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Comparison of Second Year Head Coaches in Power Five Conferences

Coach Manning has completed his second year as the Wake Forest head coach. How does he compare against other second year coaches in Power 5 conferences?

Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

With the college basketball season winding down (and over) for most teams, Blogger So Dear decided to take a look at Danny Manning and see where he stands after two years. One of the best ways that we can do this is to compare him to other Power 5 (and Big East) coaches who got hired at the same point in time that he did.

While there are obviously very different circumstances that each coach came in to, we attempted to evaluate each coach on a variety of factors to see how each is faring so far. There are a few tables that we have compiled to get a better picture of where Coach Manning stacks up.

The purpose of this piece was to evaluate not only where Wake stood relative to their peers who changed coaches at the same time as the Deacs, but also to contextualize how second-year coaches perform both relative to their predecessors and the rest of the country.

There are ten coaches who have completed their second season as a major coach. It is a pretty decent mix of public and private schools, as well as schools that either had their coach leave for a better job or were fired. Also, Missouri is a complete mess due to the allegations lingering around Frank Haith's tenure when he departed, so Kim Anderson is potentially (probably even?) unfairly punished from a statistical vantage point for this reason.

We ranked the coaches on four different metrics:

1. Record

2. Ken Pomeroy Improvement from their average of 2012-2014 to their average of 2015-2016

3. Ken Pomeroy Improvement from their improvement from 2015 to 2016

4. Recruiting

The best coach in each metric received a 10, second best received a 9, and so on until the last place coach received a 1. The maximum score is therefore a 40, which would require a coach ranking atop each metric. This provides a level of arbitrariness to the rating system especially after two years - and that's why we tried to focus on a few different things - but we believe the operationalization is sufficient for a relatively robust analysis. Let us know how you think the metrics used/not used could be tweaked to improve the content of the article!

For the metrics:

Record is pretty straight forward.

The improvement from KP average from 2012-2014 provides statistical context for where the program was when the head coach took over.

The improvement from 2015 to 2016 shows how well a coach has adapted with the roster they have (provides a decent context for "coaching up" a team from a year before).

Recruiting shows how well the coach is doing in providing a solid foundation for the future of their basketball program. While there are certainly outliers, teams that recruit better year in and year out tend to do better than those who recruit lower ranked players. Recruiting team rankings can be misleading due to some classes taking 5 guys in a year vs. a class that is comprised of 2 players, so we went through and averaged the player rating for the 2015 and 2016 class (all ratings come from

While there are certainly tweaks and changes that can be made to this process, we believe it provides a great look at the 10 second year head coaches and how they compare to each other after two years.

Head Coach Prior School New School New Team 2014 Record Year One Record Year Two Record Overall Record
Chris Holtmann Gardner Webb Butler 14-17 23-11 22-11 45-22 (67%)
Cuonzo Martin Tennessee California 21-14 18-15 23-11 41-26 (61%)
Wayne Tinkle Montana Oregon State 16-16 17-14 19-13 36-27 (57%)
Steve Wojciechowski Duke (assistant) Marquette 17-15 13-19 20-13 33-32 (51%)
Buzz Williams Marquette Virginia Tech 9-22 11-22 20-15 31-37 (46%)
Bruce Pearl Tennessee (2011) Auburn 14-16 15-20 11-20 26-40 (39%)
Danny Manning Tulsa Wake Forest 17-16 13-19 11-20 24-39 (38%)
Ernie Kent Oregon (2010) Washington State 10-21 13-19 9-22 22-41 (35%)
Jim Christian Ohio Boston College 8-24 13-19 7-19 20-38 (34%)
Kim Anderson Central Missouri (D2) Missouri 23-12 9-23 10-21 19-44 (30%)

What Chris Holtmann has done in two years at Butler is pretty amazing considering the Bulldogs went 14-17 in 2014 under Brandon Miller. A 45-22 record is impressive anywhere through two years, much less after a sub .500 record the year before. Butler definitely is in a different situation than most teams considering they made back to back Final Fours just 5 years ago, but he has still done a solid job of carrying on what Brad Stevens was doing there.

