Jud Heathcote?

5:06 PM  

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