It’s not the NBA, but it’s a long way from high school. College basketball is the in-between stage where you can get the job done, or you can’t. There is hardly ever any middle ground. That being the case, it can be tough to rally the troops for victory, especially if you have a mediocre coach. Some coaches can alleviate the pain of having a sub-par team thanks to their talents, but this article isn’t about that breed of winners. You’re on your way to discovering who the worst head coaches in men’s college basketball history have been over the years. We apologize if we revisit some sensitive times for you…
Going 28-69 In Your Conference Won’t Cut It
Jay John was the coach of Oregon State from 2002-2008. While it is a tough school to coach due to the lack of strong recruiting classes, going 28-69 in the conference during your tenure won’t cut it.
John had an overall record of 72-97, which is below the .500 mark as well. He might’ve led the Beavers to their first postseason appearance in 15 years during the 2005 season, but it wouldn’t be enough to prove he was a worthy coach for them. A 6-25 season speaks for itself.
A Lost Era Under Larry Shyatt
Clemson basketball did well under Rick Barnes and also had success with Oliver Purnell. Those two coaches weren’t consecutive, as Larry Shyatt was in charge in between and Clemson wasn’t doing well at all with him.
From 1998 to 2003, Shyatt led the Tigers to only two winning seasons and he would never finish better than 5-11 in the ACC conference. With an overall record of 70-84, they could have gotten rid of him sooner.
Horn Managed To Honk Only One Positive Season
Darrin Horn’s first season with South Carolina proved to be his only good one. He led the team to their first winning record in the SEC in 11 years, but that’s all the coach did positively during his tenure in South Carolina.
He coached from 2008-2012 and his final three years were the worst. Both their overall and conference records slipped with his last campaign being egregious. His final season with the team resulted in a 10-21 overall record.
Stokes Came Up Short
After the firing of Bobby Hussey took place, the new director of athletics for Virginia Tech, Jim Weaver, hired Ricky Stokes as a replacement in 1999. Stokes first season was his best, as he brought Virginia Tech their first winning season in years.
The following season, the Hokies joined the Big East Conference and things went downhill quickly. He had one highlight during his stint, and that was a blowout win over #18 Connecticut during his final year. His overall record ended up being 46-69.
When Switching Jobs Goes Wrong…
We get it, it’s hard not to strike while the metal is hot after experiencing success. Todd Lickliter was the head coach of Iowa from 2007 to 2010, but he coached the Butler Bulldogs and led them to multiple Sweet 16 appearances before that.
Lickliter would take that momentum with him to the Iowa Hawkeyes, but the winning didn’t follow. He signed a 7-year deal, but would only last three seasons due to poor performance. With a record of 38-57, you can figure out why.
Taking Over For A Legend Is Rough
Coach Lou Carnessecca will always have a special place in the hearts of St. John’s faithful. When the program promoted assistant coach Brian Mahoney to head coach after Carnessecca retired, people expected him to keep up the winning ways.
Between 1992 and 1996, Mahoney would only lead the team to one NCAA Tournament appearance and that came in his first season. Everything after that was pretty much a struggle as St. Johns would continue to scramble and find worthy coaches.
High Expectations Can Be A Burden
The Kentucky Wildcats had Tubby Smith as a head coach for a handful of years and although the numbers say otherwise, the fans still weren’t pleased. Tubby led them to a championship in 1998, and a perfect 16-0 season in 2003. Oh yeah, he also won AP College Coach of the Year in 2003 as well.
After accomplishing all that, Billy Gillispie stepped up to the plate in 2007. He lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament which wasn’t enough. In 2009, his career there was over.
Player Turned Coach
Matt Doherty played for the University of North Carolina under Dean Smith and was a teammate of Michael Jordan. Upon his arrival as head coach, he inherited an average team but would have some early success.
He helped bring the Tar Heels to a 26-7 record his first year on the job, but the next two seasons were less than spectacular (27-36). Doherty would only survive from 2000 to 2003 before his tenure ended as head coach.
Wainwright Had Five Years To Make It Happen
Jerry Wainwright was thought of to be the guy who would bring DePaul basketball back to the forefront in 2005, but by then, they had fallen behind in the Chicago recruiting scene. The Big East was also a tough conference, so that made things a bit rougher.
Since Wainwright was an Illinois native, people thought that he would be able to help with the recruiting issues. That wasn’t the case and he would get the boot in the middle of the 2009-2010 season. His overall record was 59-80.
A Load Of Disappointment
Rutgers brought in Fred Hill having the same expectations that DePaul had with Wainwright. They thought he would be able to bring in a solid batch of players in his recruiting process, but that didn’t happen.