Wayne Tinkle has also done a quietly solid job at Oregon State, leading the Beavers to 36 wins in two years.

Coach Manning ranks 7th out of 10 coaches just looking at record, and he was one of five coaches to take over a team with a winning record in 2014. Note that strength of schedule obviously plays a rather large role in a team's winning percentage.

Head Coach 2012-2014 KenPom Average 2015-2016 KenPom Average Percentage Improvement
Chris Holtmann 84 29 15.90%
Danny Manning 156 124 9.20%
Buzz Williams 149 120 8.70%
Wayne Tinkle 102 91 3.40%
Jim Christian 166 179 -3.20%
Bruce Pearl 160 177 -4.50%
Cuonzo Martin 50 71 -5.90%
Steve Wojciechowski 39 106 -18.90%
Ernie Kent 119 197 -22%
Kim Anderson 39 194 -44%

Despite two straight losing seasons, Danny Manning ranks second among the ten coaches in terms of improving from the 2012-2014 KenPom average. This is really due to how badly Jeff Bzdelik performed in 2012, which was one of the worst years in Power 5 history.

Chris Holtmann once again ranks in first place for improvement, taking Butler from 84th to 29th (20th in 2015, 38th in 2016).

Jim Christian, despite having an absolutely atrocious year at Boston College, has in two years actually still performed around what Steve Donahue did in his final three seasons.

It's important in this category to note why the current coach came to be hired in the first place. You would expect the coaches who took over because a coach was fired to do better than those who left for better jobs. It makes sense that Buzz and Manning are ranked towards the top, as well as Holtmann (after one year of Miller).

On the other hand, the fact that Ernie Kent is struggling mightily at Washington State even after Ken Bone was fired (and subsequently hired by Montana - go Grizzlies!), is not promising for Cougar fans.

Head Coach 2015-2016 Average 2015 KenPom 2016 KenPom 15 to 16 Change
Buzz Williams 120 184 57 36.20%
Cuonzo Martin 71 113 29 23.90%
Wayne Tinkle 91 117 66 14.50%
Kim Anderson 194 214 175 11.10%
Steve Wojciechowski 106 110 102 2.30%
Danny Manning 124 124 125 -0.30%
Ernie Kent 197 192 202 -2.80%
Chris Holtmann 29 20 38 -5.20%
Bruce Pearl 177 147 207 -17.10%
Jim Christian 179 106 252 -41.60%

The third chart demonstrates the improvement from 2015 to 2016 based on final KenPom rank. Buzz Williams and Cuonzo Martin dominated this category, which makes a lot of sense. Williams is relying on a rebuild comprised of mostly JuCo and regular transfers to be competitive now at Virginia Tech, along with strong recruiting to supplement. Martin signed two of the best players in the 2015 class with Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown and reaped immediate reward in KP.

At the other end of the spectrum, Bruce Pearl and Jim Christian both saw rather significant drop-offs from 2015 to 2016. Boston College is really just lack of talent on the roster and transfers from Ryan Anderson (Arizona), and Joe Rahon (St. Mary's). Auburn had a few different things going for it, including Kareem Canty withdrawing from school and declaring for the NBA Draft after 21 games.

Coach Manning is squarely in the middle, and as most of us are aware, probably should have seen some improvement from the 2015 season.

