SEC Could See Massive Turnover

There are already two open jobs for men's basketball coaches in the Southeastern Conference, but that may well me just the tip of the iceberg.

It's not out of the question that six or more SEC schools will have new coaches when the 2008-09 season gets underway. In fact, it's more likely there will be a more than 50 percent turnover than it is that the openings at South Carolina and LSU will be the only ones.

There are only three SEC teams that I am certain will have the same coaches next year. Billy Donovan will return for his 13th season in Gainesville. Bruce Pearl will coach the Tennessee Vols for the fourth straight campaign and Rick Stansbury will begin his second decade in Starkville with the Bulldogs of Mississippi State. After that, everyone else could be in the market for a new leader. Let's look at the seven current head coaching situations that might be changing in the off-season.

Kentucky ----- Four months ago the Wildcats couldn't get Billy Gillespie to sign his contract as his representatives reportedly objected to certain clauses that related to behavior. Now Gillespie can't get the school to put a deal on the table. After Wednesday's humiliating no-show at Vanderbilt no one in Big Blue Nation is in a hurry to sign him up. If Gillespie can return to the Big-12 he'd be well advised to do it. He may not have a choice.

Arkansas ----- Gillespie is the only one who can bring about a coaching change in Fayetteville. John Pelphrey is in his first year with the Razorbacks, but would not be able to resist returning to Kentucky if asked. If the Gillespie era lasts just one season the Wildcats will probably try to get back in the family with their next hire.

Vanderbilt ----- Kevin Stallings will never get rich in Nashville and his stock could be sky high if the Commodores have a strong post-season. Two straight Sweet 16 appearances and four 20-win seasons in five years is pretty good stuff. Stallings has deep roots in the state of Indiana as a former player and assistant at Purdue. He'd be a high integrity choice to replace soon-to-be-fired Kelvin "speed dial" Sampson at Indiana.

Ole Miss ----- The Rebels are thrilled with Andy Kennedy and with good reason. The Mississippi native has done an outstanding job. Of course other schools are bound to be equally impressed. Consecutive 20-win seasons in Oxford will have Kennedy high on more than one school's wish list. Like Vandy, limited resources could haunt the Rebels as well.

Georgia ----- If it wasn't for bad luck Dennis Felton would have no luck at all, but the bottom line is Georgia has made precious little progress on the floor in his five seasons. Felton inherited a mess at Georgia, but the recent disciplinary problems in Athens have been with guys Felton brought into the program. I think he deserves more time, but I'm not sure he'll get it.

Auburn ----- The situation for Jeff Lebo is just about identical to the one with Felton, though he has been there one fewer season. Lebo seemed to have Auburn primed for a breakout season before all of his big guys got hurt. Still they are competitive every night. He is more likely than Felton to be back, but it's not a guarantee.

Alabama ----- Mark Gottfried is in his tenth year with the Crimson Tide and while they've always been pretty good they haven't been much more than that. Losing Ronald Steele this year has been devastating despite the presence of Richard Hendrix and Alonzo Gee. The Tide will need a fast finish for any post-season consideration. It seems absurd to question the job security of a guy who's been to five NCAA and three NIT in the last nine seasons, but there are rumblings in Tuscaloosa about a program that has advanced past the first weekend of the Big Dance just once in 16 years.

That's about the size of it. Two job openings and up to seven others that could happen. Could be quite interesting.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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