The Pac-12 Coach of the Year Candidates


As the season begins to wind down, it is approaching the time when we should start thinking about who will win the various season awards in the Pac-12. The Washington Huskies have a number of candidates for such awards as Coach of the Year, Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, 6th Man of the Year, and so forth. So, over the next two weeks, we’ll look at the candidates to see who is worthy of each of those awards. We’ll start off this week by looking at the potential Coach of the Year candidates. Take the poll above to vote for who you think should win it.

To me there is no obvious slam dunk candidate to win Coach of the Year. The Pac-12 has been so down this year and no single team has either been extremely impressive or come out of nowhere to be the obvious surprise team. Perhaps early in the season when Oregon State and Stanford were both 10-2 you might have considered Craig Robinson and Johnny Dawkins as candidates. But, both teams have been very disappointing in the conference season and rather than Coach of the Year candidates, they have actually placed themselves on the coaching hot seat and might want to start thinking about whether they’ll have a job next year.

As for the top five teams in the Pac-12, they are all pretty much where they were predicted to be at the beginning of the season. So, can you really give the Coach of the Year award to a coach if they finish where everyone expected them to? But, someone has to win it, so let’s look at the candidates.

Mike Montgomery, California: To me, Monty has to be the front runner for one simple reason; the Golden Bears have been the most consistent team this season. While I had my doubts about whether Cal’s lack of depth would hold up this season, they have done quite well staying on top. Granted, in any other previous season in the Pac-10, I don’t think this current Cal roster would have cut it. But, in this Pac-12, apparently it is enough. California has avoided the bad losses this year for the most part, have the highest RPI, best overall record, and will get the highest seed in the NCAA tournament. For that, Mike Montgomery deserves credit.

Lorenzo Romar, Washington: Take a team with only one senior, two juniors, but 7 freshmen. Then, have them go 5-5 in their first ten games with an RPI in the 100’s and losses to the likes of South Dakota State and Nevada. Then, watch them rattle off 14 wins in their next 17 games to be tied for 1st in the conference and on the doorstep of the NCAA tournament. While this team has not been the epitome of discipline, team chemistry, fundamentals, free throw shooting, or even defense, somehow this team keeps winning. At some point you have to wonder if Lorenzo Romar has simply just willed his team to victory. Has it been the best coaching job in the Pac-12 this year? Or are the Huskies just lucky to be in such a weak conference when they are down? It’s probably a little bit of both. But, you can not deny that the comeback to relevance has been remarkable.

Dana Altman, Oregon: When the Oregon Ducks fired Ernie Kent and flailed about looking for a big name coach (Tom Izzo? Really?), most Husky fans laughed at their arrogance and seeming incompetence. But, when they hired Dana Altman, there were many of us who stopped and said “uh oh, that’s a good hire!” Dana Altman has done a remarkable job of bringing Oregon back to relevance temporarily while he rebuilds the program from the ground up. By mining the country for transfer candidates to hold the fort until the recruiting classes come in he has Oregon on the cusp of the NCAA tournament. He found gold in Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph, as well as, solid contributors in Louisiana Tech transfer Olu Ashoulu and Tony Woods from Wake Forest. Oregon has held itself up near the top of the conference and might even make the NCAA tournament…and that is even without star freshman point guard Jabari Brown who left the team after 3 games. Dana Altman deserves a lot of credit for creating team chemistry from this mish-mash of players. He is a good coach, who teaches solid fundamentals, and he has already won Coach of the Year honors in three other conferences previously. Is a 4th conference award on its way?

Tad Boyle, Colorado: While no one has really been paying attention to the Buffaloes, given the race at the top between California, Washington, Arizona, and Oregon, Colorado has been quietly hanging around near the top of the standings and is in a position to do some damage in the Pac-12 tournament. They might even be able to win enough games to make the NCAA tournament, although the NIT seems more likely. Their RPI isn’t as high as the other teams, but they have been racking up wins and have blown out some teams, including Washington earlier this year. I personally thought Colorado would be a sleeper candidate for one of the top spots in the conference and indeed they are. Tad Boyle has coached this team to a respectable finish in their first season in the conference.

Sean Miller, Arizona: Does anyone really believe Sean Miller is Coach of the Year material this year? I put him on here primarily because Arizona is on the edge of making the NCAA tournament. But, I am starting to wonder if Miller is successful more because of his recruiting prowess than his coaching acumen. He took a team with a Top 5 recruiting class and has done basically the same job as Dana Altman has done with a bunch of transfers and less than Mike Montgomery has done with his six man rotation. They have lost too many games at home in Tucson this year and have had almost no team chemistry. They are lucky the Pac-12 is down this year or they wouldn’t be as competitive as they have been. It’ll be interesting to see what he can do when his next Top 5 recruiting class comes in next year.