Head Coach 2015 Average 2016 Average 2 Year Average
Cuonzo Martin 95.4 93.3 94.9
Steve Wojciechowski 93.5 96.6 94.4
Bruce Pearl 92.1 92.7 92.3
Buzz Williams 92.2 85.4 91.1
Danny Manning 92.5 88.7 90.4
Wayne Tinkle 88.4 88.9 88.6
Chris Holtmann 83.6 89.2 87.3
Kim Anderson 86.4 85.5 86.1
Jim Christian 84.1 82.9 83.7
Ernie Kent 78.4 85.9 79.7

The final aspect that we looked at is how each coach is recruiting. This is the category that is perhaps the most interesting because each school is looking for different types of player. Butler, Marquette, BC, and Wake Forest are not generally going to overlap with many recruits that California, Missouri, Washington State, and Oregon State are pursuing. Please note that the "2 year average" column is not merely averaging the first two columns, but is averaging the total number of players recruited over the two years, so a class with more players is weighted more heavily than its counterpart.

It's no shock that Cuonzo Martin and California have done the best through two recruiting classes, but seeing Wojo and Marquette ahead of Bruce Pearl and Auburn was a pretty big shock to me. It would not surprise me at all to see Wojo take a huge step next year with Marquette in the Big East, even with the loss of Henry Ellenson to the NBA Draft.

While Coach Manning is sitting squarely in the middle at 5th place, it is disheartening to see he is behind Buzz Williams and Virginia Tech. This is a small sample size, but tends to put to rest, or at least a dent in, the notion that Virginia Tech is building through transfers while Wake is building through recruiting, because the Deacs are losing in both categories.

A great question would be: is there any hope at all for Boston College and Washington State? Both schools had a long way to go once Christian and Kent took over, but they have both underachieved from where they were, as well as on the recruiting trail.

That leads us to the final chart of ranking the head coaches on the four metrics.

Coach Record KP Improvement KP 15-16 Improvement Recruiting Total
Cuonzo Martin 9 4 9 10 32
Buzz Williams 6 8 10 7 31
Wayne Tinkle 8 7 8 5 28
Chris Holtmann 10 10 3 4 27
Steve Wojciechowski 7 3 6 9 25
Danny Manning 4 9 5 6 24
Bruce Pearl 5 5 2 8 20
Kim Anderson 1 1 7 3 12
Jim Christian 2 6 1 2 11
Ernie Kent 3 2 4 1 10

Cuonzo Martin edges out Buzz Williams by a hair for the "best" of the ten so far. Both of these coaches have experienced success on the court in terms of improvement, as well as on the recruiting trail.

Wayne Tinkle surprises in a third place finish, ranking strongly in overall record, as well as improving from when he took over.

Coach Manning ranks in the middle across the board except in the improvement from '12-'14 KenPom average, in which he crushes. That is primarily due to the failures of the prior coach than anything.

At the bottom of the list Anderson, Christian, and Kent are failing to gain much traction in any of the categories. I sympathize a lot with these three because of how hard it is to win at BC, and Washington State, and also the entire situation that Kim Anderson took over after a successful career at Division-II Central Missouri.

There are a few things that can be learned from this exercise, primarily, that there are many, many different factors to consider that are unique to each program when a new coach comes in. Public vs. private, prior coach fired vs. leaving for another school, recruiting prowess vs. transfers, continuity with players from the prior coach.

Overall, Danny Manning is squarely in the middle of these coaches, but has done a decent job comparatively in recruiting and improvement. The biggest problem for Wake Forest is that these are not necessarily the peers that most fans want to compete against. Getting to where Butler and Marquette have been the past few years would be an ideal next step, but doing well against Boston College, Washington State, and Missouri doesn't exactly mean a lot to anybody.

It will be interesting to continue to track these numbers as next year progresses, and the third and fourth years are often the "make or break" years for a new coach. What we see from these tables are three different groupings.

1. Coaches who are doing well or should do well (Martin, Williams, Tinkle, Holtmann).

2. The "wait and see" group (Wojo, Manning, Pearl)

3. Coaches who need to get their program back on track (Anderson, Christian, Kent)

We are extremely interested to hear what Wake fans think of these comparisons, and if it's well-received we can do something similar for football moving forward. Any comments, criticisms, or ideas that could make this better in the future are always welcome!