Updated at: 01/18/2013 6:07 AM
By JOHN MARSHALL
In his first season as Kentucky’s coach, John Calipari led the Wildcats to 35 wins and a trip to the regional finals of the NCAA tournament.
Coach Cal’s first season was a bit of an anomaly; most coaches don’t have that kind of success right after taking over a team.
Calipari did have an advantage. It was Kentucky, after all.
It usually takes a little longer for coaches to put their imprint on the program by getting their own players and their own philosophies in place.
Many don’t get very long to do it, either, which is why there’s so much turnover seemingly every year, including more than three dozen before this season.
Some of the new coaches have had decent starts at their new homes, while others have labored.
Here’s a few that have had varying degrees of success so far:
Larry Brown, SMU. Brown was 71 when he was hired and hadn’t coached in college since leading Kansas to the 1988 NCAA title, so there were more than a few question marks when he took over the Mustangs. Brown made the transition a seamless one, leading SMU to eight wins in its first nine games while creating excitement that Moody Coliseum hasn’t seen in years. The Mustangs (11-8) have lost three of four to open Conference USA, including Wednesday’s 74-70 setback against conference leader Southern Mississippi, but Brown seems to have them on the right track, making it look like he never left the college game.
Bruce Weber, Kansas State. Weber took over a program that had five straight 20-win seasons and had been to the NCAA tournament four times under previous coach Frank Martin. He’s tried to keep the Wildcats rolling by being the anti-Martin _ calm to fiery Frank’s screaming. The nonconference schedule was shaky at times, including blowout losses to Michigan and Gonzaga, along with uninspired wins over Missouri-Kansas City and South Dakota. But the Wildcats (14-2) also upset then-No. 8 Florida and have opened the Big 12 season with three straight victories, including over No. 22 Oklahoma State in the opener, to move up to No. 16 in the latest Top 25 poll.
Danny Manning, Tulsa. The former Kansas star was a protege under Bill Self in Lawrence, so he learned from one of college basketball’s best. Manning took over a program that didn’t have much of an identity and tried to mold it in his own hard-working image. It’s been an up-and-down process. The Golden Hurricane opened with three wins their first four games, then lost four of six and are now back on the upward trend after opening Conference USA 3-1. He also beat his former coach, Larry Brown, when Pat Swilling Jr. hit a 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds left to give the Golden Hurricane (11-7) a 48-47 over SMU on Jan. 6. Beating his former coach is a nice accomplishment no matter what happens the rest of the way.
Kevin Ollie, Connecticut. The former Huskies point guard was given a one-year contract to serve as Jim Calhoun’s successor after the Hall of Fame coach retired last year. The school’s administration didn’t get halfway through the season before signing him to a long-term deal that will keep him at UConn through the 2017-18 season. Despite losing five underclassmen after Calhoun left, the Huskies opened 10-2. UConn followed with losses to Marquette and new No. 1 Louisville on Monday night, but it also beat then-No. 17 Notre Dame on the road. The Huskies (12-4) still have a tough road through the Big East, but have their coach for the future in Ollie.
Frank Martin, South Carolina. Martin was elevated to the head job at Kansas State after Bob Huggins left. He turned the Wildcats into a national power and now he’s trying to do the same thing in Columbia. Taking over a program that had gone into a free-fall the previous four seasons under Darrin Horn, Martin had his work cut out for him with a team picked to finish 13th in the SEC. Martin’s intensity has worked so far with the Gamecocks (11-5), who opened the season strong and gave Martin his first win the conference by beating LSU on Wednesday after a pair of opening SEC losses.
Richard Pitino, Florida International. Like Manning, Pitino learned from one of the best minds in basketball. Unlike Manning, his mentor was his father, Louisville coach Rick Pitino. The younger Pitino got his first head-coaching job at 29 and had a big hill to climb at FIU, taking over a program that hasn’t had a winning record since going 16-14 in 1999-2000. Even with a roster he had to piece together, Pitino has been able to make the Golden Panthers (8-8) respectable, keeping them around .500 most of the season. Not bad for a program that has struggled for so long.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)