Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Johnny Jones, Mark Gottfried Prove Coaching Lottery Picks Without Results Can Have Dire Consequences
NEW YORK — Johnny Jones and Mark Gottfried are living proof that coaching NBA lottery picks without producing results can have dire consequences.
Jones coached the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft last season in Ben Simmons. Now he’s reportedly about to lose his job at LSU after failing to make the NCAA Tournament last year with Simmons — and this year with a solid, if unspectacular, roster.
On the same day the Jones news was reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Mark Gottfried coached his final game at N.C. State, losing to Clemson in the first round of the ACC Tournament at Barclays Center.
Like Jones, Gottfried recruited and coached a projected Top-5 pick in point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who is headed to the NBA Draft after one non-NCAA Tournament season with the Wolfpack, as first reported on FanRagSports.com. (N.C. State has a second projected NBA pick in big man Omer Yurtseven, now projected in the 2018 Draft by DraftExpress.com.)
Washington’s Lorenzo Romar could face a similar fate a year from now if he fails to make the NCAA Tournament with incoming freshman forward Michael Porter Jr., a projected Top-5 pick in 2018, one year after likely missing the 2017 Big Dance with projected No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz.
Yahoo’s Pat Forde reported that Romar will return next season despite a 9-21 record this season, 2-16 in the Pac-12.
Porter Jr. said in January that he knew Fultz was “frustrated” but expects a different set of results next season when his class — which could include his younger brother Jontay Porter — will play for Romar.
“I look at it as an opportunity to do something special,” Porter Jr said at the Hoophall Classic. “You could go to Kentucky, Duke, one of those schools and be another great, or you could go to school at Washington and do what you can to try to help turn that program around. I think Coach Romar, people are on his head on Twitter but I think if you look at their team, it’s not like they have talent top to bottom.”
The Kentucky/Duke line was telling.
Many out in the Twitterverse think John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski simply roll out the balls to a collection of one-and-done players mixed with some veteran talent.
But there’s obviously way more to it than that.
Simmons, Smith Jr. and Porter Jr. all chose schools that weren’t named Kentucky or Duke. Or Kansas or Arizona, for that matter.
They picked LSU, N.C. State and Washington, thereby scoring points for those coaches with their fan bases and their bosses.
But in so doing, they also put pressure on those coaches to win — and win now.
For in the era of one-and-done, Simmons, Smith Jr. and Porter Jr. only end up (or will end up) staying on campus for less than a year.
And if their coaches continuously don’t produce even with those players, they will be shown the door.
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.