He did manage to secure a McDonald’s All-American in Mike Rosario, but he ended up transferring to Florida. Hill couldn’t live up to the expectations set out for him and could never win more than five conference games in any season he coached.
No Luck In Colorado
After Jeff Bzdelik took Air Force to the tournament in 2006, he leveraged a better job up the road for the Colorado Buffaloes. Parlaying that success didn’t turn out well for Bzdelik and his three years on the job (2007-2010).
People couldn’t understand his lack of success. His successor Tad Boyle led the team to consecutive post-season appearances. With an overall record of 26-58, we suppose the coaching style does make a difference in college basketball.
It’s Been A While Since Oregon State Mattered
Oregon State is the ugly stepsister to Oregon. It’s been decades since they’ve mattered and their coaching choices might have something to do with that. Granted, the Pac-12 is one of the harder conferences.
In 1995, Oregon State introduced Eddie Payne and he would remain the head coach through 2000. Sadly, his best record in conference play was only 7-11. It makes things worse when the Beavers went 3-15 or worse in the Pac-12 in three of Payne’s five years as coach.
Winning In Your Conference Matters
Here’s a case of someone who had a winning overall record, but the numbers in the conference weren’t that superb. After North Carolina State grew tired of Herb Sendek, they brought in former NBA player Sidney Lowe.
Everyone thought he would be the one to take them to that next step and he did a wonderful job at recruiting the right talent. His only issue was he couldn’t get those players to perform on the court. They would never win more than six ACC games in a season (2006-2011).
How Much Worse Can It Get?
There aren’t many teams that can rival how atrocious Oregon State basketball is, but the Aggies of the ’90s did a pretty good job. Melvin Watkins coached the Texas A&M Aggies from 1998 to 2004 and it wasn’t pretty.
In three of his six seasons, the Aggies won ten or fewer games. Not only that, but Watkins also holds the particular distinction of going winless in the Big 12 during his final season as coach.
Paul Graham Couldn’t Change A Thing
While you may never think of Washington State as a powerhouse in college basketball, it’s a shame that’s the case. From 1999 to 2003, the Cougars had an overall record of 31-79 and went 9-63 in conference play.
Paul Graham was the head coach at that time, so either it was a lack of talented players or coaching. With numbers like that, you would think they must have recruited some type of decent player in four years, so the blame rests on Graham.
Going From Pretty Good To Awful
The man who had the head coaching job before Bob Staak at Wake Forest brought the team to the tournament in five consecutive seasons. That wasn’t enough so they fired him and brought in Staak.
Things would only get worse after that. He was the former Xavier coach, so maybe they thought he would bring in some fresh ideas and ideal coaching. In his first season, the team went 8-21 and didn’t win one conference match. He still would stay from 1985 to 1989.
What Inheriting A Mess Looks Like
We’ll be a little more lenient with Bob Wade, the head coach who inherited a mess in Maryland. The program brought him on in 1986 from a high school and expected him to fix things.
There was a lot of drama that just passed by at the school, so Wade didn’t have to do much outside of keep things on the straight and narrow. He didn’t need to win, which he accomplished (36-50 overall record), but he would resign after allegations of NCAA violations.
Jeff Bzdelik Strikes Again
Wow, tough to believe that Jeff Bzdelik makes the list again after his last display in Colorado, but Wake Forest tried their luck! We can’t be too rude about it, seeing as Bzdelik did have luck with Air Force and as an NBA assistant coach.
Sadly, his stints with big colleges didn’t go as planned. At Wake Forest, he coached from 2010-2014 and finished with an overall record of 34-60 and a conference standing of 11-39.
You Need A Moral Compass As A Coach
Former Baylor coach, Dave Bliss might not be the worst coach as far as coaching goes, but his morality brings him down a great amount. His player Carlton Dotson pleaded guilty to murdering teammate Patrick Dennehy while Bliss paid part of his tuition.
During the investigation, Bliss asked assistant coaches and other players to lie and say Dennehy sold contraband as a way to cover his tracks about the tuition. Record wise, Baylor went 19-45 in conference play.
A Lot Of Last Place Finishes
Northwestern tolerated a ton of losing leading up to 2017, the first year they made the tournament. Its safe to say that Bill Foster was the epitome of all that failure for the Wildcats.
It’s bad when your team finishes in last place during six of the seven seasons you coach. The strange thing is that even though he had an overall record of 54-141, he still held onto his job longer than anyone else on this list (1986-1993).