Jerome Tang’s Case for Naismith Coach of the Year
K-State head coach Jerome Tang was named one of the top 15 candidates for the 2023 Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year Award. The top ten semifinalists will be announced on March 9th, the four finalists on March 20th, and the winner will be announced at the Final Four on April 2nd.
Does Jerome Tang have a shot at winning this award? I think so, and I like his chances to at least make the list of the final four finalists. He put together a roster in the offseason that was picked to finish dead last in the Big 12 conference and has them ranked number 11 in the AP poll, 22-7 overall and 10-6 in the Big 12, and is projected as high as a two seed in the NCAA tournament.
While it is an amazing accomplishment, there is a lot of competition for coach of the year. Let’s look at the fifteen finalists and see where Tang stacks up against them.
Mick Cronin, UCLA
UCLA is ranked number four in AP Poll with a 25-4/16-2 record in the PAC 12. The Bruins are in first place by three games. UCLA was a Sweet 16 team last year and the favorite to win the conference before the season, so it looks like Cronin has just done what he’s supposed to do with this team.
Kelvin Sampson, Houston
Houston is ranked number one in the AP Poll with a 27-2/15-1 record in the American Athletic Conference. Houston made the Elite 8 last season and was selected to win their conference in the preseason, so it’s not a surprise that they are where they’re at, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Sampson stays on this list to the final four finalists.
Nate Oats, Alabama
Alabama is ranked number two in the AP poll with a 25-4/15-1 record in the SEC. They lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season and were selected by the media to finish 5th in the SEC this season. What Alabama has done has been impressive, but with the controversy surrounding Brandon Miller and Darius Miles being involved in a murder, I can’t see them giving Oats this award.
Randy Bennett, Saint Mary’s
Saint Mary’s is ranked 17th in the AP poll and is 25-6/14-2 in the West Coast Conference. They made the second round of the NCAA tournament last season and were selected to finish second (with one first-place vote) by the coaches in the conference preseason poll. Bennett is doing a good job yet again, but this was expected.
Jeff Capel, Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is ranked 25th in the AP Poll with a 21-8/14-4 record in the ACC. It is quite a turnaround from last season, where they finished the season tied for 11th place in the conference. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Capel as a finalist for this award and, depending on how they do in the tournament, maybe win the award.
Chris Collins, Northwestern
Northwestern is currently 20-9/11-7 in the Big 10 in a three-way tie for second place with Maryland and Michigan. It’s quite a turnaround from last season when they finished in 10th place.
Dennis Gates, Missouri
Missouri is 21-8/9-7 and currently tied for fifth place in the SEC. Gates, a first-year head coach like Jerome Tang, has done a great job turning Missouri around from last season’s 12th-place league finish. Depending on how the Tigers finish, Gates could be a finalist for this award.
Pat Kelsey, Charleston
Charleston is currently 28-3/16-2 in the Colonial Athletic Conference. It is Kelsey’s second year at the helm. Charleston finished in sixth place in the CAC last season. It didn’t take long for Kelsey to get this program up and running, as they’re a likely NCAA tournament selection.
Dusty May, Florida Atlantic
Florida Atlantic is 26-3/16-2 in Conference USA. May has improved Florida Atlantic tremendously over last season’s 19-15/11-7 record. They are the favorite to win their conference tournament and
make an appearance in the NCAA tournament.
Sean Miller, Xavier
Xavier is ranked number 19 in the AP poll with a 21-8/13-5 record in the Big East Conference. It is Miller’s first season at Xavier. The Musketeers won the NIT last season but are a shoo-in to return to the NCAA tournament this season.
TJ Otzelberger, Iowa State
Iowa State is 17-12/8-9 in the Big 12 Conference. It is Otzelberger’s second season coaching in Ames. Last season he took the Cyclones to the Sweet 16. I’d be surprised if Otzelberger makes it to the top 10 cutdown.
Matt Painter, Purdue
Purdue is ranked 5th in the AP poll with a 24-5/13-5 record in the Big 10, leading the conference by two games. The Boilermakers made the Sweet 16 last season and were picked to finish 5th in the Big 10 preseason media poll. Painter has exceeded expectations, but Purdue was supposed to be a pretty good team again.
Shaka Smart, Marquette
Marquette is ranked 6th in the AP poll with a 24-6/16-3 record in the Big East, leading the conference by two games. It is Smart’s second season at Marquette. They made the NCAA tournament last year, losing in the first round after finishing sixth in the league. Considering how well they are playing, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Smart as a finalist for this award.
Rodney Terry, Texas
Texas is ranked number nine in the AP poll with a 22-7/11-5 record in the Big 12. Terry is serving as the interim head coach after Chris Beard was fired, and it appears that the Longhorns haven’t missed a beat.
Based on their resumes, Tang has as good of a chance as any to win the coach of the year award. I’d also say Tang is likely the frontrunner based on what he has done in such a short time as K-State’s head coach. Tang, Sean Miller, Rodney Terry, and Dennis Gates are the four on the list that are first-year coaches, and Tang’s resume looks better than theirs. I don’t know how you can give all of the credit for Texas’ success to Terry without giving at least some of it to Beard.
Depending on how K-State finishes, I can make a strong case to give the award to Jerome Tang. At the very least, he should be chosen as one of the top ten semifinalists that will be announced on March 9th.