With big contracts come big expectations. That’s no different for coaches in men's college basketball. When those expectations aren’t met, there’s sure to be disappointment given the millions of dollars that are being paid by schools and boosters to ensure not just successful regular seasons, but appearances in colleges' most-watched event — the NCAA Tournament.
Yes, the demands on coaches this season were unlike any other. They were asked to manage player needs amid a pandemic that severely cut their practice and preparation time for the season.
Once the games started, the impact of rising COVID-19 cases across the country creeped into many schools, forcing them to juggle schedules or temporarily shut down seasons.
So in examining which coaches may not be meeting those big expectations, USA TODAY Sports considered more than this year's performances and looked at how recent seasons have gone and whether the trend for these programs is matching the expected accomplishments.
Six coaches that stand out as underachievers among the Power Five schools:
WHO'S PAID WHAT? Salaries for Division I men's basketball coaches
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Archie Miller, Indiana ($3,350,000)
The expectations for the Hoosiers are immense as Bob Knight’s success still casts a large shadow over the program. When Miller was hired from Dayton in 2017, it was expected he would have Indiana near the top of the Big Ten and an annual trip to the NCAA Tournament would follow. It hasn’t worked out as planned. Miller hasn’t posted a winning record in conference play during his four seasons and could have his first losing campaign with Indiana (12-14) entering championship week. As for the tournament, the Hoosiers still are waiting for their appearance, though it's worth noting last year’s team was in contention before the pandemic shut things down.
Larry Krystkowiak, Utah ($3,762,875)
It would surprise many to know that Krystkowiak is the highest-paid Pac-12 coach among public schools. Yes, more than Sean Miller at Arizona or Mick Cronin at UCLA. So with that outlay, you’d expect the Utes to be one of the better programs in the league. However, since his lucrative deal went into place after consecutive tournament appearances in 2015 and 2016, Utah hasn’t been back in the field and stands to finish with a losing record this season for the first time since Krystkowiak’s first year in 2011-12.
Mike Krzyzewski, Duke ($7,044,221)
John Calipari, Kentucky ($8,095,800)
It would be easy to point to this season's results and have the two biggest names — and two of the highest-paid coaches in men’s college basketball — leading this list. Krzyzewski’s run of 24 consecutive tournaments is in serious jeopardy. Calipari will miss out for the first time since 2013 if the Wildcats don't win the SEC tournament. However, this season’s struggles — many of which can be blamed on the COVID-19 challenges facing two teams that rely so much on youth — are only part of the equation. Neither school has been to the Final Four — the threshold for success at both programs — since they both made it in 2015. Perhaps that's an unreasonable standard given both schools have been to the Elite Eight recently (both in 2019), but the drought is the longest for both coaches since they made their first trip to the final weekend at their respective schools. The pay figure stated for Krzyzewski includes more than $1.2 million of deferred compensation that was previously paid, but noted in the tax return, making his net pay for the 2018 calendar year nearly $5.8 million.
Steve Prohm, Iowa State ($2,137,500)
Steve Prohm oversaw his third losing campaign in four years as the Cyclones failed to win a Big 12 game. (Photo: Kevin Jairaj, USA TODAY Sports)
Before Matt Campbell arrived and rebuilt the school’s football program, Iowa State athletics was known mostly for its basketball program. The Cyclones have been a consistent tournament participant and won four of six Big 12 tournaments between 2013-19. However, this season they failed to win a conference game for the first time since 1937. This will be the third losing campaign in four years for Prohm, who needs to turn things around quickly in Ames with patience running thin.
Tom Crean, Georgia ($3,200,000)
Crean didn't walk into a major rebuilding job when he was made one of the top-paid coaches in the SEC. He was expected to push the Bulldogs to a higher level after the school parted with Mark Fox, who won at least 18 games in his last five seasons in Athens. The Bulldogs, however, have taken a step backward. They haven't come close to the postseason in any of Crean's three seasons, including last year when they were just 16-16 with No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Anthony Edwards. Overall, they’re just 14-40 in league games.
Follow colleges reporter Erick Smith on Twitter @ericksmith
Editor's note: Pay cited is for the 2020-21 season including any applicable pandemic-related reductions except for Mike Krzyzewski. His total is based on Duke's most recently available federal tax return which provides pay information for the 2018 calendar year.
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