When Coach Mike Rice took over the Rutgers job, he was left with very little. A team with 3 seniors, and ravaged by transfers, Rice joked at his initial press conference he was going to have trouble going five on five. He quickly re-recruited two of Fred Hill's recruits: Austin Carroll and Gilvydas Biruta. He also brought in Mike Poole, JuCo Tyree Graham, and 5th year transfer Robert Lumpkins.
Graham got hurt and never played for Rutgers. Lumpkins was a spot player and Mike Poole shows potential
But basically, Rice was starting from scratch.
Which made me think... in the last 10 years, how long did it take coaches taking over moribund programs to turn it around?
Find out after the jump...Three names immediately jump out at me:
Jay Wright (Villanova): Yes, he was nearly the Rutgers coach, before the Wildcats stepped in and stole him away. Wright immediately recruited the #1 class in the nation, featuring Randy Foye and Jason Frasier. In 2001, before those players set foot on campus, Wright made a mediocre team into an NIT team. The following two years, with those recruits, he was still only able to get them to the NIT. After the 3rd NIT year, Wright was straddled with a phone card scandal and some near transfers. After a yeoman's effort, he was able to keep the team together and also added Kyle Lowry. The team clicked, upset #2 Kansas and finally made it to the NCAAs at 22-7. But it took 4 years, and until that huge recruiting class became juniors.
Mick Cronin (Cincinnati): Cronin took over the Bearcats in 2006, the same year Rutgers hired Fred Hill. The Bearcats only won 11 games (including 2 losses to Hill) in his first year.. The next year, they won a little more. In 2009, Cronin recruited a one-and-done in Lance Stephenson and still only made the NIT. They didn't break through until the following year, coincidentally last year, after Fred Hill had been fired and Mike Rice took over Rutgers. It took Cronin 5 years to get back to the tournament. Now they're a solid force in the Big East.
Stan Heath (South Florida): Heath has had an up and down career with the Bulls. His first two years were terrible, finishing well under .500. In his third year, he guided his team to the NIT and they ended their season with 20 wins only to slip back to 10 wins last season. He prides his teams on defense and they don't score much. While it's not official yet, it seems they've broken through this season... Heath's 5th to get their first NCAA bid as a Big East team. Again, it took 5 years.
So, while Mike Rice is completely impatient and probably expects an NCAA appearance next year, it may be more likely it takes another year, maybe even 2.